Julia Fox, Eric Adams and the return of the costume

It’s been a long time since a New York Fashion Week show was an hour late and hardly anyone cared.

A while has passed since that kind of anarchic creative energy — the kind that once defined the space known as “downtown,” where people climbed rickety stairs on the Lower East Side to see Miguel Adrover making a dress out of Quentin Crisp’s old mattress and shaking up the status quo – was enough to hold a bedroom.

It was not just because Covid-19 froze everything for two years, but because a certain politeness and good demeanor had become a defining characteristic of New York fashion – an anesthetic aesthetic that privileged risk, the pleasant taste rather than explosive. . There have been occasional extremely ambitious exceptions, such as Telfar’s mosh pit in 2019 and Kerby Jean-Raymond’s Kings Theater, but for the most part, while the trains were running on time, they didn’t go very far.

Which is why it was remarkable, late on a Friday night as fashion month was beginning, that a crowd of people on towering platforms and bulky sweats and peekaboo stuff were waiting (standing!) in the Shed, the Hudson Yards theater, in a room bifurcated by metal scaffolding and a catwalk, bouncing from foot to foot for more than an hour, waiting for Shayne Oliver’s show to start.

Waiting, really, for the next stage of New York fashion to begin.

After all, if anyone were to blow it all up, it would be Mr. Oliver, whose former label, Hood by Air, was a shameless game through the fields of transgression. He exited fashion in 2017, but now he was back — not with a normal runway show, but with a three-day art-music-clothing extravaganza called “Headless,” which involved the start of his namesake line and a plan. to disrupt the system.

Is he?

Not entirely. He crossed silver Swarovski crystals and black jackets with spiky shoulders, micro-shorts and thigh-high boots with elongated bird of prey toes, horny headwear and shredded satin dresses. There were lots of straps and lots of skin. The models (male and female) had many piercings and wore white roses. One of them carried a Telfar bag gleaming like a cuirass; another had glasses. Some arrived wrapped in what looked like paper. At the end, Eartheater, the industrial pop musician otherwise known as Alexandra Drewchin, appeared in a long, jagged white dress as some kind of inter-dimensional demon bride moaning into a microphone.

Half the time, neither the audience nor the people in the show seemed to have any idea what was going on or where they were supposed to walk. It didn’t necessarily matter; the point was less the actual clothes than the energy they generated. At least they were on the move. At least they were going somewhere, and not just in circles.

At this point, that sense of momentum may be what we need.

What sticks these days when attention spans are short and competition high (and not just at the Olympics)?

Undoubtedly Julia Fox’s show opening appearance LaQuan Smith, fresh from her breakup with Kanye West, in the ultimate revenge dress: a skintight black turtleneck tube top with a troika of large cutouts around the bust , a T-shaped dress artfully placed strip of fabric drawing the eye in all sorts of suggestive directions; a pretty good example of the practical application of what may seem the least practical fad.

The return to the catwalks of barrier-breaking black models Beverly Johnson and Veronica Webb in Sergio Hudson’s boo of an ersatz 1980s fashion show in giant giraffe prints and Palm Beach jumpsuits. Mayor Eric Adams’ front-row appearance at Michael Kors’ New York nighttime celebration via clutches, leotard-style dresses with curvy side cutouts and sharp double-breasted suits with double-face and crystal detailing.

But also some clothes.

Olivia Cheng’s preserved organic rosebud top and skirt at Dauphinette, for example, and her upcycled black coat with glittery pearl buttons spelling out “New York.” Area’s rhinestone-spotted showgirl denim. The Pet-Me puppy print and Frankenstein knits put together from Puppets & Puppets.

The reimagining of the mermaid dress, courtesy of Joseph Altuzarra, crowning a gorgeous amalgamation of urban sailors and mermaids in long pleated leather kilts and navy wool coats with sheepskin collars; orange and burgundy watercolor prints and fish scale knit scabbards, all accessorized with treasure chest coins and cowrie shells. At the end, two dresses made entirely of giant gold and bronze sequins parade, the rustling sequins announcing their presence long before they arrive.

As an entry idea (a dress with its own integrated soundtrack!), it was matched only by Peter Do’s reinvention of the costume in black, white, beige and gray, the colors left monochromatic or juxtaposed against each other. the others in crescents of contrast.

The sleeves have been spliced ​​at the seams to create fluted arms; cropped bolero-like shrugs came in ribbed knits with extra-long arms over tuxedo shirts; the pants swirled around the calves; and evening wear was simply a false halter-like lapel front, extending to the floor. Caught by the finest black leather cords at the waist, they bared their backs and arms, framed by greatcoats falling over the shoulders and draped at the elbows like an opera stole.

The result wasn’t a tuxedo, it wasn’t a dress, it was something else.

But the uptown good taste that was synonymous with a certain type of New York designer seems increasingly irrelevant; a remnant of a less crisis era. That’s why Brandon Maxwell’s emotional ode to his grandmother, who now has Alzheimer’s disease, seemed like such an apt metaphor. A farewell not just to a person, but to all things black and white, cable-knit and crushed-silk, cinched waists and mid-century silhouettes.

That’s why Jason Wu’s stripped-back romance, with bows and faded plants on sporty dance dresses and Bermuda shorts, seemed stifled by their feminine propriety, and Wes Gordon’s bright rainbow parade of dance dresses. The entrance to flared skirts, tulle cocktail dresses and topiaries and Carolina Herrera’s floral sheaths seemed lost without the safe space of a gala.

That’s why Gabriela Hearst’s subtle crossing of boundaries, combining sophistication (leather trench coats, swishy suits) with what was once considered “craftsmanship” – macrame dresses, chunky knits, crystal embellishments from healing – doesn’t register as powerfully as it perhaps should. .

And that’s why the sleek, cold modernization of the corset and crinoline at Proenza Schouler, where dresses and costumes were constructed in three color-blocked parts – tops, waist, bottoms – so that narrow torsos fit flourish in draped balloon skirts, coats and jackets came with their own knit “belt” and the waists of the pants were rolled up to create a peplum at the hip, ultimately seemed too secure.

As it happens, a short story by Ottessa Moshfegh (a writer turned unexpected fashion muse) called “Where Will We Go Next?” was distributed at the show. It was a good idea, although it also served, unfortunately, to illuminate the fact that the collection didn’t really have an answer.

For that, look to Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta of Eckhaus Latta, who are celebrating their 10th year in business.

They held their show in the old Essex Market, an indoor maze of old shelves and refrigerated counters that once served as the heart of the Lower East Side neighborhood and is now slated for demolition to make way for a skyscraper . Inside, electrical cables were leaking in the ceilings and the tiled floors were cracked, but the atmosphere was celebratory, imbued with a sense of community past, but also present.

This has always been the guideline of their work, from the casting of friends and family of all shapes and sizes to the clothing, which has a singular shrewd intelligence that avoids easy categorisations: subversive without being aggressive and intensely tactile.

Nude sequins covered sheer skirts and dresses like shimmering fish scales; denim was either shredded into silk fringes or darned with crocheted mohair; and an amoeba-like chain mail was pieced together into a dress with suspenders. Layers were used to reveal chunks 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 guy in a little black dress, zipped up the back.

The effect was of a giant potluck that could turn into a key party. The subject was both destruction and resurrection. Ten years ago, that made Eckhaus Latta strangers (where was the attractive?), but now that makes them visionaries.

“The future is people walking down the street laughing,” said the prose poem distributed at the fair, accompanied by a magazine full of memorabilia from Eckhaus Latta and associations of people who carry the brand. ; for whom it is embedded in their lives.

At the time, it seemed entirely possible that they were right.

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