Arts

'The Outer Space' takes the human search for bliss out of this world

Ethan Lipton's one-man show at Joe's Pub is quirky, absurdist, and surprisingly down-to-Earth.

Instagram / joespub

Hating New York City is a favorite pastime of New Yorkers, and some are more serious about it than others. But most people know in their heart of hearts that leaving the city, or any place for that matter, isn't an instant roadmap to happiness. But for those who have no desire to get out, as Ethan Lipton, writer, composer, and performer, describes in The Outer Space at Joe's Pub, moving far away isn't necessarily a recipe for misery, either. At least, not permanently.

The Outer Space is a one-man musical about a couple who, facing gentrification and a changing neighborhood, moves out of the city. To a space colony. Lipton, backed by a three-piece band (all of whom wear cobalt space suits throughout the duration of the show) tells a story about a husband and wife, who remain nameless, using humour and musical numbers. The whole thing has a very folksy vibe to it, not least of all, the songs. It may be science fiction, but it's an old story at its heart: husband who loves the city, but loves his wife more, agrees to move out. Feels out of place. Tries to be happy anyway. The only difference is that instead of Long Island or Westchester, it's space.

Lipton focuses more on the couple's domestic and social life, giving us just as many imaginative details as we need to understand their life on a rocket. It's charming to hear about "outer space," the object of fascination for most of human history, worked in as something sort of…mundane. It was almost 50 years ago a human being walked on the moon for the first time, and as of next year two rich tourists are going to make their vacation the stars rather than the Caribbean. It won't be long before outer space is going to be little more than a background to the same old human dramas. What can you say—marriage problems are going to outlive any scientific development or cosmic excitement as long as our species lives.

The Outer Space knows this, and tells this story incisively, making clever and apt parallels between suburban life and space colony life. Space, like the great outdoors, might always have a charm for some people, but for the rest of us, it'll be a neutral good. Glad it's there; don't need to visit it often, or ever. But what the show really does is address the problem of being happy in a place that doesn't feel like home. As the husband in Lipton's story comes to accept, often part of being unhappy is just being stubborn. Sometimes happiness takes more work than other times, or places, or situations, but that doesn't mean it's impossible.

But for a story about happiness, it manages to avoid dipping too far into the saccharine or the holier-than-thou "zen" culture, even going so far as to tongue-in-cheekily broaden the definition of "yoga" to include such activities as brushing one's teeth and eating chips. (Downward dog and green juices just aren't everyone's thing.) The wit is just biting and cynical enough to get the message across without a note of nagging shrillness: as Lipton sings, all lifestyles come with their own set of frustrations and headaches. Happiness is just bargaining for the set of problems you prefer.

The Outer Space runs through April 9 at Joe's Pub at The Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street.

Fashion

NYFW: Irina Vitjaz doesn't do boring

Every dress in the Fall/Winter collection was made to be noticed.

Courtesy of BFD PR

Getting into the venue for Irina Vitjaz, one of the last shows of the season, proved to be the biggest circus of fashion week yet. A densely packed (and deeply indignant) crowd was unable to even enter the location until after the event's starting time, and a great number of RSVPs seemed to have fallen off the face of the earth, as the PR team generated countless new tickets. The exhaustion was airborne. One of the sponsors was beginning to dismantle their booth. Those who had stuck it out until this day the seventh were clearly running up rest deficits; fashion week was ready to pack it in.

But eventually whatever offending computer malfunction went down was overcome we got in (or at least, some of us did) and sat for Irina Vitjaz's Fall/Winter 2017 collection, a procession of red carpet-ready evening gowns that made an appropriate conclusion to the week.

Courtesy of BFD PR

Courtesy of BFD PR

The collection mostly consisted of slim, form-fitted dresses and a smattering of ball gowns, utilizing many of the textural details that dominated the shows this week: beading, sequins, and metallic fabrics. None were shrinking violets, though a few were floral print; it wasn't a particularly consistent collection, featuring deep blue and cranberry velvets as well as bright yellow gowns and lavender floral print, finishing off with a bridal gown. But Vitjaz was evidently more interested in variety, and in that she succeeded: none of the variations in color or fabric were particularly weak links.

Her greatest strength in design is in structure, and the most delicate, body-conscious dresses were by far the most impressive. A simple, body-hugging dress made a shimmery silver fabric a showstopper; beautiful draping at the skirt and cape of one mermaid teal dress balanced what could have otherwise been Barbie-like color and shine. One incredible bright yellow dress featured detailed folds and gathers on the front and back that seemed to defy gravity. The less impressive pieces were those that seemed to forget the human body they were meant to suit, with harsh straight cuts not unlike those old-fashioned dresses with full, soft skirts but rectangular bodices.

Courtesy of BFD PR

Courtesy of BFD PR

The riskier pieces, however, paid off, like the velvet dress that featured faux cutouts and off-the-shoulder neckline, using a skin-toned sheer fabric. The faux-show effect was used on even more glittery gowns, and the minimal and well-crafted usage made it couture and deliberate-looking. A non-faux, very exposed look was one deeply memorable dress with a long, slim velvet skirt and unlined, beaded top, covering little.

The sheer variety—of color, cut, pattern, shiny and sparkly surfaces, and the appearance of velvet—almost made the collection, which was an expansive one, feel like a "best hits" roundup of the preceding week. Sure, it's bound to commercially do well by offering something for nearly every taste, but the affinity for statement made it very of-the-moment. Not a single dress was boring. Irina Vitjaz, and in fact most designers—and people—seem to have little interest in playing it safe right now. And when breaking out of the box is the norm, fashion is at its best.

Fashion

NYFW: Mimi Prober redefines tragic beauty

The collection featured dresses that were delicate, but slightly askance.

By 8pm on Valentine's Day—one spent inside Skylight Clarkson Square, working and periodically scrolling through everyone's flowers and candy pictures on Instagram—the pink heart motif was getting a little tiresome. Even Alice + Olivia's presentation was loaded with cutesy pink-and-red hearts (which I also got to see on Instagram, not in person, unfortunately; more FOMO yet). So when Mimi Prober's Fall/Winter 2017 collection debuted, its tone—one of heartbreak and wreckage—was jarring, but strangely perfect.

Courtesy of People's Revolution

Courtesy of People's Revolution

Models walked out to Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah," which took command of the room in a way standard house music cannot. A heart-wrenching ballad might be an unlikely choice for a fashion show, but it informed the clothes. They started off black and lacy, opening with harem pants and a thin, breezy lace cardigan, progressing into grey, patchwork dresses that seemed to cling to the models by their very threads. A number of very loose dresses made of mismatched fabrics that almost seemed to come together by happenstance were interspersed with lace dresses fitted tightly to the body. Some sections of lace were so delicate they resembled a veil; others chosen were thicker, almost knits. Or spider webs.

Many were practically "naked" dresses, leaving much underneath visible; one in particular had an opaque bodice, beaded and sparkly, but the skirt left little to the imagination. Some pieces, a bit puzzlingly, were made of extremely thick, stiff material that resembled insulation. It was cut into swing coats and dresses.

Courtesy of People's Revolution

Courtesy of People's Revolution

But there was something about the intentional brokenness of the garments that made sense: a dress with a very crooked zipper, running from the right shoulder to the left of the hips; dresses with meticulous construction in the bodice but skirts and trains that look almost undone. There was something beautiful and delicate about garments that display their fragility so visibly, as if we're to suspect that the girl wearing them has done or might do something lonely and destructive. But Prober's collection isn't ugly-pretty, because it's not ugly: it's just artistic, toeing the line between lovely and broken.

Fashion

NYFW: Anniesa Hasibuan commits to glamour - with a message

The Indonesian brand is all about luxury, but the show was anything but apolitical.

By Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for New York Fashion Week: The Shows

Last season, Anniesa Hasibuan became the first designer ever to put hijabs on the runway at New York Fashion Week. And this season she made waves again by casting all immigrant models for the presentation of her Fall/Winter 2017 collection, which debuted February 14 at Skylight Clarkson Square.

Hasibuan has an elegant and powerful way of delivering a message. By putting hijabs and immigrant models on the runway with little fanfare (except from the press after the fact), she is very simply saying: Muslims belong here. Immigrants belong here, just like everyone and everything else that shows at NYFW. The statement is made via presence, and the clothes are left to make their own statement. Which they absolutely do.

Every single outfit was, simply put, the most. Sequins, velvet, pearls, embroidery. No matte surfaces. The collection aspired to royalty.

By Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for New York Fashion Week: The Shows

By Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for New York Fashion Week: The Shows

The color palette consisted of white, cream, peach, silver, gold, and black, mostly manifested in monochromatic outfits of several juxtaposing textures. The simplest outfits were a loose, sparkly tunic over dark velvet pants; most were a dress or tunic and pants with a long sheer cardigan or jacket over it. And when I say no matte surfaces, I'm not exaggerating: sheer pieces featured silver mesh overlay or dainty pearl detailing. Sequins were everywhere. Lots of skirts were big, full, and floor-length with flower-like gathering. It's fitting that the collection's theme was "drama."

By Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for New York Fashion Week: The Shows

By Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for New York Fashion Week: The Shows

And while Hasibuan uses volume expertly, making even the most fabric-heavy, layered outfits still look floaty and delicate, the slimmer silhouettes exuded modern royalty. Gold-threaded sweater and metallic pleated skirt pairings were cinched with obi belts. One long black dress with silver threading featured chiffon ruffles from the knee down, and one of the most interesting pieces was a menswear-inspired vest with a floor-length train. The simpler the outfit, the bolder the accessories—thick strings of pearls and beaded gloves, for example. Not a single outfit played it safe, and thank goodness for that. Hasibuan's woman is into luxury, into dressing up, and isn't afraid of being the most extra.

Fashion

NYFW: Katty Xiomara innovates with velvet and shimmer

Think hipster chic with a high fashion sensibility.

Courtesy of MAO PR

Take some staple hipster trends, varnish them with gold, finish them off with high-quality stitching and detailing, and you've got Katty Xiomara's Fall/Winter 2017 collection, which debuted February 13 at Pier 59 Studios. Familiar styles were polished made new, giving high-fashion life to looks that would otherwise be preppy, quirky fare for the Williamsburg crowd, making the presentation's high-energy indie rock soundtrack appropriate.

Courtesy of MAO PR

Courtesy of MAO PR

The show opened with a mid-calf length, high-necked dress in shimmering gold fabric with naturalistic-looking gold sequins, followed by a tan coat with big, fuzzy bell sleeves and collar, two very original pieces that found a place between elegant and unusual. The color palette overall was made of creams, tomato and terracotta reds, pinks, cranberry, and navy. Velvet, apparently the breakout star of the Fall/Winter 2017 season, was utilized on loose short pants and swingy dresses that balanced out the fabric's weight; one of the most memorable garments was a short, cranberry velvet shirtdress with ruffles at the chest and pale pink silk trim on the cuffs and collar. This, like most of the outfits, was styled with to-die-for pointed-toe oxfords in gold.

Courtesy of MAO PR

Courtesy of MAO PR

Thin, sparkly shirts in nearly-sheer fabric with small pussy bows were featured in pink, blue, and black, layered under full sequin dresses, or even under velvet spaghetti-strap dresses, which had almost a 90s feel to it. More on the preppy end were shirts and dresses with fantastic, pattern embroidered collars—including one entirely sheer dress with flared wrists and hem, layered over a fitted halter dress. Injecting a dose of playfulness were shorts and overalls (yes, high-fashion overalls without a hint of farmer or club kid in sight), covered in a whimsical owl print. The collection vaguely nodded to different semblances of throwback (the 90s layering, the 40s secretary blouses) but without replicating "vintage" looks—which is to say, it felt very forward-thinking and innovative, as exemplified by the makeup. Models wore glossy, popsicle-dyed pink lips with overdrawn, faux-unruly eyebrows. It's a little bit the strong brow of the 40s, a little bit the drawn-in brows of Instagram circa now, and a hint of something else—perhaps what's next.

Fashion

NYFW: ICB heads to the mountains

The winter sports-inspired collection makes techy, sporty design wearable.

By Kohei Kawashima

Plenty of designers have been taking the "autumn" part of the "autumn/winter season" part literally, from Halloween tones at Katie Gallagher to a dancing leaf man at Dan Liu, which has worked out better than you might expect. Along a similar line, ICB's Fall/Winter 2017 collection, which debuted February 14 at Skylight Clarkson Square, is, well, wintry. It takes inspiration from mountain climbing gear and winter athletic clothing. And despite the strong sporty influence, the collection manages to be well-rounded.

By Kohei Kawashima

By Kohei Kawashima

Some ensembles in the collection, to be clear, simply are winter gear—heavy, weather-proof fabrics in cobalt and white. But even the less literal pieces are styled with bungee cords, beanies, and boots by CAT (yes, the construction equipment company) and incorporate bonded jersey, thick materials, stark whites and blacks, and sharp, sporty angles. Models have rosy cheeks and slightly wet-looking hair, as if they just came in from the snow. One particularly successful ensemble was an athletic-looking but very wearable layered sweater/jacket and pants outfit in bright mountain white. A bonded jersey jacket, zipped up literally to the chin, was worn under a thick, deep-V jersey sweater, and with matching slim-fit pants with geometric stitching. The fit of the pants and use of contrasting angles in the tops kept the all-white outfit from verging into Michelin Man territory.

By Kohei Kawashima

By Kohei Kawashima

Techy detailing featured in most of the collection, including one cobalt and black shearling jacket, the lines and moto-esque wrist buckles of which made it feel more fashion than fare for snowboarding. The pieces layered underneath, shiny and warm-looking wool sweaters and pants, truth be told, are just very good winter basics (some actual, practical ready-to-wear isn't unwelcome). Other techy, athletic-influenced pieces, like a blue tunic with exquisite lines, a white button-down with a kilted angle on the front, and one ensemble featuring a pencil skirt, trousers, trench vest, and slim striped sweater all in monochrome, were absolutely wearable—they read as upgrades to the basics they're based off of, a surprising blend between business or streetwear and athletic wear. Though sporty influences so often tend to be bland, done, and simply unpretty and unartistic, the infusion in ICB's collection was impeccably done.