Linda Evangelista, the It Bag and ‘Sex and the City’

New York Fashion Week began in earnest with a time-space collapse Friday night at the Hammerstein Ballroom in midtown Manhattan.

Orchestrated by Fendi and Kim Jones, its creative director, it was nominally a celebration of 25 years of its famous Baguette handbag, the loaf-shaped purse created by Silvia Venturini Fendi in 1997. Mostly, however, it was an extravaganza from the late 1990s memory bank, down to the 1,000 mostly mask-less guests who crammed into the show.

Forget going back to the before Covid times. This was going premillennial. Pre-social media. You can understand the impulse. (It’s the same one that has made prequels so popular.) When the future is uncertain, there’s nothing more tempting than the security of the past. It looks so good in the rearview mirror.

This particular revisionist history involved contributions from Marc Jacobs, the downtown designer darling who happened to become creative director of Louis Vuitton in 1997, and Sarah Jessica Parker, the actor who played the famously Baguette-obsessed Carrie in the TV show “Sex and the City,” based on the book written in (yup) 1997.

And it culminated in a return to the runway by Linda Evangelista, the supermodel who became the face of the Baguette’s 25th anniversary ad campaign after publicly revealing that she had been the victim of a cosmetic surgical procedure that went wrong, and who had graced the cover of Vogue’s September issue in (you guessed it) 1997.

Ms. Evangelista didn’t do much other than step out for the finale bow in a Tiffany blue opera cloak with a silver Baguette bag tucked in the crook of her arm (Tiffany and Fendi both being owned by luxury behemoth LVMH). But it was enough to make her, along with the bag, the star of the night, prompting a standing ovation from her supermodel mates Christy Turlington Burns, Shalom Harlow, Amber Valletta and Kate Moss, all cheering her on from the front row.

They were also cheering on the clothes, of course, with their winking period references (Mr. Jones always does his homework), their nods to grunge, to minimalism, to urban sparkle. Think the requisite pastel slip dresses, often worn under clay-colored utility jackets with horsehair clogs, and flyaway skirts with oversize fuzzy sweaters in geometric knits. They had a nostalgic tickle, but even more fun was the find-the-Baguette game embedded in almost every piece.

There were tiny satin Baguettes on the wrists of knit gloves and the bands of beanie hats; Baguettes on the tops of gators pulled over knee socks (and knee socks themselves); Baguettes that doubled as pockets on anoraks and shearling vests. Baguettes dangling from chains belts and backpacks. Baguettes (of course) as actual handbags in every size, often worn two at a time. Backstage, Mr. Jones said he thought there might be “about 10 in every look.”

“I think it must be a world record for bags,” he said.

Still, the bags as well as the ’90s played slightly less of a role in the capsule line-within-the-line created by Mr. Jacobs. Instead, he delved into time and silhouette, combining his recent fascination with volumetrics and splicing streetwear into the silhouettes of couture. White denim jeans became long fishtail skirts, jackets tied around the waist into a bustle. Giant intarsia FendiRoma logos were embedded on bathrobe coats and giant furry hats. By abstracting his antecedents, Mr. Jacobs moved beyond them.

Which should be the point of all of this. It’s what fashion’s endless obsession with decade recycling is really about — and why every generation that didn’t live through a terrible trend thinks it’s enormously fun to reinvent it. The goal isn’t to relive the past but re-examine it, the better to understand how we got to here.

Mr. Jones said that for him 1997 represented that moment when the divisions between uptown and downtown were collapsing, when fashion entered pop culture and handbags became a symbol of identity. It’s also the year Princess Diana died, and Steve Jobs returned to Apple. Proust has his madeleines. We apparently have the Baguette. Chew on that for awhile.

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