NYFW: Tommy Hilfiger, Opening Ceremony and a global love affair

The global love affair with American popular culture was on full display  – albeit in vastly different ways – in the fall 2015 collections of Opening Ceremony and Tommy Hilfiger presented Sunday night and Monday morning respectively.

Hilfiger’s women’s collection, which unspooled at the cavernous Park Avenue Armory, was a football-themed extravaganza complete with artificial turf, scoreboard and Jumbotron. All that was missing from the all-American experience was a tailgate party in the parking lot. The show notes left on the stadium bleacher seating described the collection as “an American Love Story inspired by Ali McGraw” a reference, we’re guessing, to the 1970 three-hankie weeper “Love Story” starring McGraw and Ryan O’Neal. The only problem in calling that play (besides the fact that  O’Neal’s character played hockey) was that the clothes that came down the faux field were an undeniable, unabashed homage to football Américain.

In a palette that included navy blue, burgundy and mustard yellow (there was a hotdog on that Jumbotron right before the show), the collection included skirts and pinafore dresses with carwash hems, sweatshirts emblazoned like football jerseys with the number 30 (a reference to the label’s 30th anniversary), chunky knit cardigans, cable-knit pullovers and leather jersey dresses with leather lacing details, beefy faux-fur stadium coats and hats, long scarves and wedge-heel football boots.

Although football’s pop culture status has taken a drubbing stateside as of late (thanks to domestic violence issues and deflategate) the sport and its aesthetic are a uniquely American export as Coca-Cola and McDonald’s – and just as likely to do well in the brand’s dominant international market.

 The night before Hilfiger’s big game, Opening Ceremony’s Humberto Leon and Carol Lim staged a pop culture pep rally of sorts in a postage-stamp-sized Chelsea art gallery, where the fashion flock stood cheek by jowl viewing an exhibition of personal 35-millimeter photographs taken by director/producer/screenwriter Spike Jonze between 1985 and 2005 curated by Leon and Lim whom he’s known for nearly a decade (he was introduced to them by Jason Schwartzman “at a Christmas party in L.A. nine years ago,” Jonze said.)

Titled “Please Use Your Best Judgment,” the images ranged from frenetic color-saturated shots of Beck mugging with an MTV Moon Man trophy and BMX riders flying off backyard ramps to Bjork swimming underwater and a grainy black-and-white image of Sofia Coppola swanning across a parking lot in a babydoll dress. The cross-section of stylish ‘90s-era celebs represented, candidly at that, on the walls of the Cheim & Read Gallery was nothing short of mind-boggling: Chloe Sevigny, the Beastie Boys, Drew Barrymore, Sonic Youth, Kim Gordon, Nicolas Cage, Keanu Reeves, Michel Gondry, Kurt Cobain – the list literally goes on and on.

 What’s even more mind-boggling is that Leon and Lim used those photos as a springboard into their fall men’s and women’s collection; a collage of female faces culled from the images appears as a print on zip-front jackets, trench coats and T-shirts, full contact sheets of gravity-defying BMX riders are dye-sub printed on sweatpants and track jackets to create a windowpane effect, and individual photos appear on screenprinted T-shirts.

Although the actual photos make up only part of the larger collection, the inspiration can be seen throughout thanks to a color palette heavy on the kind of oranges, browns and blacks commonly found in the margins of film-developed contact sheets. And, in a master-stroke of synergy, Kodak – the “brought to you by” sponsor of the photography exhibition -- is name-checked on a handful of pieces  in the collection including a bold logo T-shirt and a longsleeved version with the name running down the outside of the left arm.

Jonze, who was on hand for the presentation, said it was too early to single out a favorite. “I’m still just taking it all in,” he said, “I only saw [the finished pieces] about a half hour ago. …  but there’s something about seeing all my friends – like [BMX rider] Mat Hoffman,” he gestured to Hoffman who was standing to his right, “and we’re just tripping out because these were just random days of our lives like 20 years ago and now we’re in an art gallery just now remembering the moment. There’s a [model] in the other room wearing an outfit that’s all photos of Mat.”

It may have been a small art gallery but for an hour on Sunday night it contained at least a stadium and a half’s worth of pop-culture clout in just a handful of photos and couple of racks of clothes.

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