It was a massive public party that first inspired him: the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution in 1989, in his native Paris, where hundreds of thousands of revelers took to the streets. So why not top that, and plot out the movement of millions?
Why stop there? In keeping with the dreamy hedonism of the fashion world, de Betak has no shortage of ambition. Nodding in the direction of the backstage door, he says, "I'm ready to take these girls to the moon."
De Betak crafted a runway out of gilt-framed mirrors for Jason Wu, punctuated with a crystal chandelier at the end. (A sign of further East Room aspirations from the designer of Michelle Obama's inaugural gown?) De Betak sent models through mirrored arches for Diane von Furstenberg. For Marc Jacobs, he created an exploded, grand-scale boudoir, with a looking-glass floor and fat, shiny, tufted pillars. It was a fitting stage for such high-concept clothes: rubberized snow boots that gleamed like waxed Corvettes; vinyl skirts and cashmere-Lurex hoodies.
The Michael Kors show - always one of the week's most eagerly awaited - was glitzy in a more human way. It drew the full spectrum: the beautiful and the damned-if-I-can't-take-a-peek. Wednesday morning in a tent at Lincoln Center, the spectacle began well before the lights went down. The stars of this show were not the ho-hum chiffon caftans and jersey jumpsuits but front-row attendees Catherine Zeta-Jones (aflutter), Michael Douglas (asleep? hard to tell behind the shades), Bette Midler, Anjelica Huston and Deborah Messing. Around them, the runway became a mosh pit. Getting to one's seat was a contact sport; camera crews, photographers and quote-stalkers swarmed the benches until bodyguards were called in to hold the hysteria at bay.
If the Kors looks - in gray, camel, black and more black - were boring, the sparks were in the kinetics of the show. Moving in a crisp tick-tock to the beat of Donna Summer's "I Feel Love," a stream of models marched along a simple U-shaped runway that suggested a silver city sidewalk. Sixty-four looks flashed by in nine minutes. A new one emerged every eight seconds.
The effect was at once mechanical and witty. In this stylized streetscape, high fashion had its eye on the speedometer. There were always exactly four models on each side of the runway, and everyone was in step. It was a Teutonic utopia, as orderly as a close-order drill.