Fashion’s Big Babies

Every season, various big stories emerge from Fashion Weeks around the world that dominate the collective consciousness for a few days before everyone moves on to the next. But, sometimes something happens that is so firmly on the radar of so many people that it can serve to eclipse everything else. That seems to be the case this year with Hedi Slimane and the public debut of his newly overhauled Yves Saint Laurent. The at-first-imagined, now-seemingly-real rivalry with Raf Simons, Slimane’s beef with The New York Times’ Cathy Horyn and the utterly confusing YSL rebranding Slimane implemented all culminated in a veritable perfect storm of hype, expectation and general taking up of space.

However, while the international spotlight shined ever so brightly on Slimane’s YSL in Paris, a similar drama of equal weight and importance was unfolding right here in the heartland of America.

Wisconsin Fashion Week has been making strides toward becoming a significant force to be reckoned with in recent seasons, slowly chipping away at the clout of established fashion capitols like New York, London, Milan and Daytona Beach. Retailers and editors have flocked to Milwaukee, the epicenter of Midwest chic, where they slept in the lap of luxury at five star hotels like Le Meilleur Western or L’Inn di Holiday and lent some cosmopolitan flair to the city’s nightlife with can’t-miss events like Daphne Guiness’ Party Bus Brewery Tour and an absolutely decadent Cow Tipping Gala organized by Andre Saraiva, Olivier Zahm and local favorite Kareem Abdul Jabaar.

The highlight each season is without question the OshKosh B’Gosh show that traditionally closes the week. OshKosh B’Gosh is a storied Wisconsin brand that has defined the concept of “baby cool” for generations with its luxe booties and flattering overalls that have turned countless babies from frumpy, disgusting blobs into sophisticated, worldly miniature humans. Naturally, when it was announced last spring that the venerable House of B’Gosh would not renew the contract of its long-time designer, Alexander B’Gosh, speculation on mommy fashion blogs and in chatrooms about potential replacements reached a fever pitch.

'When texting your friends, the House is to be written ‘OKBG,’ followed by a frowny face Emoji.'

While many suspected former Dior designer John Galliano would take the reins—his pirate Sherpa bodysuits for sizes NB to 5T would have been electrifying on the runway—the title of lead designer and creative director went to reclusive wunderkind Freddy Slimane. A distant cousin of Hedi raised in Milwaukee, Freddy had seen much success early in his career at OshKosh B’Gosh, before defecting to rival fashion house Gymboree, where he is credited with popularizing the slim-fit onesie that forever changed the way babies got dressed by their nannies. Soon after, Freddy left baby fashion altogether for the hip enclave of Green Bay, spending his days photographing former NFL athletes and heroin-chic farmer’s daughters in stark black and white portraits that underscored the hedonistic lifestyle intrinsic to the budding metropolis.

Immediately upon Freddy’s arrival at OshKosh, the in-house PR team contacted journalists to announce the sweeping changes Freddy implemented. “The House is referred to as ‘OshKosh B’Gosh,’” the statement read. “The ready-to-wear collection of overalls, onesies and baby socks by Freddy Slimane is correctly referred to as ‘OshKosh.’ (‘OshKosh Wisconsin’ is used in the logo, but not when speaking/writing about the collection). Collection credits, should you photograph any items, is [sic] correctly written ‘OshKosh by Freddy Slimane.’”

Furthermore, “If you talk to your mother about the collection, please refer to it as ‘OshKosh from OshKosh B’Gosh by Freddy Slimane.’ If you think about the ready-to-wear pieces when you’re walking down the street, please think of it only as ‘OshKosh B’G.’ If a Taylor Swift revenge anthem mentions the brand as the label of choice among toddlers who were mean to her in nursery school, it is correct to use ‘OK B’Gosh by Freddy S.’ When texting your friends, the House is to be written ‘OKBG,’ followed by a frowny face Emoji. And finally, if you dream about any overalls, please make sure the other people and/or imaginary creatures in your dream refer to the overalls as ‘Coveralls by Freddy Slimane for OshKosh,’ unless the imaginary creature is a unicorn, in which case you don’t need to refer to the collection by any name, since unicorns are magical and they already know all about it.”

In a piece entitled 'Wait, What the Fuck?', Ms. McDonald dared to ask the question, 'We’re still talking about baby overalls here, right?'

This rebranding manifesto was accompanied by a new website, featuring a moody portrait of a skinny baby lounging with one strap of her black overalls undone while a Pete Doherty cover of “The Farmer in the Dell” played on a loop in the background.

Veteran Milwaukee Journal Sentinel fashion reporter Karen McDonald immediately fired off a column devoted entirely to Freddy’s changes. In a piece entitled “Wait, What the Fuck?”, Ms. McDonald dared to ask the question, “We’re still talking about baby overalls here, right?”

Needless to say, Ms. McDonald was not invited to the OshKosh presentation this past Monday evening, during which Freddy finally revealed his days of hard work.

Perennial Milwaukee socialite and party fixture Michael Blastein was among the first to arrive, tweeting “Mmmmmkay, at #OshKosh and the fourth row here reads like the first row at the Buy Buy Baby private label show. #hotbitchbabies”

The setting was an ornate daycare center on the outskirts of town. The show notes read simply “For Puff,” referencing the Magic Dragon said to have inspired much of Freddy’s early work. Once the lights dimmed, a melancholic medley of Rafi’s greatest hits filled the room as baby models emerged from backstage, each wearing an oversized black bonnet. Freddy showed sheer bibs, shrunken baby parkas with generous fringe and elastic-waist leather pants. The result was very “accidental 60’s hippie pregnancy.” The reaction among the assembled crowd was mixed, leaning toward “meh.”

When asked backstage by a reporter from the Milwaukee bureau of Style.com how it felt to crawl in Freddy’s first show back at OshKosh, the baby promptly spit up amid gurgled laughter.

Met with such restrained applause and a smattering of crying from his models, Freddy refrained from taking a final bow, instead holing himself up in his studio to pen a missive to online critics who expressed their disappointment with his collection, which he later posted to Twitter.

“Dear Everyone who came to OshKosh…or OskKosh B’Gosh…or OKBG, etc.,” the note began. “If you didn’t like my show, it’s because you’re a schoolyard bully and you have an agenda to support other people and you’re ugly and fatter than my fattest baby model. If you did like my show, then you’re cool and I love you forever and you’re going to have some chic babies despite your obvious lack of child-bearing hips.”

In the end, perhaps one of Freddy’s OshKosh models said it best. When asked backstage by a reporter from the Milwaukee bureau of Style.com how it felt to crawl in Freddy’s first show back at OshKosh, the baby promptly spit up amid gurgled laughter.

“It’s baby clothes we’re dealing with here,” added the model’s mother, fishing in her vintage Gymboree by Freddy Slimane diaper bag for a wet nap. “You people need to fucking relax.”

Steve Dool is a writer based in New York City. Follow him on Twitter.

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