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Saturday, September 13, 2008

New York Fashion Week: Benjamin Cho

Franklin Melendez asks, What about your friends?...

If there's a lesson to be learned from Benjamin Cho, it's the answer to that proverbial riddle, posed in antiquity by mystic trio TLC: “What about your friends? Will they stand their ground? Will they be lowdown?” On Tuesday night, that answer rang loud and clear. Of course, as a pillar of the old New Downtown, Cho has always counted on his loyal brotherhood of worn out flannels, faded skinnies and jaunty trilbies to litter the front row. So much so that naysayers have begun to grumble that perhaps the biggest attraction is around the runway, rather than on it. Believe what you will, but during the hour-long delay it proved a welcome distraction—and a true test of friendship. As expected, the Altman was jam-packed with Ben's loyal following, those trusty regulars who have trekked over the years to venues high and night, heeding Morrissey’s crooning like the call of tribal drums. This is also where the cross-pollination between the worlds of art and fashion is at its richest. It is the best of times—or the worst of times, depending on who you ask. But chances are, you too, my friend, have danced the night away, listless and sullen, rubbing elbows with a few artsy celebs (Chloe Sevigny) or celeb-y artists (Ryan McGinley, Dan Colen, Terrence Koh).

During the wait, there was ample time to appreciate some new added twists, such as the ubiquitous starlet date. Leigh Lezark of the MisShapes knows the secret to a good ensemble is a major accessory, and she chose to offset her sassy number with brooding actor Max Minghella, who made the considerable journey from Columbia University for the festivities. Downtown poster boy Nate Lowman settled for half of the Olsen duo, bringing along a wide-eyed Mary Kate, who perched in her seat like a dispossessed sprite. The entire crew hobnobbed backstage before the show with Ryan McGinley. The makeshift VIP lounge was guarded by a somewhat confused security guard, who seemed unsure as to what this rag-tag group of human photo-ops needed guarding from in the first place. The social scene was aflutter, and no one blinked when, an hour and change past the scheduled time, the lights finally dimmed and the show began.

The show featured a series of Cho signatures—a hit parade, if you will, of shift dresses and eccentric embellishments, including a nod to the macramé treatment that catapulted Cho into the spotlight in the first place. It was an intriguing summary of past efforts, but on the whole not great news, at least judging from the unenthusiastic crowd, who, afterwards, packed in backstage for the post-show meet and greet. There was Ben, beaming, triumphant, surrounded by Leigh, Nate, Mary Kate and now Max—the Mrs. Dalloway of the Lower East Side. I too congratulated Ben on another great effort, and was for a moment struck by a vision of a future yet to come: the downtown bunch living out their twilight years together in a pastel Miami house, frolicking, zany, golden—and never forgetting to thank each other for being a friend.

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