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    Scoring in the Shadow of the Super Bowl


    On Sunday, Day 3 of the New York shows, there was a lot of talk about a suit — a watery, tiger-striped black and silver number worn with a black fedora and black shades. Was it ridiculous? A statement of intent? A costume? A pun? All of the above?

    The discussion in itself was not particularly surprising. It was fashion week, after all.

    The problem was the suit was not part of fashion week. It was worn hundreds of miles away at a different kind of show entirely, by Joe Burrow, the quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals, as he made his entrance into SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles for Super Bowl LVI.

    And that was before Kendrick Lamar donned a black Louis Vuitton suit from Virgil Abloh’s last collection for his halftime appearance alongside Dr. Dre in Tom Ford, Snoop Dogg, Eminem and Mary J. Blige (wearing mirror mosaic Dundas micro shorts with matching top, gloves and matching spike boots) and it began to seem as if most of the fashion news was coming from outside fashion week.

    On the one hand, it demonstrated how much clothes can resonate, even in a context — football — that seemingly has no place for clothes. Which is, in turn, as good an argument as any for why what happens at fashion week matters. The chain begins there.

    On the other hand, it showed just how high the bar has become. Attention spans are too short, and the competition too high.

    It’s not enough to make pretty, wearable stuff, like the folkloric city fancies of Ulla Johnson. (To be fair, it’s enough for a great business, just not enough for a show.) Or, for that matter, cool, wearable stuff like the sharp leathers, oversize tailoring and lingerie draping of Khaite. Or even telegenic, wearable stuff, like the latex ball gowns of Christian Siriano — all brands that take the directions largely set by other designers and break them down into bite-size chunks that are easy to digest, easy to buy and often equally easy to forget.

    It’s simply too tempting to look away. To check the score on your phone, or scan the celebrities-and-their-kid seating in the stands.

    What sticks these days? For most of Super Bowl Sunday it seemed the answer was: not much.

    The organic preserved rosebud top and skirt of Olivia Cheng at Dauphinette, perhaps, and her upcycled black coat with gleaming pearl buttons spelling out “New York.” The rhinestone speckled showgirl denim of Area. The pet-me puppy print and pieced-together Frankenstein knits of Puppets & Puppets.

    But then Sergio Hudson offered up a power player’s hoot of an ersatz 1980s fashion show in giant giraffe print and Palm Beach shades, and all those people in the audience checking the touchdown tally suddenly stowed their phones.

    Mr. Hudson, who dressed both Michelle Obama and Kamala Harris for the 2021 inauguration, made his name on impeccable monochrome tailoring used to create a sort of luxury sportswear superhero effect. That was still there but with some big gold buttons, matching broad-brimmed hats, body-conscious knitwear and a dose of fun in the mix.

    Plus he had real-life superheroes on his raised runway — the barrier-breaking Black models Beverly Johnson and Veronica Webb (plus the 50-something Brazilian model Gisele Zelauy) — and Desirée Rogers in the audience. And an evening section of slinky bias-cut silks.

    His ladies looked as if they could not just lunch, but also eat any boardroom for breakfast and then hit a black-tie affair. It scored.

    As did Joseph Altuzarra’s gorgeous amalgamation of urban sailors and mermaids, surfing a concrete sea. Holding his show in the lobby of the Woolworth Building, the gothic landmark in downtown New York where he has his headquarters, he returned to the ingredients on which he built his brand — the ineffably slick peacoat, dark Gypsy dress, grown-up silhouette — and remixed them with aplomb.

    Long pleated leather kilts were paired with shredded marinière sweaters and sheepskin-collar navy wool coats. Wide, squishy trousers mixed it up with earthy ribbed knits; deep orange and burgundy prints were dip-dyed with a watercolor effect. Treasure-chest coins and cowrie shells were embedded on belts and bags, which were layered one atop the other. A slinky slip dress in pale pink was knit to mimic layers of overlapping fish scales. Though it has long seemed the mermaid frock has been relegated to red carpet cliché, Mr. Altuzarra found a way to reinvent it.

    At the end, two dresses made entirely of giant gold and bronze sequins rustled by, the paillettes so loud they announced their presence long before they arrived. Gowns with their own built-in soundtrack! They were literally impossible to ignore.

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