Finally, as the Age of Aquarius is dawning upon us, for one of the first times in fashion history, no one really seemed to care (as much) what everyone else was doing and managed to do their own thing. Although the Spring collections spawned certain trends, individualism seemed to prevail. Fashion is the biggest monkey see monkey do business on the planet, so SOMEONE decided to dance to the beat of a different drum first, before the rest followed suit. Spreading like wildfire towards the impending fall collections, it seems as though everyone who's doing something different by now, has either read it in someone else's press kit or has seen the same cue cards. Nonetheless, change is good.

Bud Konhein of Nicole Miller dubbed it as the "season of change". In a pre-season pow-wow, Nicole & Co. decided that "design" itself means change and that they wanted to do something different. They hired thespians and Hollywood starlets to walk the runway and ran credits a la playbill on the show program. At the pre-show rehearsal however, one of Nicole's runway regulars was on hand to give catwalk lessons to the fledglings. The light of reason shined brightly as it showed us that the girls that do it for a living are worth every penny they earn, bless 'em.

Walker extrordinaire Mariana Verkerk does Nicole.

Function - the big key word moving forward towards the next millennium, simplifies style for the growing population of ladies who don't have time to lunch. Fashion, just for the idle sake of it, is disappearing rapidly. Polyester didn't reappear just to pay homage to the '70s. Polyester, like a Roger Corman creature, is very hard to kill. And if it does die, it does so wrinkle free. Polyester jersey is no longer trendy, but has become a part of life...upscale lines...Kamali, Calvin Klein, Helmut Lang and long time jersey signatory Lida Baday were all on the poly wagon for Spring. Modern synthetic based dressing has become a "uniform" that doesn't require that much thought, once you've developed your own personal formula. Accessories, on the hearty functional front, are still borrowing heavily from efficiency prone flight attendants and bike messengers. Hush Puppies, loyal and always ready to serve,walked away with this year's CFDA Accessory award.

DebbieThe best all around award goes to Yukio Koyabashi for Matsuda's debut showing of his Women's collection stateside. The show opened with Debbie Harry, who is always a movie star and the crowd cheers! To push the gender blending theme that is so prevalent in the design elements, he used boys in the show too... especially Uma Thurman's cute little brother Mipam. Photo-relief cyber flowers (that were neither overtly feminine or masculine), hologram postage stamps and shimmery iridescent suits paved the way down the runway towards the future. Held in Tribeca's ACE Gallery, where art should be shown, the clothes were nothing less than stunning, and depicted the modern brainwave against those trite categories like age and gender. When it was all over, I felt like I had just seen a beautifully orchestrated documentary on the new world order complete with award winning costumes. Sigh.

MatsudaMatsuda Matsuda

TG-170 The way that the fashion animal's spots are changing is not just in terms of style shifts, but in show week presentations as well. A reminder that how work is shown is also an important part of the creative process. There were quite a few non-show exhibits a la Beene (Kamali, Alpana Bawa), but the most innovative use of show space happened in TG170's store windows, one chilly night, featuring clothes from Pixie Yates and Built by Wendy. A mix of models and store customers climbed up into the window sills between changes while Kid America DJ'ed an eclectic mix of heavy metal and show tunes from The Gallery next door. The street was packed and we were happy to see that Bill Cunningham rode his bike all the way down to Ludlow Street to take pictures.

Fashion's epiphany gave birth to Alternative Show Week, in its first official season, with the Palladium as venue, offering some really interesting stuff that went way beyond club wear: Always designing against the mainstream grain, Mary Adams (below) showed heavenly concoctions based loosely on an elaborately feminine version of Little Bo Peep topped with hats from mad hatter Amy Downs. Mary "sculpts" her dresses by layering fabrics and textures...lace, organza, taffetas... this season working with grids and piecings. Mary and Amy have adjacent storefronts at 159 Ludlow Street (open 1-6 Thursday-Sunday).

Living Living Living

Living Doll sent modern suburban housewives with serious twists,
scuffing down the runway to Frank Sinatra, in cotton frocks and mod nylon ensembles:

Other first timer, Canada's Anne Hung got a standing ovation, for her Spring-y all-white/mostly terry collection.