Let’s just get this out of the way: It requires an added effort to take Charlotte Ronson seriously, at least as a headlining fashion designer. I won’t step on too many toes here—it’s not that I find the clothes un-wearable, though if pressed I’d say they lean toward middling—but any thoughtful critique of her work is necessarily rooted in the space between one’s socialite status (read: presumed industry pass) and hard-earned recognition: How does one begin to divide the pie chart between celebrity and wealth, talent and tabloid-frenzy, MTV-cool and LA-cool, something-to-wear and fashion-as-art? Do the distinctions make a difference? Should they? On what terms do we judge each show, designer and target audience? Are we hoping to be surprised, or searching for confirmation of our premature skepticism? These were the questions I hoped to answer at the Charlotte Ronson show, feeling oddly out of the loop on whatever gossip seemed to be swirling through the stands around me, whether real or imagined.
Regardless, the young brand carries an impressive following, and the downtown club-cum-block party atmosphere before the show felt particularly fused to the performance on the runway. You had Paris Hilton plus entourage, the Simmons crew (representing Kimora’s JustFab shoe offerings), and actual hordes of SoCal-styled “super fashiony groupies” tapping their stilettos and popping their shoulders to the amped-up music courtesy of Samantha Ronson, naturally.
Despite the beaming, giggling, gasping, half-shrieking whispers from the crowd—clearly favoring the strappy dresses, fit-and-flare leather looks and everything fishnet—I was a little bored with the collection. I thought Ronson was getting somewhere with her athletic net pieces and contrasting sheer panels in lemonade yellow, but something was missing to connect the dots and complete each look. The floppy totes felt like tacked-on afterthoughts; while they worked with the beachier pieces, they functioned more as awkward counterweights to the collection’s sexier getups than complementary accessories; and as much as I’d like to ignore the transparent jewel-toned cropped vinyl jackets—really, Ronson?—they just didn’t work.
What did work—and what I wish Ronson had devoted more than two sparse looks to—was the ocean stripe pattern in cool blue tones, shown first in a sheer yoke tee over an athletic short of the same fabric, and then as a belted peplum mini dress. It’s tough to pull off such a photographic print but Ronson did it beautifully, hitting that delicate balance between color, tone and texture to frame the pattern without overwhelming the woman wearing it.