by James Tuttle (@TuttleMode)
If you were anywhere near the California desert this Presidents’ Day weekend, you may have noticed the atmosphere being a little more fierce and fabulous than usual. Yes, gay polo players and their friends from around the globe converged at Indio’s luxurious Empire Polo Club for the Second Annual U.S. Gay Polo Tournament.
We first met up on Friday to stick-and-ball the horses we’d be playing and discuss strategy with the pro players who had been assigned to each team. My team’s pro, Jorge Vasquez from Kentucky’s Lexington Polo Club, suggested that we keep it clean and follow behind each other to pick up the ball if our teammates couldn’t get a good shot. It sounds like common sense but, since polo is basically hockey on horseback, you’d be shocked how many times it doesn’t work out like that.
The first match on Saturday morning was a close one with the The Yard Equine Center team narrowly defeating Team Peroni in overtime. In the second match, my own team, sponsored by gay sports publication Compete Magazine, had a rough first chukker but then pulled it together to beat the Polo Gear guys from New York. Federico Gerlero, one of a very few openly gay polo pros joining us from Argentina, suggested that I’d play better if I scrapped my heavy leather gloves in favor of some lighter baseball gloves, so I tracked down a sporting goods store in nearby La Quinta before heading back to Empire for the quiet, friendly Welcome Reception.
Our Sunday matches were held on the spectacular main field of the club, lined by enormous white tents and white sofas where spectators could sip champagne and nibble their omelets in comfort along the sidelines. In the consolation match, Polo Gear edged out Peroni for third place before we took to the field for the final, our hearts beating anxiously as Whitney Houston’s rendition of the national anthem blared from the loudspeakers. I did mention this was a gay tournament, right?
Ours was a hard-fought match from the first throw-in as our head-polo-gay Chip McKinney’s The Yard team scored the first goal. From then on, we raced up and down the field at top speeds, fighting for every shot. At one point I looked down to see my empty stirrup in my lap, which is not really where it’s supposed to be. Luckily, I was able to toss it down and put my foot back in it before anyone could push me off my horse.
Between chukkers, I overheard The Yard’s pro Alejandro Nordheimer telling Chip to forget about the ball and just stay on my teammate Gina. I couldn’t help but eavesdrop, really, since I was practically standing between them. Based on my fact-finding, our revised strategy was for me to take Chip out of the play so that Gina would be free to score goals for us. Then, on the field, Alejandro started yelling for Justin to stay on James (me!) so that Chip could get Gina. It all started to seem very political! In the end, Team Compete stuck to our guns, made three goals and won the goddamn Wellington Cup. Now I have some great new friends, a couple of trophies and lots of bruises. I would like to thank Empire Polo Club, the Gay Polo League and Peroni for making it all possible.
While I was running up and down the grass so fast that it started to seem more like a racetrack than a polo field, Fashion Week was happening in London. Friday kicked it off with seventeen shows that I’ve never heard of with the exception of Central St. Martin’s and that’s a damn school.
Things were looking up on Saturday, though. Clements Ribeiro was about prints, prints and more prints. Colors were hot pinks, red, metallic gold and winter white and there was a Russian peasant influence toned down by the rocker styling, leather-look tights and black-and-white plaids. All in all, it was cool, slim and modern but nothing groundbreaking.
The evening brought Temperley London’s classic, feminine silhouettes inspired by Renaissance religious paintings and tapestries that you could sense in the amazing floral embroideries that covered sleeves and bodices but the Russian thing came back in the fur hats, much more chic than those at Marc Jacobs. The collection ended with three gorgeous gowns that would have fit into the court of Tsarina Alexandra like exquisite Fabergé eggs. It all makes sense when you remember that the Renaissance was an influential design motif in the last days of the Romanov dynasty, too.
Immediately after, Danielle Issa Helayel’s Issa collection introduced some fabulous large-scale prints that looked like William Morris-Pucci lovechildren in dresses and matching tights that would sell off the racks. There was a definite Halston moment with flowing red or green maxi-gowns then some delicate gold Art Deco dresses and the Russian peasant girl made an appearance her, too. This collection was all over the fucking place but I still kind of dug it.
If you ever wondered “Where the Wild Things Are,” they were stationed on either side of the runway at the Mulberry show on Sunday morning watching over the long, lush, furry fur things they inspired. At first glance, it appeared that 1920s monkey fur was making a comeback but, since those monkeys are extinct, it must be goat hair or relaxed Mongolian lamb. Some looks, like a brown hairy coat early in the show, took it a little too Muppet, but there were many beautiful separates in browns, camels and oranges, plus the black leather that was everywhere in New York made an appearance. The show closed to a Muppet Show song so they get extra points for making people smile.
Later in the day, the metallics at Nicole Farhi were muted in prim silhouettes, but Matthew Williamson let his sequined embroideries and gold leathers shine at his Royal Opera House show. There was an interesting mix of geometric shapes in dresses and jackets that came in grays and pastel blue and green, but the winning looks were the long breezy gowns in brightly colored silk prints and little sheer tees that added an unexpected twist.
There were lots of great shows on Monday but we had to check in with Erdem’s collection inspired by Peggy Guggenheim and shown in the stark White Cube Gallery, which seemed an uncharacteristic stage for a designer that is sometimes too soft and nostalgic. This collection was still ladylike but more modern, combining sheer lace, tweed and splattered-paint patterns in clean Fifties-like shapes. The colors were bright—acid green, bright blues, pinks and purples—that played against the proportions that were always pretty, whether fitted or A-line, long-sleeved or sleeveless and the necklines made me think of 1960s French glamazon Capucine.
Then at Burberry Prorsum, we learned that the pencil skirt was to the Burberry woman what super-skinny pants were to the Burberry man in Milan. There was also an array of statement coats in tartans, tweeds and a twist on the classic trench with saddlebag pockets that also appeared on skirts, belts and short jackets. My favorite looks were the puffy bomber jackets or sharp military jackets over tweed skirts with a wide ruffle detail across the front and the dark purple quilted velvet coatdress that closed the show. The simple but moody hair and makeup deserve mention, as well.
I’d been looking forward to Roksanda Ilincic on Tuesday but found it disappointingly messy and haphazard. Mary Kantrantzou, the other collection I was interested to see that day, was at the other end of the spectrum with crisp, carefully constructed elegance and all the drama that you can get from a wild print short of McQueen. Creating glamour from everyday objects, Kantrantzou imbued the fabrics with pictures of clocks, typewriters and cutlery, then she mixed the prints together and had esteemed French embroiderer Lesage embellish them with things like yellow pencils. The silhouettes, too, reminded me of McQueen classics and though there was a wide array of shapes, voluminous skirts and cinched bodices seemed the mainstay.
There wasn’t a clear thematic through line in the London collections that I checked out, but designers here, as in New York, seemed to be putting on all their most expensive rings and flipping the bird at the continuing global economic malaise. They’ve either decided to dress only the One-Percenters or they’re optimistically thinking that, pretty soon, everyone will be needing jewel-encrusted party dresses.
Don’t look at me, though; I’ve been spending all my money on horses. If we run out of hay, qu’ils mangent de la brioche.