NEW YORK — Fashion Week isn't really about the trends anymore.
Sure, there were a few undeniable ones on this week's runways: Velvet is key to 2018 winter luxe. Designers are still hyped about the 1970s, and the '90s are on the cusp of a serious comeback.
But for Beth Buccini, cofounder and owner of the very upscale women’s clothing boutique Kirna Zabête, New York Fashion Week is less about discovering the mood for fall, and more about scouting out that special must-have piece. In her case, that's finding a dressy shirt her customer can pair with a skirt or jeans.
"People are such individuals that no two or 10 people wear anything alike," Buccini said.
It's only early February, but Buccini has been shopping since the winter holidays ended, when pre-fall (think late summer/early autumn) collections began showing. She's already been to France and is sorting out orders for her store's marquee designers, like Céline, Sacai, and Chinti & Parker. Honestly, she says, about 60 percent of her budget is already accounted for.
After Buccini dropped off the youngest of her four children at school, the entrepreneur, who lives in Chadds Ford, drove to New York clad in green Céline trousers and a Sonia Rykiel leopard-print coat. The heels were at least three inches, no easy feat on one of the windiest days (felt like 19 degrees) this winter in New York.
She connected with a chauffeur to drive her five-person team from showroom to showroom in what's become almost a requirement since the collections moved out of Lincoln Center in 2015. It's virtually impossible to get from an 11 a.m. midtown appointment to a noon show on time unless you have a car waiting for you (that has to circle the block until she returns). And when the appointments are back to back -- Buccini had 10 of these Monday -- it's exhausting.
Her first appointment was at the top of a steep flight of stairs in an airy Bowery showroom. Hellessy, a relatively young women's wear collection by Sylvie Millstein, is classic-meets-funky. A lanky model drifts through the space in an architectural, off-the-shoulder blue-and-white striped button-down shirt with bell sleeves.
Buccini has been keeping up with Millstein, who once worked closely with Givenchy and Chanel’s collections, but she hasn't bought anything yet. She might -- after all, she's in the market for shirts -- and she likes the selections that buyers Liza Fragomele and Tiernan Cowling have picked out.
We must make our way from the Bowery to midtown in time for an 11 a.m. Zimmermann runway show. I haven't been officially invited, so I take a chance and slip in. Nobody stops me. I'm glad because the Australian designer's collection is quite lovely. Inspired by a post World War I all-girls college, it's very flapper-meets-disco-funk, replete with three-quarter-length pleated skirts, dresses cut on the bias, and illusion lace. Fun and dramatic.
Back downtown for a noon Rosie Assoulin presentation. This show, Buccini says, will be the highlight of her day. Unlike runway shows, presentations are much more interactive -- you can touch the clothes and talk to the designer. Assoulin was inspired by interiors -- that would explain the moire gowns and jumpsuits in soft rose and mustard-yellow hues. Assoulin's presentation is Instagram-friendly; Buccini and her buying director, Lauren Forst, "grammed" the same pic of Assoulin's models in a red gown, white jumpsuit, and floral slip dress.
A post shared by bethbuccini (@bethbuccini) on Feb 13, 2017 at 9:41am PST
On the way to Proenza Schouler -- Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez’s last Big Apple show before taking their runway to Paris in September -- we chat about how social media has changed the Fashion Week landscape. For example, part of the job of Kirna Zabête's editorial director, Jessica Minkoff, is to post pictures on the store's Instagram account from the runways and presentations the team visits -- and then let the comments come in.
"It helps us gauge what might or might not sell," Minkoff said.
The Proenza Schouler show is as pretty as expected.
“They stick to what they know: midcalf-length skirts, wide shoulder blazers, cutouts, and amazing knits, but it still looks fresh,” Buccini says.
After some filtering and hashtagging, they find the right photos to post.
After Proenza, Buccini spots Raf Simons, who debuted his first collection for Calvin Klein earlier in the week, and she chats with longtime friend Alina Cho, former host of CNN’s Fashion: Backstage Pass, now an editor-at-large at Ballantine Bantam Dell. She is decked head to toe in a striped Monse dress. That's worth noting because later that night, Monse's creative directors, Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia, debuted their first collection for Oscar de la Renta. The two chat about family and relationships for a few minutes before Buccini heads across town to 3.1 Phillip Lim.
So far, I’ve been lucky. I’ve been able to talk my way into shows that I hadn’t been invited to. But my luck runs out here, so I head across the street and look at a few shows online. Later, I catch up with the Lim show. More of the same: Models walking the runways in illusion lace and boxy '90s-style pantsuits.
Does Buccini plan to buy a lot of pantsuits for fall? Only if they are unique, like these double-breasted plaid pantsuits from London by way of Lebanon designer Racil Chalhoub. These suits come with wide legs and cigarette pants. Chalhoub has her own classic white shirt, and the suits come with a pre-tied bow tie. Buccini circles at least a dozen pieces on a line sheet, but she won't order until she comes back from Paris (again) at the end of February.
More Instagramming of presentations, and more velvet jumpsuits at Frame. Buccini spies a tapestry two-piece blazer and skinny pantsuit and a denim-on-denim look that she makes a note to ask about at an appointment this week.
A post shared by Kirna Zabête (@kirnazabete) on Feb 13, 2017 at 1:35pm PST
We wrap up at Veronica Beard, where we run into Becky Fawcett of HelpUsAdopt.org. She will be working with the design duo (sisters-in-laws Veronica Miele and Veronica Swanson) for a Philadelphia charity event this spring, and hopes to get Buccini involved.
One more presentation and drinks with the head of Gucci before Buccini can retire to her parents' New York apartment for the night. Before the end of the week, she will have gone to more than two dozen appointments or shows.