Catherine Malandrino Black Label Spring 2013: Wax on, Workout Barbie

Teetering above ground: the scene at the Catherine Malandrino Black Label Spring 2013 presentation in the Meatpacking District. (photo by Yuan-Kwan Chan / Meniscus Magazine)

For Spring/Summer 2013, Catherine Malandrino Black Label aims squarely for one distinct consumer: the gym enthusiast eager to show off her hard work. The diffusion line offers a muscular aesthetic, a blend of sport and romance that’s feminine and bold, sleek without being minimalist.

Malandrino is known for confident sexuality; here, with the strong athletic element, the flirtation is more aggressive than playful. Fishnets leer from behind fringe skirts and floor-skimming open knits. Sheer mesh dresses paneled in leather are as forgiving as a session of P90X. Softer pieces, such as a voluminous pair of cream front-pleated shorts with matching cowl-neck top, are spiked with a cropped blue studded leather vest, fishnet knee-highs and a sport cap. Style for the woman ever primed to pounce on an open spot in Soul Cycle.

The black and white palette is dappled in pastels and sorbets – lemon, pink, sky blue, cream, mint. Eye candy, to be sure. But for many who attended the Black Label presentation in the Meatpacking District this past fall, the sweet colors failed to mitigate the plight of the models themselves. Perched on pedestals within inches of burning stage lights, the women were shellacked from pompadour to toe-pinching pump in waxy makeup that looked just shy of flammable. One assistant could be seen circulating a glass of water, which the models were allowed to sip from shared straws, while other assistants brought ladders to help them wobble down from their posts, presumably for bathroom breaks.

Why go to such punitive lengths to make humans look like mannequins? Why not just use mannequins instead? Just sayin’. These scenes, coupled with the models’ rueful, mummified expressions, cast a creepy pall over a collection ostensibly meant to celebrate female power and dynamism.

So, then: body-conscious badass, or Workout Barbie? Come spring, the consumer will decide.