Super Heroes and Super Surprises

I was struck dumb at the Prada show on Tuesday night when, lo and behold, who should come walking down the runway but the model Jourdan Dunn. Black girl walking! During all the brouhaha in New York over the lack of black models on the runway, much of the blame - fairly or unfairly - was laid at the feet of Miuccia Prada. She was among the first designers to prefer a homogenous runway, in which the clothes registered on the audience but not the people wearing them. We're keeping hope alive for the possible integration of the Jil Sander runway next season.

Wednesday morning I tried to jolt myself awake with a very large mug of espresso. The charming waiter tried to explain to me that the coffee that goes in the big cup is the watered down American version, but I was having none of that. I think I might have had a quadruple shot of espresso. All I can say is caffeine is not all that. I could have used a chaser of Red Bull and a big bowl of sugary cereal.

Costume Institute exhibition co-chairs Anna Wintour and Giorgio Armani (REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini )

The need to energize came about because I was headed to an 8:30 a.m. preview of the upcoming exhibtion at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute. The exhibition, "Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy," opens in May and the accompanying swanky party will be co-chaired by Vogue's Anna Wintour. The honorary chair is Giorgio Armani, who is also the lead sponsor of the exhibit.

The Costume Institute's curator Harold Koda had flown in with some frocks from the exhibition and to talk a bit about what everyone could expect. He brought along a Batman costume from the upcoming film "The Dark Knight" as well as superhero-inspired garments from designer Bernhard Willhelm, John Galliano and Armani. The exhibition sounds particularly interesting because it will be both literal and conceptual. So it will look at the costumes of superheroes such as Batman, the Hulk, Wonder Woman (my personal favorite) and Koda's favorite, Spiderman, as well as the ready-to-wear, performance sportswear and other garments inspired by them.

Costume Institute "Superheroes" preview (Robin Givhan)

All this information was fine and dandy and clear as can be, but I was left a bit confused by some of Armani's remarks. Now let me first say that he was being translated from Italian into English and so something might have been lost along the way. But in his remarks, Armani addressed a long-standing tension between Vogue and Armani in which the magazine is purported not to show the designer enough love and respect. I'm not going to get into the middle of that spat, which may or may not be real, but Armani went to great lengths to assure the audience that really, he LOVES Anna, even though they have aesthetic disagreements. Well, ok then. Thanks for clearing that up.

Armani's sponsorship of this exhibit might seem a bit odd. He's not known as a designer to be so literal in interpreting his inspiration and I can't say that I recall a collection that evoked Superman. But from a conceptual point of view, he is renowned for dressing professional women and highly regarded for creating clothes that empower and embolden women. I think that would be an interesting way of looking at his work in conjunction with superheroes.

And I might also add that while I occasionally have aesthetic disagreements with the designer, I have nothing but love and respect for him. In case anyone was wondering.

By Robin Givhan |  February 21, 2008; 6:55 AM ET Milan
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I just hope for all the attention Jourdann got for being in the Prada show(I lept from my computer screen in glee), lets hope she is walking again next season, or better yet advertising campaign. Jil Sander is next. Every single model looked exactly the same. Raf uses diversity for his men's shows why not for Jil Sander. Fembots obviously rule.

Posted by: KH | February 29, 2008 3:49 PM

Robin, Did you happen to catch the Juan Carlos Obando show during NY Fashion Week? His entire theme was superheroes - but done in an extremely subtle and refined way. It was pretty amazing.

Posted by: The Fashion Informer | February 29, 2008 6:52 PM

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