Our Fashion Unfiltered tag team examined New York Fashion Week shows that set kinetic standards for the digital presentation format, burgeoning young labels and vulnerability. They looked at shows that conveyed numerous emotions and executed cool messages in challenging times.
Khaite (pronounced “Kate”) designer Catherine Holstein presented a short film inspired by the dissonant middle ground of Covid-19 melancholia. Her customer faces Spring 2021 armed in maudlin formalwear that confronts a future conspicuously reflecting its past. Think of Carrie Bradshaw after the botched wedding to Mr. Big. Now, observe Irina Shayk from look 18. Get the picture? Holstein’s stark colour palette was black and white. Besides a single chunky sweater, these clothes meant business. Sculpted greatcoats were square shouldered; dresses and blouses balanced shirring with a structured, intense sensuality. Bomber jackets in leather and suede were equally structured, cropped and cool. The model Alek Wek’s lookbook appearances hardly surprised since these clothes refract the toughness and utility of an era she helped make famous: the early 2000s. Patent leather boots, pencil pointy slingbacks and a black evening dress with cut-out bustier recalled Helmut Lang’s 2001 ruminations on utility, kink and glamour. Khaite’s collection encapsulates 2020’s timeless moment with timeless clothes projecting a strident future for the new, old New York.
With conspiracies like QAnon heating up the American political climate and her mentor’s fervent bid for a spot on the Presidential ballot, Yeezy alumna Maisie Wilen has collusion on her mind. The American designer transforms tinfoil into slouchy thigh-high boots, crinkled trousers, reflective miniskirts, and a jacket trimmed with rhinestone fringe to shield from spying electromagnetic impulses. The collection features silky, asymmetrical printed dresses, vivid disco metallics, perforated legging and turtleneck sets and, not to forget, the label’s signature warped and distorted illusionary prints throughout. The theme reaches its apex in a pair of booty shorts with the word “hypernormalization” scrawled across the back in a sparkling font, a reference to the 2016 BBC documentary by British filmmaker Adam Curtis. The documentary posits that the complexity of the “real world” has overcome the world’s institutions, and that politicians and banks have created and sustained a simpler, fake world in which we unconsciously live in bliss. Its palette of textured metallics, lacquered green and baby pink, smoky greys and blues is an embrace of the anxiety that rises when the threshold between true and false becomes flimsy. Wilens has taken contemporary American anxieties and treated them with irony, humor and whim with a touch of Y2K sexy. The collection’s technocratic atmosphere is a satire of a synthetic world with sincerely good style.
Tom Ford recovered his groove by rediscovering Pat Cleveland’s. The Black iconic supermodel bolstered his lockdown experience spent in a funk wearing an unlikely Tom Ford tuxedo—a Canadian one. He detailed in a press release saying, “I found myself more and more drawn to old Hollywood films on TCM or even the mind numbing constant stream of renovations taking place on HGTV where the solution to all of life’s problems seems to be about “blowing out a wall” and creating “an island” in the kitchen. Quite simply, I found myself wanting to escape.” Ford found rapture from Cleveland’s addictive presence in fabled fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez’ documentary. “The exuberance of those years between the pill and AIDS where life seemed to be more carefree,” he recalled. “I was lucky enough to have photographed Pat Cleveland once and her energy left me literally high. We finished shooting at about 2:00 am and it actually took me hours to calm down enough to sleep. I felt like I had been doing cocaine all night and this was years after I had become sober. Pat is an inspiration. Her energy is an inspiration. She is joyful and inspiring.”
Escapism and joy are familiar cocktails for Ford’s moodboard. The models’ cheshire cat grins dust exuberance across the lookbook with fluorescent pink lipstick. Their gleeful expressions reflect happiness in easy caftans, swimwear, baggy silk trousers and suiting with elastic waistbands only. Cadmium orange, blue and electric purple colours mixed in with fire, leopard and floral prints. The collection harkened back to Ford’s 2003 Gucci moment when his hard-edged glamour gave way to flora kimonos and lustrous blousey blousons. Although it’s quite strange to imagine Tom Ford’s impeccable image dishevelled, his Spring 2021 collection succeeds by fashioning that one vulnerable thing.
Central Saint Martins graduate and LVMH-prize winning designer Kozaburo Akasaka has had a productive lockdown. His clothes were recently featured on the cover of Big Sean’s album “Detroit 2”. He redesigned his website to function as a 360-degree view of his Brooklyn studio, Spring 2021 digital presentation and preorder site. Plus, he found a clever way to insert Tyvek as the new fabric for our lives. Previously used by Walter Van Beirendonck and Raf Simons, Akasaka’s rendition blends crinkly, forgiving Tyvek with cotton to soften his trademark, let’s just say “structured,” high waisted, higher flare denim trousers. This shifting philosophy placing comfort over constriction bodes well for his business. Roomy one-button jackets, “galactic camo” printed pajamas in red and turquoise, plus more of the sporty bits he inserted from the Fall 2020 collection help decipher the moody, isolated Kozaburo universe—think House of Beauty and Culture, Wong Kar Wai, David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive” and cowboys—for the uninitiated.
Collina Strada’s Spring 2021 show is a standout example of digital done with heart. Complete with character animations and a custom soundtrack by Angel Emoji, the collection was playful and abstract, true to designer Hillary Taymour’s form. Though the label’s digital installment for this year’s New York Fashion Week was a feast of sunflower yellow, pink and citrusy green, it came with one succinct message, sung over and over in the accompanying soundtrack – “Frogs are cute, but change is cuter, I wish it would get here sooner.” Climate activism has been the core of Collina Strada since its inception. Taymour took the tumultuous mood of the past seven months and turned into an embrace of the new world, reminiscent of a child’s wonder and optimism. The collection had new takes on Collina Strada signatures that carried through this juvenile energy: tender scribbles of colour drawn on white denim, gentle tie-dye in pastel colours, and silky dresses completed with ribbons and ruffled hems, printed with graphic, fruity patterns. Teymour’s world is a lush and hopeful Neverland, full of the artistic confidence and sheer joy of a child left unsupervised with a pack of markers.
This season, Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta did it for the fans. Opening the show with plus-size model Paloma Elsaesser in a midi-length skirt made of doilies, the American duo did what they do best: deconstructed knitwear, experimental denim, and lots of seams. Amongst unassuming joggers and pedestrians beneath FDR Drive in New York, models sported thick, ribbed knits in a pastel blend of brown, yellow and blue. Expertly walking the line between downtown avant-garde and cozy classics, the collection includes workwear-inspired tailored nylon with stitched panelling that emphasizes its synthetic yet coarse texture. Treated with bleach, paint or dye, the jeans landed just after art school but before punk rock. A soft, tailored blazer with matching drawstring pants was a spin on the new normal WFH business uniform. Eckhaus Latta’s streamlined seams and techno-knits create a vision of the future that combines a refined maturity reimagined in idiosyncratic shapes and hems. It interprets traditional tropes like crochet and gingham to break new grounds: cottagecore meets a semester in Berlin. The world of Eckhaus Latta reminds us that anticipating a distinctly utopian or dystopian future would be far too easy: the future is here and it’s complicated.