It’s been a while since a New York Fashion Week show was an hour late and hardly anyone cared.
Been a while since that kind of anarchic creative energy — the kind that once defined the space known as “downtown,” where people climbed rickety apartment stairs on the Lower East Side to watch Miguel Adrover make a dress out of Quentin Crisp’s old mattress. and the status quo – was enough to keep a room.
Not only because Covid put everything on hold for two years, but because a certain politeness, good manners had become a defining feature of New York fashion; a numbing aesthetic worth more than risk, tasty over explosive, like the wardrobe equivalent of green juice and Nespresso. There’s been the occasional screamingly ambitious exception like Telfar’s 2019 mosh pit and Kerby Jean-Raymond’s Kings Theater throwdown, but most of the time, while the trains were running on time, they didn’t go very far.
It was therefore remarkable that late Friday night, as fashion month kicked off, a crowd of people on towering platforms and thick sweat and peekaboo things stood (stood!) waiting in the Shed, the theater in Hudson Yards, in a room bisected by metal scaffolding and a walkway, bouncing from toe to toe for over an hour, waiting for the Shayne Oliver show to start.
Basically waiting for the next phase of New York fashion to kick in.
After all, if someone were to blow it all up, it would be Mr. Oliver, whose former label, Hood by Air, was a brazen romp through the fields of transgression. He stepped out of fashion in 2017, but now he was back — not with a regular runway show but with a three-day art-music-clothing extravaganza called “Headless,” which happened to signal the debut of his eponymous line and a plan to reshape the system. to disturb.
Not quite. He crossed silver Swarovski crystals and black jackets with spiky shoulders, micro shorts and waders with elongated birds of prey toes, horny headgear and frayed satin dresses. There were many belts and much skin. Models (men and women) had many piercings and wore white roses. One wore a glittering Telfar bag like a breastplate; another had glasses. Some came wrapped in what appeared to be paper.
At the end, Eartheater, the industrial pop musician otherwise known as Alexandra Drewchin, appeared in a long shredded white dress like some sort of interdimensional demon bride whining into a microphone. She was followed by two nearly naked servants, one in a thong and a bolero decorated with old cassette tapes.
Half the time, neither the audience nor the people on the show seemed to have any idea what was going on or where to walk. It didn’t necessarily matter; the point was less the actual garments than the energy they generated. At least they were moving. At least they were going somewhere and not just in circles.
After almost two years of uncertainty, that may be enough.
Coincidentally, Eartheater – or rather an Eartheater composition – had reappeared a few hours earlier, played by a quintet of violins on the Proenza Schouler show. It was a coincidence, but one that served to underline the gap between how things could have been and how they have been: on the one hand, there was the uneasy real; on the other side a softer, softer version, the edges sanded.
The clothes were softer too: a modernization of the corset and crinoline in knit and silk that owed a debt to both Jonathan Anderson’s Loewe and Phoebe Philo’s Celine. Dresses and suits were built in three color-blocked sections – tops, waist, bottoms – so that narrow torsos blossomed into draped balloon skirts, coats and jackets came with their own knitted “belt” and the waist of the pants was rolled down to form a peplum. to create at the hip.
They were coolly elegant, but safe. Like the designs of Jason Wu, who in his show notes called the name “American couture” and “glamour seemingly from another era,” then translated that as stripped-down romance with bows and faded botanicals on sporty dance dresses and bermudas. , they were muted by good taste.
And good taste seems a bit irrelevant at this point; a remnant of a less crisis-ridden era. That’s why Brandon Maxwell’s emotional tribute to his grandmother (or, as his show notes read, his Mammaw, who was one of his inspirations and who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease), in black and white, cable knit and crushed silk , cinched waistlines and midcentury silhouettes, seemed like such an apt metaphor. A farewell not only to a person, but to all that.
It was a tearjerker, done with grace, but it didn’t solve the problem of what now. (That was literally the title of Ottessa Moshfegh’s short story handed out at the Proenza Schouler show – “Where Will We Go Next?” But Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, the founders and designers of that brand, didn’t really have a response too.)
For that, look to Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta, of Eckhaus Latta, who are celebrating their 10th year in business.
They put on their show in the old Essex Market, an indoor jumble of old refrigerated shelving and countertops that once served as the heart of the Lower East Side neighborhood and is now slated for demolition to make way for a high-rise building. Inside, the electric wires seemed to be coming out of the ceiling and the tile floors were cracked, but the atmosphere was festive, permeated with a sense of community past as well as present.
That has always been at the heart of their work, from casting friends and family of all shapes and sizes to the clothing, which has a unique craft intelligence that avoids easy categorization; subversive without being aggressive and intensely tactile. Over the years they’ve gotten more polished and a little less art school, but they’ve never lost their sense of soul.
Check out the show, where their friend and mentor (and famous ’90s indie designer) Susan Cianciolo walked, as well as model Frankie Rayder, whose heyday was the turn of the millennium, and actress Hari Nef. Nude sequins covered sheer skirts and dresses like shiny fish scales; denim was either shredded into silk fringe or stuffed with crochet mohair; and amoeba-shaped chainmail was put together into a slip dress. Layers were used to reveal bits of flesh in unexpected places, such as the inner thigh and just below the buttocks. The colors were foil, oxblood, chocolate and toad. It ended with a man in a little black dress, zipped up in the back.
The effect was of a gigantic potluck that could turn into an orgy. The subject was destruction and resurrection at the same time. A decade ago, that made Eckhaus Latta outsiders (where was the? very?), but now they are becoming visionaries.
“The future is people walking down the street laughing,” read the prose poem distributed during the show, along with a magazine filled with Eckhaus Latta memories and associations of people who wear the brand; for whom it is embedded in their lives.
It works as an answer.