Queen of the Jungle
Lola Kirke Grapples With Feminism and Art-World Identity, Onscreen and Off
“The other day, one of the writers on this show asked me what I had noticed about getting older as a woman,” says Mozart in the Jungle actress Lola Kirke. “Not that I’m ‘old,’ but I am aging, as we all are, every single day.” (Kirke is 25.) “My first answer was that I can’t drink as much as I used to. And she was like, ‘The answer that I get a lot from women is that they don’t feel noticed anymore.’ “
Kirke is on the set of her Amazon series, waiting for the day’s shooting to begin. Her trailer is mostly devoid of personal items, except for scripts and a few books — and Kirke’s guitar, which leans against a wall, ready for those days where her call time won’t come until evening. Music is important to Kirke, though in a different way from the character she plays, an aspiring classical performer. Her real-life father is Simon Kirke, the former drummer for the rock bands Free and Bad Company; in college, Lola sang and played in an all-girl country group, and later this month she’s self-releasing an alt-country solo EP.
Mozart in the Jungle follows Kirke’s character, Hailey Rutledge, a talented young oboist from North Carolina pursuing music in New York City. (It’s based on a memoir by Blair Tindall, a former oboist for the New York Philharmonic.) Hailey dreams of playing for the (fictional) New York Symphony Orchestra, a well-respected but creatively and financially ailing cultural institution. Instead, she secures a job as an assistant to a high-strung Mexican conductor, played by Gael García Bernal, who pronounces her name “jai alai,” requires endless cups of maté, and occasionally converses with Mozart himself. In the show’s 2014 premiere, García Bernal’s character has just been hired to revive the orchestra’s fortunes; over the first two seasons, struggles with the musicians union and the orchestra’s dwindling donor base jeopardize that revival.
At this year’s Golden Globes, Mozart in the Jungle scored an upset win for best comedy series, and García Bernal took home the statue for best TV comedy actor. Onstage among her co-stars, wearing a draped chiffon Monique Lhuillier gown in a vivid goldenrod, Kirke was beaming. And if you looked closely, you could just make out that she was barefoot: She’d ditched her high heels after the red carpet because they hurt.
“I remember, as a kid growing up in the shadow of really stylish, beautiful women, really just trying to adopt exactly what they wore and thinking that if I did, I’d be magically endowed with their characteristics,” Kirke says. These influences included her nearest sister in age, Girls actress Jemima Kirke; her mother, Lorraine Kirke, who ran the West Village vintage boutique Geminola; and her cousin, model and Karl Lagerfeld muse Alice Dellal. “Other women, their clothes just excited me. Everyone I modeled myself after was pretty unique. And then I shattered that uniqueness by copying them.”
At Bard College, Kirke studied film — but, she says, “in a very Bard way,” within a curriculum heavy on conceptual artists such as Alex Bag and Chris Burden. “It wasn’t like USC or UCLA or Wesleyan, where you go to learn how to be part of Hollywood or independent cinema or whatever,” Kirke says. “I really don’t know how to use a camera.” After she graduated, her acting talent captivated directors from David Fincher (spot Kirke in a small but key role in Gone Girl) to Noah Baumbach (Mistress America).
“What I fell in love with about acting,” Kirke says, “is I loved thinking about other people so much.” She rummages through a canvas tote, spilling onto her trailer’s desk a dream journal, a sketchbook, Alex Ross’s classical-music history Listen to This, and the final novel in Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan series. After two full seasons, Kirke feels comfortable playing Hailey, but as an actress she’s always using research and story to ground a character so that it’s more than just pretend. Acting, she says, is “figuring out how I don’t have to lie so much.”
Kirke is frank about the extraordinariness of her own circumstances — her parents moved in the kind of social set where David Bowie once turned up to a family holiday party, and she attended Saint Ann’s, one of the most expensive and exclusive private schools in New York. “I was able to be on this path because I had certain chances,” she says. “I had the privilege of an amazing arts education. I wonder what more talent we’d be seeing in the world if that was allowed for more people.”
As Kirke walks around the set of Mozart in the Jungle, which is filming in Bushwick, she greets many of the crew members by name. She stops to show a burly, heavily inked grip her new tattoo. García Bernal, who is directing this episode, hovers nearby, frowning into a monitor. The show is entering its third season (premiering December 9), and Kirke is clearly in her element.
“What I love about Lola is that so much of who she is as a person is in Hailey, this woman who she plays,” says Kirke’s co-star Saffron Burrows, who plays a cellist who serves as Hailey’s mentor. “She’s layered her performance to make this very complicated onscreen character, but, profoundly, she’s using all of who she is to create that woman.” Kirke, says Burrows, is “incapable of banality”: “We either say nothing at all except hello, or we have some huge conversation about feminism, books, being women in this industry, love, kids, family, and everything she’s going through now.”
Feminism is close to Kirke’s heart. “I think that re-evaluating the way that we represent women in movies and TV is a huge part of being a feminist now,” she says. In addition to speaking out on issues like paid maternity leave and reproductive freedom, Kirke says she sees feminism as a matter of “being active in your identity as a woman.” Woman is not an identity that’s always easy to perform in Hollywood, where not even one out of every ten films last year was directed by a woman, and where women are severely under-represented at the executive level. Forget passing the Bechdel test: One USC study found that, for American movies released in 2014, only 28 percent of speaking parts were female.’
Recently, while working with the director Doug Liman and co-star Tom Cruise on the upcoming thriller American Made, Kirke found her identity and her job colliding in an unexpected way. Unlike most actresses — but like many 25-year-old women in New York City — Kirke doesn’t habitually remove her armpit hair. “When they cast me in the role, the part was this kind of hippie housewife,” says Kirke. “I was like, ‘Oh, that’s fine, she probably wouldn’t shave her armpits, either.’ But then they rewrote the part. And they had my character in a sleeveless dress, unloading groceries. So when I got to the set I said to the director, ‘Hey, I don’t shave my armpits. Do you think that the character would? If you do, I totally understand, but I can also think of reasons why she wouldn’t.’ He was like, ‘Let me see your armpits.’
Kirke recalls, “It was a room with thirty crew members, all men for the most part, and I went like this.” She mimes holding her arms aloft for inspection. “He looked at each armpit, carefully considering them. Finally he was like, ‘Yeah, I think she would shave her armpits.’ I said, ‘OK, that’s totally cool. But I do think it would be really interesting to be the first male, mainstream director in American cinema to feature a woman with armpit hair in your film and not address it.’ And he thought about it and he said, ‘OK. Keep it.’ “
Many actresses lament that the number of well-written roles available to them drops off precipitously as they enter their forties, or even earlier. Despite taking place in the male-dominated world of classical music — the top five U.S. orchestras were over 95 percent male (and about as white) until the 1970s, when women and people of color successfully fought for blind auditions — Mozart in the Jungle boasts an abundance of well-drawn female characters, including Burrows’s cellist, the tightly wound opera manager played by Broadway legend Bernadette Peters, and the frosty first oboist played by Debra Monk.
There is both solidarity and competition among the women in the show’s rarefied world. Sometimes Hailey comes off as naïve about the battles she hasn’t had to fight, and sometimes, to the women who have, that naïveté reads as ungratefulness. “Right now,” says Kirke, “we’re at this very interesting moment in feminism where we’ve come so far — we wouldn’t be anywhere without the first- and second-wave feminists.” But, she adds, “there’s this backward tide” in the strain of popular conservatism pressing on the culture and miring progressive allies in battles over tactics and priorities. “It’s a complicated time to be a feminist. And I’m just grateful to be on a show that’s interested in exploring that.”
A production assistant knocks on Kirke’s trailer door to tell her they’re almost ready for her on set. She ducks into the tiny bathroom to change into her costume — a simple black outfit Hailey would wear to perform — and emerges, dabbing geranium oil on her wrists. “It’s what I think she’d wear,” Kirke explains. “I have a friend who wears it, and she reminds me of Hailey a little.”
Mozart in the Jungle is a rare thing: a comedy centered on a young woman’s struggle to define herself as an artist in a world that appears to care less and less about the arts. “That’s something that me and my character on this show have in common,” says Kirke. “Spending your entire life, or most of your life, identifying in a certain way. Growing with that identification, wondering if that still fits, and wondering who you are without that.”
Artist CJ Hendry Brings Her Pen-and-Ink Technique to Gucci’s Bag of the Season
Artist CJ Hendry is known for her meticulous, large-format, photorealistic, black-and-white ink drawings of everyday objects, usually icons of consumer culture. For her current project, a series called “The Trophy Room,” she dipped dozens of objects — including a dildo, a teddy bear, and an Hermès Birkin bag — in bronze, photographed those bronzes, and then translated the photographs into drawings.
Hendry works quickly, in black uni-ball pen, lightly running the nib over the surface of the paper until she achieves sufficient depth. “It’s just scribbling,” she says matter-of-factly. “Crosshatching takes too long. Stippling takes too long.” Hendry tosses her empty pens — she might go through a dozen or more to complete one piece — into a Plexiglas bin. “I should have one of those guess-the-jellybeans-in-the-jar contests,” she jokes.
At 25, Hendry was a university dropout working as a sales assistant at a Chanel boutique when she gave herself a year to concentrate on art and see what would come of it. “My focus was just on buying clothes,” she says. “I was so consumed by luxury that I would spend money I didn’t have on things I didn’t need.” That cycle of consumption inspired a series of drawings of lightly crumpled designer shopping bags — each a kind of status object, one that conceals its contents as it reveals its bearer’s wealth.
Hendry drew designer handbags and shoes, too, and during that year, her drawings started to sell. Working outside the traditional gallery system, she amassed 250,000 Instagram followers, and her prices climbed. Kanye West owns a Hendry, and Floyd Mayweather and Swizz Beatz are said to have vied for the same drawing of a pair of boxing gloves.
The Birkin aside, fewer luxury objects find their way into Hendry’s work these days. “Now I’m in a position where I can go and buy pretty much anything,” she says. “I’ve just got other focuses.”
Dispatches From the Back Row
The Village Voice Blogs New York Fashion Week
As part of our first-ever fashion issue, our expert Village Voice fashion bloggers Alina Cohen, Alice Hines, and Jenna Sauers will be out and about throughout New York Fashion Week from the catwalks to the sidewalks. Follow us here — and on Facebook and Twitter — for daily coverage straight from the runway.
Friday, September 16
Long Lines and Photographers Galore: The Scene Outside NYFW Shows
Thursday, September 15
It Was Mayhem Outside of Kith’s New York Fashion Week Debut
Lou Dallas Makes Art-School Couture
If Marie Antoinette were a RISD grad, she’d probably wear Lou Dallas. The label, now in its fourth season, is inspired by couturiers like Christian Lacroix, John Galliano, and Alexander McQueen — as well as designer Raffaella Hanley’s past as a painter. This is couture with dangling threads as well as fuzzy tulle ruffles and raw hems in addition to Swarovski crystal beading. Styled by Haley Wollens — who also works with Chloë Sevigny and Miley Cyrus — and produced by actress Georgia Ford, the latest collection, “Plutonian Tears,” had us dreaming of picking up a needle and thread.
Tell me about the materials.
The pieces were actually all made of furniture upholstery fabric, which was donated to me. I lined it with linen of various weights. Then I made all the knits, creating patterns using a punch card and my knitting machine. I try to do custom, small editions. I definitely was aspiring to couture — not that I have the French training — but it’s always where my inspiration comes from.
Why couture? That’s an interesting starting point for an emerging designer.
I always have this horror that there are too many clothes in the world, and I want something that’s very special and unique. Couture, to me, is the ultimate fantasy in fashion. I cannot help but love fantasy and escapism. And being a RISD graduate who studied painting, I’m so attracted to making unique, one-of-a-kind pieces. I’ve tried to make T-shirts. It never works.
Also, I love that making these collections brings together my friends. I’m interested in production as a group activity. That’s why the couture houses appeal to me: It’s done all in-house. Friends of mine came over to help hand-sew. My friend Anna Pierce made the jewelry. And the models were a mix of agency girls and my friends who are artists. When you’re around these people, the energy is so intense and special. That is also a big part of my process.
Where did the name Lou Dallas come from?
From the character Korben Dallas in [Luc Besson’s] The Fifth Element. I have always love the name Lou, so I combined the two. Also, Jean Paul Gaultier did the costumes for that movie, which are so dreamy! — A.H.
Raquel Allegra x Assembly Get Into the Game
Throughout the week, the constant noise of New York Fashion Week crowds presented a challenge during interviews. For the first time though, I found myself speaking over the din of a basketball game. As I interviewed Raquel Allegra at her show (for which she partnered with Greg Armas, who runs the shop and label, Assembly), a very unconventional version of the sport played out alongside us. Allegra is a California-based designer who first gained notoriety by experimenting with vintage tee shirts recycled from the Los Angeles County Prison System.
The show consisted of models first running drills and then competing in a game, all while wearing clothes by her and Armas. Luckily, they appeared comfortable: Allegra’s designs included a wrap and shift dress; a loose-fitting, striped leisure suit and kimono sleeve dress; and sport shorts. The game even featured young, local cheerleaders, the Brooklyn Titans, who performed throughout the competition and during halftime.
“I don’t know that showcasing the clothing was actually the point of the presentation,” said Allegra. “For sure, we’re here to show clothing — this is Fashion Week. But I think it feels more important now than ever to be more fun and creative and think outside the box and do something that makes people smile. It’s really about women. I dress women. I couldn’t have a job unless women wanted to look fabulous.”
Behind her, the announcer yelled, “There we go! It’s about the sprints!”
I asked if she herself plays any sports. She thought for a moment. “I hike,” she said. — A.C.
David Michael Channels the Atelier Days
Down on Orchard Street, designer David Michael stood outside his presentation with his daughter in his arms. She wore the one dress he’d made for her so far, a cute polka-dotted number. She reached for the champagne in his hand, and he quickly pulled it away. “This is sparkly juice,” he warned.
At the back of the small gallery inside, Michael’s models lounged around in black and white. A man in a suit sat in a chair in front of a DJ booth and sipped a drink. A woman in a long white skirt and an oversized, sheer white top leaned against the wall. One male model wore braids, another sunglasses. They appeared a cool coterie, removed from the onlookers just feet away.
With his small venue, Michael said he was trying to bring the presentation “back to atelier days.”
Michael got his start designing for musicians. “I grew up around musicians,” he said. “When I was younger, I didn’t think I was musical, so I started making clothes for the shows.” He viewed that work as his own way to contribute to the scene. He often plays music with his friend, Jamie del Moon, who was at the booth behind him in the gallery.
These days, Michael is listening to Ariel Pink, Connan Mockasin, and the Psychic Ills. He watches music videos late at night, which impact his work. Mostly from the 80’s — “Lou Miami, ‘Dancing With Death’ is a good one.” — A.C.
Veja Co-Founder: ‘We Get Much More Inspired by Streets’
I began to ease out of Fashion Week slowly, by attending a party for the French sneaker brand, Veja.
Held at ANTHOM, which will showcase the shoes for a month, the event featured Benjamin Bronfman at the DJ booth and a blissfully un-crowded open bar. Many of the guests hadn’t been making the NYFW rounds — I spoke to two men in advertising (a lawyer and a publicist) who hadn’t attended a single show or presentation. Neither, it turns out, had François-Ghislain Morillon, who founded Veja along with his friend, Sébastien Kopp, in 2004. While the duo has gained acclaim in Paris for their eco-friendly, classic sneakers (Marion Cotillard has vouched for them), they’re just taking off in New York. The pair is also also starting to use more premium materials in their newest Bastille collection, such as vegetable-tanned and fish leather.
Morillon asked if it was okay to speak outside so that he could smoke. He apologized for being so French. “I don’t attend Fashion Week,” he said. “We tend to be a bit atemporal. We are trying to do shoes that can be in fashion for years.” He does, though, pay some attention: “I don’t go to the shows, but I like to see what the people from the crowd wear. We get much more inspired by streets.”
And there you have it, straight from the shoe brand founder’s mouth: For those unconcerned with the high-budget shows and presentations, impossible-to-get-on guest lists, and an influx of celebrities and models, NYFW still creates an invaluable opportunity to take the pulse of the city, sartorially speaking. What are we wearing now, and what does it say about contemporary culture? We’ll all be considering that as we catch up on sleep. — A.C.
‘Bain Couture’ for a Pool Party
A presentation of clothes — that really weren’t clothes — was an appropriate way to wrap up New York Fashion Week. After seeing bolts upon bolts of fabric, I longed for less.
Adriana Degreas, a Brazilian designer showing in New York for the first time, creates swimwear that she calls ‘Bain Couture.’ There were silk bodysuits with voluminous shoulder ruffles and collage-like textures. There were velvet bikinis, beaded bikinis, and bikinis with hydrangea-esque appliqués. There were gold geometric one-pieces with nude tulle bandeaus, and a high-waisted bottom with no top at all — just seashell jewelry.
“The idea is to make swimwear that’s the center of a wardrobe, and that’s not restricted to the beach,” the designer told me, through a translator.
Wait — but could you actually swim in it? Some pieces yes, some no.
“It’s resortwear, with a heavy focus on swim,” Degreas’s publicist explained. “Think a party at a pool.” Tatler deemed the brand “what international playgirls wear on the beach.” The presentation — a champagne soirée at the Academy Mansion on the Upper East Side — looked it.
As it so happened, I brought a friend of mine who is the exact opposite of an international playgirl. A graphic designer, he had just come back from a ten-day silent meditation retreat. For what it’s worth, he also liked the swimsuits (and the models). — A.H.
Wednesday, September 14
Betty and Veronica by Rachel Antonoff Got Its Start on LinkedIn
Rachel Antonoff’s collaboration with Archie Comics started in an unlikely place: On LinkedIn, the communications graveyard of annoying emails and endless notifications.
“I was like, ‘Oh my god. LinkedIn. How do I get off this list?’ ” recalled Antonoff backstage after her show, as models, dressers, and two Dalmatian puppies on leashes all scurried around. “Then I read the message and I was like, ‘Holy fucking shit, this can’t be real.’ ” Antonoff was a “big time” childhood fan of the Archie series and jumped at the chance to do a collection themed around the characters Betty and Veronica.
“I wanted to take the focus away from two girls fighting over a guy,” said Antonoff of the impetus behind the collection, which imagines what the pair — who are, let’s not forget, friends in addition to competing for Archie’s affections — would wear today. “The question was, how are we going to take these characters, who are wonderful, but diversify them? And make it feminist? And make them strong, interesting women? I read back through a lot of the comics, and the rivalry is totally there. But there are also a lot of instances of support for one another and actually putting each other before Archie. We chose to focus on those things.”
The collection was appropriately young and contemporary, with lots of cropped baby tees, cheerleader-inspired skirts, graphic printed swimwear, and a polka dot print that (upon closer inspection) was actually made of speech bubbles. The best pieces incorporated cute trompe l’oeil elements, an idea Antonoff has played with before in her own namesake line, to good effect.
Actress Alia Shawkat, who played Maeby Fünke on Arrested Development, and musician Tracy Antonopoulos, frontwoman of the band Cable, modeled in the show. The cast was racially diverse and included a plus-size model, Barbie Ferreira, whom the designer gave the opening and closing spot.
“I really hate the question ‘Are you a Betty or a Veronica?’” said Antonoff. “Like, are you a skinny, white brunette or a skinny, white blonde? No thank you!” She made a face. “We wanted Betty and Veronica to be any girl. Logistically, it’s hard to avoid the uni-size models. That’s the sample size, and if you want to make different sizes, it’s more expensive and it takes longer, but I still think that’s important.” — J.S.
Things Get Woolly on the Gabriela Hearst Runway
Gabriela Hearst is part of the sixth generation in her family to raise merino wool, so it’s not surprising that the material turned up all over her spring collection. Hearst was born and raised on a sheep farm in Uruguay, and wool from her family’s land materialized in feather-light open knit tops, covetable knitted bodysuits, and slinky knitted dresses that clung to the models’ bodies as they walked through her light-filled Chelsea studio in a relaxed presentation format. Wool for spring? Why not? Wool offers superior temperature regulation, breathability, and moisture wicking. The lightweight wools that played a part in Heart’s collection — alongside silks, cottons, linens, and a lovely multicolor Swiss lace — were crisp and eminently wearable.
Hearst said she was inspired by witches for this season — or, as the show notes put it: “how women are intimidating, to the point of being feared.” Sexuality was on display: most dresses were off-the-shoulder and the pants were wide-legged, a little 70s, and powerful. Everything hung and draped beautifully — these were fabrics with great body and movement.
In July, Hearst — who launched her line in 2015 — was named the U.S. regional womenswear winner of the International Woolmark Prize. She will join winners from five other regions at the international competition in January. Over the years, the Woolmark contest has helped launch the careers of many well-known designers, including Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld.
It’s safe to say this won’t be the last we hear of Hearst. — J.S
Tuesday, September 13
Jeremy Scott’s ‘Seedy’ ‘80s-Themed Afterparty Was Actually Pretty Seedy
The inspiration for Jeremy Scott’s latest collection was New York City in the 1980s. “I was thinking about the pictures you see of how it was seedy, dirty, and kind of scary the city was,” the designer said.
At the afterparty at Flash Factory, the theme got literal. While on the dance floor, I realized my passport and wallet were missing. I later found my wallet in a dirty corner, emptied of cash and cards. “Three or four other people” at the party were robbed, a guard named James King, of Alpha One Security, told the Voice.
Police were also called about an assault. An NYPD spokesperson said that an intoxicated 23-year-old male was asked by security guards to leave numerous times, then was punched and thrown to the ground by security. No arrests have been made, according to the spokesperson.
I’m fairly certain I witnessed that incident. Sitting on a stoop outside, I heard shouts coming from the exit. A skinny fashion kid was being carried out of the club in a body lock by four burly security guards. He was black, and most of them were white. “They violated me,” he repeated after they let him go, sitting on the stairs and sobbing. Later, when a guard came back out, the kid threw a punch, and was slammed by the guard into a nearby car.
“We are deeply saddened to hear of these events,” Juliana Shyu, a Jeremy Scott PR manager, told me via email. “We have been working closely with the venue as of this morning to assist in any way possible with the relocation of these items and finding those responsible.”
The guest list was one of the tightest I’ve seen at a party this week. The event officially began at 11 PM. When I arrived at 11:20, no one had been let in. There were more than 100 people waiting outside the 10,000-square-foot club in Chelsea, and they didn’t look accustomed to the habit.
“She’s the director of Jeremy Scott; she runs everything,” one girl muttered to her friend as she texted furiously. “I have a confirmed celebrity client waiting in that line,” one manager snarled to an overwhelmed PR rep. “You guys invited her. She sat second row at the show!”
There was an open bar, a VIP section, and an it-girl DJ who played dance, hip-hop, and a couple cheeky on-brand tracks (e.g. Calvin Harris’ “Acceptable In The ‘80s.”) A bodybuilder type in a Moschino sweat suit lingered next to a girl in Harajuku gear. A white-haired man in a python hat danced next to a winner of America’s Next Top Model. A scion of a modern artist whose name you probably know bumped into stationary objects, white powder trailing down her face.
The thief fit in with this crowd: Late last night, they tried to spend $2,000 on one of my credit cards at Bergdorfgoodman.com.
On my way home, I saw a teen lingering outside the club. He was beautiful, with perfect makeup that probably took hours to complete. “How’s your night going?” I asked him.
“How is it in there?,” he responded, eyes aglow. A freshman at Parsons who moved to New York from Georgia one month ago, he came just to breathe in the scene from the sidewalk. “It must be amazing inside.” — A.H.
Back-to-Back Jeremy Scott and Rosie Assoulin Shows: A Study in Contrast
I arrived at Moynihan Station for the Jeremy Scott show before I’d had my coffee, but the swarm of photographers and the mass of onlookers immediately woke me up. A crowd pressed up against the boundaries of the stanchioned-off path leading into the venue. The rest of the crowd and I wondered what the likes of Paris and Nicky Hilton, Aly Raisman, and Kelly Osbourne were all watching inside.
The woman standing next to me asked me if I’d like a gift card for VSPOT Medi-Spa. The woman she’d come with, Lexi Stout, explained why the two of them had come to stand outside the show. “This is the easiest way to find the clientele for our company,” she said. “These people seem to really like it. Laser hair removal’s huge and so is waxing. And the o-shot’s becoming a big thing.” And what is an o-shot? “It’s an orgasm shot. They take blood from your arm and they put it into your clitoris and your uterine walls so it makes things more sensitive.” Stout wasn’t a particular fan of Jeremy Scott, but she says she knew that his clientele would be more open to her product.
Three younger girls, probably not in Stout’s target demographic, were there for other reasons. Pelinor was visiting from California and had just stumbled upon the action. Her favorite designer, she said, was Christian Siriano. Amaya (15) and Jahsenda (13) were studying art and had the day off from school. They giggled behind me when they thought they saw Amber Rose. Unfortunately, it was a false alarm.
Down the C train in Chelsea, a much more tranquil scene awaited. Rosie Assoulin hadn’t released the location of her presentation, which helped preclude a bustling crowd à la Jeremy Scott. White packing peanuts littered the ground of an industrial space from which palm trees were sprouting. At the front of the gallery, a bartender poured lemonade from behind a table. Guests filled cellophane bags with salt-water taffy that was spread across a white tablecloth.
At the back of the gallery, models showed off boldly hued floral prints and stripes; mismatched patterns; and flowing, floor-length garments. A loose fit united the looks as well as an assertive femininity — sweet but not too sweet (perhaps like that salt water taffy). A particularly remarkable dress looked like a long, oversized tee-shirt with bright, sparkling, horizontal bands.
Neiman Marcus SVP and Fashion Director Ken Downing took an iPhone shot of a model wearing a tiered orange ensemble. “Perfect, honey!” he gushed when she looked up at just the right moment. Later, he chatted with NYFW creator Fern Mallis. The relaxed atmosphere, though welcome, reminded me that I hadn’t had my coffee. I left for Gansevoort Market and finally got a cup. — A.C.
DKNY Does ‘Neo Soho’
If the last big news we heard about DKNY — that LVMH was selling them to G-III — set the Internet abuzz with fear about the future of the company, yesterday evening’s show on the High Line certainly delivered on a big opportunity to regenerate the brand. Anna Wintour, Emily Ratajkowski, and Teyana Taylor were all seated in the front row.
New Museum director Lisa Phillips sat front and center, too. Phillips told us that DKNY “has been an amazing supporter of the New Museum over the past couple of years, and in particular, exhibitions by women artists.” On October 26, the New Museum team will open an exhibition of work by Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist.
Bella Hadid opened the show in a navy blue garment that looked like a cross between a dress and a hoodie (a “classic navy tech milano hooded jacket dress” according to the program) made even more alluring by a plunging neckline. The models wore dark lips and sleek hair, ambient music emanated from the speakers, and bright lights alternated between orange and blue. These combined elements gave the show an energetic intensity. Models walked in shades of blue and navy along with some shocks of orange, matching the illumination scheme. The audience remained captivated as logo bra tops and jumpsuits, knee high socks and much mesh appeared.
Designers Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne are calling the futuristic look “Neo Soho.” If the overall vibe was sporty with dark, serious solids, designers Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne kept things mischievous with cutout details. On many of the models, skin appeared in unexpected places, through holes and gaps in material. The top of one model’s posterior proudly bounced out of her pants as she walked. Bags belted and buckled at the waist — a new interpretation of the fanny pack — completed some of the looks. During the finale, the models marched in formation along the runway and then back — all in oversized hood jackets.
With thick, cushioned soles, all the footwear suggested an emphasis on comfortable shoes this season. As previously noted in this blog, we’ve seen a similar pattern at shows such as Monse and Collina Strada (let’s disregard that wobbling model at Yeezy, for a moment). Not a trend we’re about to argue with. — A.C.
Monday, September 12
Gypsy Sport Makes a Multi-Tiered Spectacle
If all fashion shows are performances, designer Rio Uribe’s Gypsy Sport extravaganza yesterday brought the format to the next level, incorporating quirky commentary and dance at a venue meant for sporting events and concerts. Held in Samsung 837, the massive crowd took up three levels — lucky guests sat on tiered stone steps on the ground floor while everyone else pressed into the balcony spaces on the second and third floors. The lowest level goings on became spectacles as photographers snapped Tinashe and Whoopi Goldberg. The seating-and-standing arrangement heightened the divide between the elite ground-floor group and the rest of us who had just a bird’s eye view of the action. Instead of a few feet — as per usual — entire floors separated us.
The show began as six dancers in red hats and shiny red outfits and high boots danced across the stage and on the steps to Beyoncé. After a few numbers, models finally started strutting down the stairs, across the floor, and upstairs in a variety of bright, gender non-conforming outfits. Dresses for all! Knee-high socks, head wraps, loose-fitting tops, and Chinese slippers ruled the day. Bold colors — bright orange, green, and purple — made the pieces even more attention-grabbing. Some models’ hair stuck straight up into a cone or bright orange points. The whole collection begged to be looked at.
For anyone who couldn’t see from three stories up, a large screen at the front of the venue broadcast the show while running commentary parodied sporting event announcers with lines (Think: “I see water sports happening with this knit right here”).
After the show, the dancers stuck around for photographs. I caught up with one of them, Kayla Jones, who explained how she’d arrived at Fashion Week. She’s part of an organization based in D.C. Their annual runway show got a lot of attention, and then someone from Gypsy Sport invited them out to perform. “The clothes were amazing,” she said. “I like the sports gear. I like that we get to keep our cute little hats.” — A.C.
Scenes From ‘More Than a Muse’ and Julia Restoin Roitfeld’s Jewelry Launch
In this city, the fashion and art worlds are never far apart. Fashion photographers exhibit in galleries, designers collaborate with artists, and everyone goes to each other’s parties. So it came as no surprise when the crowd at the More Than a Muse opening last night looked as though they’d just left Saturday’s Eckhaus Latta show — the vibe was tattooed, grungy, downtown, and a little punk.
The show featured photography by Larry Clark (who also directed the iconic film, Kids), Sandy Kim, Ryan McGinley, and Dash Snow. Clark wandered around in a Supreme shirt, making his own fashion statement. Perhaps his recent participation in the Dior Homme campaign has made him more style-conscious?
One of the attendees, Ashley Park (a friend of Kim’s), eventually migrated back uptown to DJ the New York launch of Julia Restoin Roitfeld’s designs for jewelry house Didier Dubot. The collection, said Roitfeld, takes inspiration from Parisian design and subway entrances as well as pieces her grandmother had handed down to her. She wants buyers to be able to “tell a story” with her pieces and then pass them on.
Park, who also occasionally models, explained one of the reasons she prefers DJing to walking in runway shows: “I think girls with boobs aren’t really that well represented in fashion shows. Not really for me.” — A.C.
The Blonds Serve Up Sparkles Galore
Fashion week: Is there ever a time when so much of so little consequence is taken so seriously by so many? In a week where the default mode can be a kind of po-faced anxiety, one thing is guaranteed: The Blonds show is going to be an explosion of fun and delight. Even waiting to check in at the door is an experience, because the assembled crowd is so amped on the idea of getting dressed up to cheer on their friends. The Blonds is about fantasy — not subtlety — and it inspires fierce loyalty among those who wear and love it.
The design duo behind the brand, Phillipe and David Blond, are masters of creating a technically demanding garment — the corset — with nontraditional materials: metal spikes, computer cables, gold chains, feathers, or anything else they dream up. Beyoncé, Rihanna, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minaj, and Lady Gaga have worn their delightfully over-the-top corsets and bodysuits onstage, and anticipation was running high for this, the label’s tenth anniversary show.
Muse and trans icon Amanda Lepore, stylist Patricia Field, fashion photographer and longtime America’s Next Top Modeljudge Nigel Barker, and Orange is the New Black star Dascha Polanco sat front row. The crowd was full of drag queens and genderfluid people in spectacular outfits, many involving corsets. The models walked down a runway past two enormous, silver mylar Pegasus balloons. All the women in the racially diverse cast wore big platinum wigs that bounced as they walked, and the men wore silver laurel wreaths in their hair. Fittingly, the show notes referenced Tina Turner (circa Thunderdome) and Greek mythology.
The clothes were as fantastical as could be hoped — tough-looking corsets in silver and gold, lots of slinky lamé, and what must be metric tons of crystal paillettes. Phillipe and David dedicated the show “to our dads,” David said afterwards — David Trujillo Sr. and Juan Rollano. “Our families have been a huge support,” David continued, “especially our fathers, because they both taught us work ethic.”
“My dad means the world to me,” added Phillipe. “He’s taught me everything: He taught me to believe in myself, to be strong and powerful and never give up in anything that we do.” — J.S.
Sunday, September 11
Eckhaus Latta Will Make You Want to Buy a Sewing Machine
Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta, the RISD-educated duo behind the young fashion brand Eckhaus Latta, always seem to have one foot in the fashion world and one foot in the art world. They showed their spring collection on a cast of models diverse in age, race, height, and body size. Walking along with the agented models in the show were a number of artists, like Michael Benton-Gates and Susan Cianciolo, as well as art collector Thea Westreich (photographer Rachel Chandler did the casting). Artist Nate Lowman sat front row, along with actress Hari Nef, and Chairlift singer Caroline Polachek.
Polacheck said after the show that the collection left her feeling an urge to buy a sewing machine — and it wasn’t hard to see why. Eckhaus Latta’s men’s and women’s designs, dominated by denim and day wear, are striking and deceptively simple enough to be inspiring. And, to anyone who came of age in the early aughts, the silhouette and the signatures of Eckhaus Latta are deeply familiar: wide-legged jeans with long pockets and panels, deconstruction and visible seaming, and an overall utilitarian vibe. This collection was impressively polished and coherent. The dressiest look was a boat-neck green dress with pockets — all the dresses had pockets, a welcome touch — and sleeves that revealed a striking open back when the model wearing it passed by on the catwalk. Most of the fabrics used in the collection were vintage deadstock.
The show was held outdoors in Chinatown’s Seward Park. The 90-degree heat didn’t prevent a line of would-be show-goers from stretching around the block. Savvy (or just curious) New Yorkers watched through a chain-link fence from the adjacent basketball courts. Dev Hynes, also known by his stage name Blood Orange, performed an original score for the show live on his cello.
The models wore jewelry by Latta Jewelry, a Santa Cruz-based jewelry company run by Jay and Atticus Latta — relatives of Zoe Latta, presumably. Per the show notes, all the jewelry referred to birth control: “IUD bracelet,” “IUD earring,” and “Contraceptive choker,” though the pieces did not seem to overly recall the shapes of the items they were named for. Was there some meaning behind this? Some statement about reproductive rights in the age of conservative demagoguery and Donald Trump? If so, was this a message to be read in the context of the t-shirts that trumpeted the slogan “Election Reform”? Impossible to know, because the designers were not available for an interview after the show.
Similarly opaquely, the designers’ written statement consisted of a poem written by Latta that read, in part:
I just wanted to grow
Grow really hard
And the power is something I want
Only if I can give it to you
A Détacher’s Mona Kowalska: ‘It’s a Specific Aesthetic, but I Want to Address a Multitude of People.’
Often in fashion, designers and the press speak as though each brand addresses a singular woman: “the Prada woman” or “the Dior woman” are portrayed as distinct entities and never the twain shall meet. (Worse, when it comes to the “little sister” brands of major houses, sometimes the woman becomes a girl, as in “the Miu Miu girl.”) Not only does this perpetuate the weird fantasy that most women shop entire collections —as opposed to amassing a wardrobe quietly over time, incorporating many different labels — it portrays identity as fixed and immutable. It was refreshing to hear A Détacher designer Mona Kowalska say, after her show, that she doesn’t start with a specific woman in mind when she starts to create a collection. “I’m not thinking of a specific character,” said Kowalska. “It’s a specific aesthetic, but I want to address a multitude of people.”
I suspect a lot of women could find themselves in A Détacher’s spring collection. Kowalska began with the idea of “self-management,” an idea she also explored in her most recent fall-winter collection. “I’d never done this before, but I just decided to continue with the same theme, because we do it year round. We manage our identity, we manage our time, we manage ourselves, we manage our emotions.” Accordingly, there were some wintry aspects that reappeared in different ways: The collection had a lot of layering, including skirts over pants, and layers of sheer lace printed with a tiny floral. There were textures, too, like in the crocheted ribbon sweaters that topped some of the looks, as well as the fetching, knife-pleated skirts.
“I love that technique,” Kowalska said, speaking of the crochet, “because it’s very precious and elegant, but messy at the same time. It’s not one thing.” She continued, “I always like things to be at least two things, if not more. To go in these different directions. Because then I think everyone finds themselves in them. Somewhere in all those references, you can find yourself.” — J.S.
Band of Outsiders Collection Revives the Nineties, Back-to-School Prep Scene
With varsity jackets, tracksuits, and some plaid, the label channeled the Nineties’ prep scene. Much of the clothing featured the brand name woven into a pattern, affixed on a patch, or splayed across the front or back of a garment. Wu-Tang Clan’s hit song from 1993, “C.R.E.A.M.,” played as the models walked, throwing everyone back to the year that Bill Clinton entered to Oval Office and Jurassic Park dominated the box office. The fresh-faced models looked barely old enough to even remember the decade.
Backstage after the show, first-time runway model Aaron Dilakian didn’t seem fazed by the experience. The only thing that surprised him, he said, was “how fast the people were walking.” He described the clothes as “chilled out.” His brother, Jonny, who’d also modeled in the show, said the outfits were “clothes I would wear hanging out with friends, chilling out, like a casual party... like a fondue party, or something like that.”
This show marked a revival for the brand. In 2015, Band of Outsiders shuttered due to financial issues. The original founder, Scott Sternberg, is no longer involved. Three foreign 30-something designers — Matthias Weber, Niklaus Hodel, and Florian Feder — are now at the helm. Can three European men successfully resuscitate a label that often adds “Los Angeles” after its name... and “treasures a collective memory of the City of Angels?” Stay tuned. — A.C.
Collina Strada: ‘I Start With Color. I Start With Bodies.’
Backstage at the Collina Strada presentation at Pier 59, posters displayed photographs of all the show’s models. And Grace Jones. While only one of the models sported a haircut similar to Jones’s signature boxy coif, the collection still radiated a certain edgy, androgynous hipness often associated with the singer. Loose fitting tops, flowing bottoms, and a white ensemble that trailed a long ruffle gave the sense of ease, comfort, and wearability. Deep greens, light purples, and white featured prominently.
Designer Hillary Taymour elected to cast only black models this season. She’s tired, she says, of watching other labels use just one black person for their shows. “I’m like, ‘We don’t have to do that,’ ” she said.
Many of the models wore Croc-like footwear, much of it featuring a sparkling green camo pattern. Birkenstock had given the shoes to Taymour, who repurposed them. “It’s just very, like, chef wear,” she said. “Those are like the chef shoe. I just like how weird and disgusting it looks. It’s a little bit dirty. It’s very easy fashion. It’s very simple.”
Behind the models, a projection depicting flowing resin played. Colors swirled, bringing to mind the ‘creative process.’ When asked about particular references or influences for the collection, Taymour laughed and shook her head: “I don’t work that way. I start with color. I start with bodies.”
Outside, guests reclined on white chaise longues and sipped rosé. Some tired models began to sit down. The carpet that extended up the wall behind them began to slip. Taymour didn’t seem too bothered. A low-key afternoon, as far as someone on the outside could tell. — A.C.
Saturday, September 10
‘Backstage’ at Tommy Hilfiger, a Patch of Sidewalk Under the FDR
Tommy Hilfiger’s collaboration with Gigi Hadid debuted at a giant carnival last night at South Street Seaport. Though the event was invite-only, the brand wasted no opportunity to bombard the public with its $250 denim-leather tops and $65 nautical hats. Before the show, models — excluding Hadid — recieved hair and makeup touch-ups on a well-trafficked patch of sidewalk underneath the FDR.
“BACK UP. BACK UP. BACK UP NOW!” screamed a hoarse security woman at the mushrooming crowd of photographers and random passersby. One woman craned her iPhone. “Backstage at Tommy!!” she captioned a Snap.
A homeless man with a cardboard “Jesus Saves” sign pulled down his sunglasses as a street-style photographer snapped. An older woman stood in the middle of the crowd with her eyes closed, cooling herself with a paper fan.
Screams erupted. Gigi Hadid had arrived. She lead a procession of models from the patch of sidewalk into what had been rebranded — just for the weekend — “Tommy Pier.” Inside, there was a ferris wheel, fried food, and 2,000 people (half media, half members of the public recruited through a company loyalty program).
Tommy Hilfiger is one of many fashion week exhibitors trying to harness the event’s marketing opportunity with livestreams and shoppable collections. Tommy Hilfiger is also one of many mall brands groping for relevance by teaming up with social media influencers. It’s going fine: sales at Tommy Hilfiger, owned by PVH corp., climbed in 3.2 percent first quarter of 2016.
One onlooker’s face was wet from tears. She had seen Taylor Swift. “I don’t care about Tommy Hilfiger,” she said. “We came to see the celebs."— A.H.
This Label Will Convince You To Wear a Tracksuit like it’s 2003
When I think of 2003’s clothes, Paris Hilton and Juicy Couture terrycloth tracksuits come to mind. In other words: Not the happiest memories. But at Area’s presentation on Friday, I was reminded that the tracksuit — and general early-aught fashion — could be chic, especially if it’s done almost entirely in silk.
Area, the New York label run by Beckett Fogg and Piotrek Panszczyk, is one of my favorite up-and-comers of late. It makes playful, feminine clothes whose fabrics have interesting backstories. When I interviewed them a few years ago, Beckett and Piotrek told me about using a Depression-era hydraulic embosser (Read: a giant machine used to stamp car seat leather) to create honeycomb-like textures on cotton. This season there’s an embossed faux-croc, on what turned out to be an OG Lyonnaise lamé velvet.
I caught up with Panszczyk after the show to talk textiles and the importance of 2003.
Tell me about this season’s fabrics.
There’s silk scarfing — basically like a twill — and a lot of crepe-backed satin. The initial idea was camouflage, which quickly became leopard and dalmatian. We started looking at pictures in old Vogue where Naomi was walking a bunch of dogs, or a picture of Marc Jacobs and his dalmatian, who is called Tiger. We tried to take all these animals, things that seem natural to us, and implement them on something that doesn’t feel per se natural. Our snakeskin is on lilac and yellow, for instance.
What eras were you looking to?
It was a mix between a lot of Sixties, Eighties, and 2003.
You had this nouveau riche feeling, where everyone was feeling super wealthy, super glamorous, and chic and dewy. And there was a very big hip-hop moment going on, which I grew up with. So for me, that was always aspirational and glamorous. And you see the bootcut kind of Ralph Lauren collection kind of vibes — and that’s more Beckett, being from Kentucky. So we tried to pull all of these kind of memories and feed them into one big mishmash.
I feel often when that early 2000s era is referenced lately it’s jokey. It’s kind of like, ‘Haha, you wore a Juicy tracksuit!’ But you guys made such a classy version of a tracksuit.
It is. They were all silk. And we appliqued silk shapes that look like ribbon, kind of draped over the garment and tied into a bow on the neck. So you wear a tracksuit, but you’re basically a diva!
And there were the accessories to go along with it.
We did shoes last season, but now we like, went REALLY hard. But it was fun. We did a bag also. We did sunglasses. We tried to pull off a total look. And we just tried to make it super-hyper-mega fashion. Don’t be ashamed of it! Embrace it. — A.H.
At Monse’s Third Show, the Label’s Appeal Branches Beyond Celebrities
Monse is a young label, launched one year ago, and Friday afternoon’s outing marked only its third show. Co-designers Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim met at Oscar de la Renta, where they were both longstanding employees.
Last week, they were named as the incoming creative directors of Oscar de la Renta, after Peter Copping’s unexpected departure in July. That news prompted such a cascade of RSVPs and ticket requests for today’s Monse show that it had to be moved to a larger venue at the last minute. (Yours truly was one of many who didn’t get the message, and dutifully turned up at the old location. Sometimes it’s a relief that fashion shows habitually start half an hour late — in this case it gave me time to run 15 blocks back downtown.) Garcia and Kim’s first collection for Oscar de la Renta will debut at fashion week in February, and they say they’ll keep designing Monse, too.
That’s good, because Monse is fun. It’s easy to see why celebrities including Sarah Jessica Parker, Lupita Nyong’o, Zosia Mamet, and Christina Ricci wear the brand regularly on the red carpet. (Mamet and Ricci were seated front row.)
Garcia and Kim showed a lot of looks based on the dress shirt — deconstructed, tailored, hanging off the shoulders, or turned into a fetching shirt dress. Surprising takes on shirting have quickly become a Monse signature. There was also a lot of eveningwear, including some lovely, draping silk charmeuse dresses that flowed with the body as the models walked. Many of the dresses were slipping off one shoulder, giving them an unstuffy elegance, as if the woman wearing them was too busy to pull it up or too preoccupied with more important things to notice it had slipped off. Some harder edged looks were encrusted with sequins.
Even with the outfits that skewed more towards evening, many of the models wore cool, pointy-toed flat shoes or midnight blue velvet flat Chelsea boots, instead of towering stilettoes — a gesture of understanding of how many women, especially New Yorkers, actually dress, and one that I, having only made the show thanks to my trusty flats, appreciated. — J.S.
Friday, September 9
Kanye Collaborator Vanessa Beecroft on Fainting Yeezy Models: ‘It Was Like a Technical Production Issue’
Back at the House of Peroni on Thursday, Vanessa Beecroft — visual artist and Kanye’s collaborator on Yeezy shows — wasn’t exactly apologetic about the falling models at Wednesday’s Roosevelt Island extravaganza. After a conversation with HOP Creative Director Francesco Carozzini, one audience member raised the issue on everyone’s mind.
“Yesterday at the presentation, there were a few models that fainted,” she said. She mentioned how in the past, Yeezy models have complained that they weren’t treated “super well.” “Does that bother you, or how do you feel about that?” she asked.
“Well, in that case it was like a technical production issue that wasn’t really related to me,” Beecroft responded. “I’m not sure why certain people fainted yesterday. But in my case, when it happened in my performances, the level of emotion, stress, being looked at, people would faint. It’s not a physical… There was food, water. The situation is so intense.”
To be fair, the level of Beecroft’s involvement is a bit nebulous. She told me she usually provides Kanye with references or proposals, but this time, she says “there wasn’t anything definite until the moment.” She only arrived in New York the day before the show. In some ways, the fiasco coincides with her beliefs about women: “When you put women together in a certain configuration, they immediately understand why they’re there. They’re there not to be looked at, not to please the audience. They’re there to remind you of the uncomfort they live in every day.”
In her current artistic practice, Beecroft has turned toward materials impervious to “technical production issues” — ceramics. “It’s basically female’s heads,” she says. “Female torsos…I chop the parts off.” — A.C.
Don’t Worry — Amy Sedaris Fangirls Over Adam Selman, Too
Backstage at the Adam Selman show, as me and a half-dozen other reporters crowded around the man of the hour, I bumped into actress and comedian Amy Sedaris, an old friend of Selman’s, also trying to say hello.
Dolly Parton video, the pair’s hive mind was responsible for the masterpiece that is the book, Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People. (“On an emotional downswing, toss a fistful of nails into your backyard. At a later date, during a manic phase, string them together to make a windchime.”)
“He’s busy!” said Sedaris, wearing a t-shirt illustrated with a spiky-haired anime bandit — Selman’s design, of course. Friends since they met on the shoot of a
“Adam’s a great collaborator. He’s funny. We come up with great ideas,” said Sedaris. Of the crop of young, buzzy designers in New York City who make feminine clothes beloved by the likes of Rihanna, few have Selman’s playfulness. One print from Thursday’s collection featured silhouettes of female nudes, stretching and aerobically stroking their own shoulders and thighs. The clothes made you want to do the same: Billowy pajama tops and bottoms made to roll around in a pile of pillows and slinky dresses to roll around a pile of bodies at a disco.
“I loved the beaded dress. And the culottes. I liked it all!” said Sedaris. — A.H.
Colovos Champions Ease and Comfort, Draws Inspiration From the Subway
In person, Nicole and Michael Colovos exhibit characteristics similar to those of their collection: understated, sophisticated, smart, and incredibly cool. Yesterday, the former Helmut Lang designers, partners in both business and marriage (a feat unto itself), presented their SS17 collection in a Chelsea showroom on Wednesday night.
Focusing on a palette of whites, blacks, and blues, the clothing featured intricate, thoughtful detailing. Slits up the backs of jeans reveal skin in a sexy, subtle way. A jacket, when folded and zipped correctly, turned into a small bag with its own handle. “Seam welding” on a few of the pieces created lightness; Michael described the technique as a way of sealing fabric through a high-heat machine. The process reduces bulk as it eliminates the need for stitching and doubling fabric back on itself.
The more technical of the pair, Michael notes the collection’s elements of menswear and suiting — which he doesn’t like unless it’s a little “fucked up”. He says that the brand aims for a “subtle identifiability.”
“We want you to look at that and know that it’s ours, but not be so obvious,” he explains.
One dress and shirt in the collection feature more vivid color: a print with rough-edged splotches of orange and red among grays. The image derives from a photograph that Michael took in a subway corridor — at the Christopher Street-Sheridan Square station — where old posters had been torn down. He describes the scene as “like being in a Gerhard Richter painting. I think it’s a metaphor for how we look at the collection, because it’s very city.”
Previously, he’s cited Richard Serra and Paul Klee as inspirations. Music and architecture also impact his work. “I’m always inspired by beautiful, industrial shapes,” he says.
Nicole describes her goals for the collection in practical, personal terms: “It should be modern. It should be fresh. It should still have a really strong silhouette. It should feel new... I want ease. I want comfort. I want something that makes me feel good.” — A.C.
Thursday, September 8
Creatures of the Wind’s Christopher Peters on the Power of the Female Gaze
At Creatures of the Wind on Thursday, David Lynch was in the air. Julee Cruise — who sang the eerily beautiful songs in Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks — crooned from a stage. Models in surreal prairie girl looks — floral-print silk crepe dresses with jagged lace backs, hypnotic houndstooth coats — floated through the giant, Gilded Age theater of New York City’s Masonic Hall. On the way in, we were greeted by photos of blinged-out older men and lots of plush red velvet. Red room, anyone?
Backstage, we caught designer Christopher Peters, one half of the label, who told us about the inspiration for the collection, dubbed “Angel.”
What were your references when designing this collection?
CP: Female rock musicians we love and admire, like PJ Harvey and Lydia Lunch. There’s this tradition of the male gaze in rock that they’re subverting. Lydia would do covers of early rock songs, where she’d be singing about a boy. And the boy would be the angel; he’s the one who is untouchable — the one she can’t have. At the same time, she’d wear these fucked-up slip dresses. It never felt like she was compromising who she was — but she could be the proactive one, the aggressor in that conversation. Our dresses were a slightly weird interpretation of that ‘30s silhouette. They’re elegant, but there’s a twistedness to them.
How did Twin Peaks fit in?
CP: I think it just sort of happened like that. We were thinking, “Oh let’s show here — it’ll be our space.” Then you put the white dance floor [in] and you put the vintage chairs [in], and you’re like, “Oh, it’s kind of Twin Peaks!” Then you get Julee Cruise and you’re like, “It’s even more Twin Peaks!” [The songs she sung] were the ones she wrote for David. She’s the coolest person ever; I’m so intimidated. I was crying at the dress rehearsal! — A.H.
Wednesday, September 7
Art? Capitalism? Sadism? Yeezy Season 4 Was All of the Above
The Milgram experiments, which began in 1961 at Yale, studied human’s willingness to inflict pain on other people. The experimenters instructed subjects to administer high-voltage shocks on another participant — that participant was, in fact, an actor. Even as the actor began banging on walls and screaming, more than half of participants obeyed orders to increase voltage.
I was reminded of Milgram’s study at Kanye West’s Yeezy Season 4 show, watching a model with a broken stiletto boot perilously limp down the runway. It took everything her limbs could muster to simply keep upright, and as she inched forward, the crowd stood with mouths agape. The question on my — and, I imagine, everyone’s — mind was: Should I intervene before her ankle snaps? Or should I follow orders and behave as one does at a typical fashion show?
Season 4’s mood was, overall, apocalyptic. Mostly, this seemed intentional. There was the dark, dissonant music, somewhere in between a La Monte Young drone and a horror-movie soundtrack. There were young, streetcast black and brown women in increasingly sweat-drenched bodysuits. The hot sun blared down on the models — this all took place in a public park on Roosevelt Island — while guests including Kylie Jenner, Kendall Jenner, Anna Wintour, and Pharrell watched from scant patches of shade. (At one point, one of the models fainted, poor thing.)
And then there was the sheer magnitude of the event. Fashion shows are typically 15 to 30 minutes long. Yeezy Season 4 lasted four hours. It began at 1:30 p.m., when guests boarded shuttle buses on Manhattan’s West Side (cabs weren’t allowed near the entrance to the park) and ended at 5:00 p.m. The clothes in the show were — as in previous seasons — mostly beige, cream, and black, in either oversized or body conscious silhouettes. Parkas, sweater-bralets, and off-shoulder hoodies were all paired with the aforementioned boots, wobbly on more than one occasion.
Past Yeezy shows have positioned themselves as performance art. At Yeezy Season 3 in February, extras were instructed to channel Rwandan refugees in distressed, neutral clothes, as West debuted tracks from his latest album. That show, like yesterday’s, was billed as a work by visual artist Vanessa Beecroft. Prior to becoming West’s chief collaborator, Beecroft was represented by gallerists including Jeffrey Deitch and Larry Gagosian.
Was yesterday’s show art? Capitalism? Sadism? The line seems hard to draw. Eventually, one man did intervene to help the wobbling model. As she limped off the runway, leaning on his shoulder, the crowd applauded. — A.H.
For Internet-Famous VFILES, Gender Roles Might as Well Be AOL
At the VFILES runway show, rapper Young Thug channelled a soccer mom, whipping out a giant iPad to photograph one of Alessandro Trincone’s runway looks from his front-row seat... which was totally appropriate. Genderbending was crux of Trincone’s collection, and a central theme of the VFILES’ show. “It’s 2016. We can wear what we want!” the Italian designer told me backstage.
VFILES, the social media platform-cum-retailer, lets users on its website nominate designers to appear in its NYFW shows, tapping celebrities to help mentor the winners. This year, mentors included Naomi Campbell, Mel Ottenberg, Pat McGrath, Jerry Lorenzo, and Young Thug (who wore a piece by Trincone on the cover of his latest album, Jeffery).
Male models wearing Trincone’s collection were covered head-to-toe in bows and ruffles. Like brides at a beach wedding, they glided barefoot down the runway, ribbons streaming behind them. Some wore elaborate headdresses topped with paper umbrellas. Underneath the regalia were well-tailored pieces: jackets, trousers, coats.
The vibe of the show was club. A-trak was the house DJ, and the presentation was sandwiched between two live musical acts: teen metal band Unlocking the Truth and rapper Playboi Carti. Though the show was inside and at 8 p.m., I counted 12 people wearing sunglasses. Just another trend crossing gender lines.— A.H.
OAK Channels Sinead and Sade’s ‘Tough Girl Ease’ and House of Peroni Helps Take the Edge Off
OAK co-founders Louis Terline and Jeff Madalena didn’t want to present at New York Fashion Week until they were sure they could do it right. Turns out, now’s the time.
“This was the first season we felt like the collection was fully formed enough to tell a full story,” Terline told me. “So we said, ‘Let’s do it.’ ” We were standing in the basement of a desolate, gallery-esque space in Chelsea, near West Side Highway.
“We wanted to do it sweaty,” he added, as beads dripped down his face. Loud music blared as a line of models stood by the wall, many of them in blue and black tube socks. Against denim, black, and white garments, two in particular stood out: white tee shirts scrawled with what looked like black Sharpie, reading “SWEETEST TABOO” and “SADE CONCERT TEE.”
Terline explained, “I wanted to speak to…an old punk aesthetic, but I wanted to blend that with the glamour.” He looked to Sinead O’Connor and Sade as feminine ideals. “They really were the first ones to hit this tough girl ease.” Rock on.
Later, over at the House of Peroni pop-up on Elizabeth Street, guests decompressed with the Italian beverage and live sets by Neon Indian and Jamie N Commons. Mixed with Aperol, fig, cynar, etc., the beer — and dancing — began to take off the edge from Fashion Week’s first official day.
Catherine Martin arrived in a phenomenal long-sleeved, patterned dress, cinched at the waist with a wide belt. Martin — the costume designer for such iconic films and shows as The Great Gatsby, Moulin Rouge, and The Get Down — showcased some of her most famous work on mannequins at the back of the venue.
“It’s by Stella Jean, an Italian African designer who works out of Milan,” she said. “I thought it was an appropriate cross-cultural dress to be wearing tonight to celebrate my great friend’s incredible work.” Martin may or may not make it to this week’s shows — it’s back-to-school week for her children, and they’ve just “moved house.” Martin is still in the process of unpacking boxes, using Marie Kondo’s tidying up strategies as a guide. “It’s hard,” she lamented. “It’s hard to put into practice.”
Martin’s friend, House of Peroni Creative Director Francesco Carrozzini, admitted that he definitely won’t be able to enjoy all of this week’s festivities. “I will be chained to this place, but with my eyes to what’s happening elsewhere in the city,” he explained. Even if Carrozzini doesn’t make it to the shows, the pop-up will be broadcasting them live. He’ll be guaranteed a front-row seat. — A.C.
Sanitation Uniforms Get a Chic Makeover Thanks to a Helping Hand From Heron Preston
Burly sanitation workers and pastel-haired hipsters don’t usually mingle at parties. But the launch of a collaboration between the streetwear designer Heron Preston and the New York City Department of Sanitation — held at a department salt depot on far west Spring Street — drew an unlikely crowd. In the touristy stores that line Canal Street, racks of t-shirts bearing the letters NYPD or FDNY are a common sight — but DSNY? Even the MTA arguably has more cachet. Preston’s collection, inspired by sanitation worker uniforms, aims to make the Department of Sanitation cool.
“I started in 1989,” said Brian, a retired sanitation worker who was enjoying the event. “Back then, you wore green pants, and you wore either a green t-shirt or an orange t-shirt. It’s evolved over the years, and now you wear safety stripes and things.”
Brian (who declined to give his last name) was sipping a Budweiser as he explained that he worked at the department for over twenty years. He lives in Queens and estimates that he worked at 40 of the department’s 59 garages over the years, ultimately rising from trash collector to the superintendent of his own unit. He loved his job.
“The main thing was the camaraderie,” Brian explained. “The only thing I didn’t like was no matter how hot it was in the summer, we had to wear long pants for safety reasons. It could get pretty hot. I always joked they would take the horses out of Central Park when it hit 90 degrees, but we were still behind the truck, loading the garbage. It could be 105 and we’d be out there, loading that garbage into that truck.”
Brian was standing just outside the DSNY’s new salt shed, which looks a little bit like a giant salt crystal perched next to the West Side Highway. The $20 million building, which opened late last year, holds over 5,000 tons of pinkish-grey imported South American salt, ready for spreading on roads after winter storms. The building is strikingly beautiful — and, thanks to a coalition of property developers and famous neighbors (like Kirsten Dunst, John Slattery, and the late James Gandolfini) who fought a well-funded battle against the project in state court, it almost wasn’t built. It seems nobody wants a sanitation department building in their backyard, even though distributing depots and garages throughout neighborhoods cuts driving miles and lowers emissions. The sanitation department and sanitation workers may desire greater visibility for their labor, but many New Yorkers don’t seem to want to see them.
The three sides of the salt depot that face the street are made of smooth, poured concrete with no windows or doors; the neighbors wanted all truck activity to be hidden from view, so salt is loaded and unloaded through a single door facing away from the street that towers at 34 feet high. Through that immense portal, guests stood before the salt pile, inspecting Preston’s clothes, or watching a performance of the sanitation department’s pipe and drum band, the Emerald Society. Brian, the band’s drum major, was dressed in the uniform of the Emerald Society: a green kilt, black shirt, and black kilt socks with white flashes and spats.
“I’ve always had a desire to redesign uniforms,” said Heron Preston, standing in front of the salt pile. Preston is a creative director and fashion designer known for his work with Nike and Kanye West. Growing up in San Francisco, Preston developed a fascination with uniforms at an early age. “My father was a police officer, so his uniform was rad,” he explained. “As a little kid I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen, with the duty belt, with the handcuffs, and the pepper spray, and the gun and everything.”
So how did Preston’s collaboration with DSNY come about?
“One day,” Preston said, “I was swimming in the ocean and this plastic bag, this garbage, brushed my arm. And that encounter with garbage made me realize, I hate litterbugs. I hate garbage. I care about keeping the beaches that I vacation at and the city that I live in clean.” He sent an email to the Department of Sanitation. The subject line: “Big Idea.” The department agreed to enter into an unusual partnership.
Soon, Preston was reading the book Picking Up by Robin Nagle, the DSNY’s anthropologist-in-residence and a professor at NYU. The book opened his eyes to the stories of the workers who handle our city’s refuse and snow.
“It’s actually the most dangerous job,” Preston said. (City and Bureau of Labor Statistics data confirm sanitation is very dangerous work.) “Sanitation workers are exposed to toxic chemicals. Garbage bags could explode, and if chemicals are in that bag, they could inhale deadly toxic dust. They could cut their legs on license plates when they’re going in between cars to collect our trash. The hopper that crushes the garbage in the trucks could squeeze something tight and project it right at you, like a bowling ball. Or you could get run over by a car. Or you could get run over by a truck. They risk their lives to keep this city livable for us. They need more recognition.”
Long before the show, the department notified workers at all the sanitation garages around the city that Preston was interested in their old uniforms. Soon, boxes of clothes were arriving at Preston’s home. Preston dyed, recut, screen-printed, and embroidered the donated clothes with logos, creating fashionable streetwear pieces out of the old uniforms — hoodies ($155), baseball caps ($65-75), and long-sleeved t-shirts ($120) all emblazoned with the letters DSNY, and high-visibility yellow tote bags made out of old safety vests ($1,250).
The collection, simply called ‘Uniform,’ is the first of a series of collaborative projects Preston and the DSNY will unveil over the coming year. Through this partnership, Preston hopes to raise awareness about 0X30, the Department of Sanitation’s recycling-focused zero waste initiative, which has the goal of getting the city to contribute zero waste to landfills by the year 2030. (Currently, New Yorkers send about 6,000,000 tons of residential and commercial waste to landfills each year.) Part of the proceeds from the Uniform collection will go to the Foundation for New York’s Strongest, a nonprofit organization dedicated to honoring the service of sanitation workers in New York City.
I asked Brian what he made of the collection and the crowd. “We are one of the city agencies that doesn’t get a lot of acclaim,” he said. “God bless the police, god bless the fire department, but a lot of people don’t realize that we’re picking up the garbage off the street, we’re out there in the middle of the night clearing the snow off the street. A lot of people think it just magically disappears.” He paused. Nearby, a 20-something in fashionably ripped jeans held up an $80 DSNY t-shirt on a hanger. “We have a lot of pride in what we do. And now, seeing people are looking at the fashion and buying different shirts and hats with DSNY on it, that I think is a good thing, because it will promote the department and let people know that we do serve a very important function in the city.” — J.S.
Tuesday, September 6
Eva Mendes Helps Kick Off New York Fashion Week With a Turban in Tow
“Is she here?” I asked the woman next to me. We were sitting in gilded chairs in the Upper East Side’s Academy Mansion, waiting for the Eva Mendes x New York & Company show to start.
“If she’s not, she’s whack,” the woman replied. We’d just enjoyed Prosecco with blueberries in the mansion courtyard. Rooms on three sides held separate seating sections for the show. About 45 minutes behind schedule, a group of models of refreshingly diverse color, shape, and size began strutting through the rooms to songs in English, French, and Spanish. All wore head wraps. Many wore beaded dresses and jackets. Light pink and maroon figured into very SFW separates. Oohs and aahs welcomed only a strapless off-white dress with light blue beading.
At the end of the show, Mendes finally appeared from the courtyard, poking her own wrapped head into the room and blowing kisses. Goodbye summer. Hello fashion week. — A.C.
By the 'Gram
We Sent Three Top Instagrammers for Their Takes on NYC Designers
Every self-respecting fan of New York City street style knows Anka Itskovich’s @the_line_up, where she curates an eclectic page of New Yorkers and their individual styles. It’s more raw than the street-style compilations you’d find in Vogue or Elle, and also more likely to feature you as a passerby. Originally a stylist and fashion editor for places like Harper’s Bazaar and Marie Claire, Itskovich has based her project (launched in 2013) around the celebration of “self-expression, self-confidence, and diversity.”
With more than 100,000 followers, @the_line_up is helping return fashion to its individualistic roots. Itskovich isn’t going to tell you what to wear, but rather celebrate what you haphazardly threw on that morning before you stepped out onto the street — or, at least, tried really hard to make look haphazard.
“I am forever intrigued by self-esteem,” says Itskovich, who notes she kept that in mind while choosing her subject for this shoot. “Aziza has something very Audrey Hepburn–ish about her. There’s a sense of grace and a very strong sense of self, which I believe she projects onto the viewer, beyond her fantastic personal style.”
A self-described “Brigitte Bardot in Contempt,” Carlotta Kohl’s dreamy life is well documented on Instagram. Her account, @carlottiica, offers a healthy mix of selfies, outfit shots, envy-inducing vacation shots, and squad pics. But Kohl, who is also a painter and sculptor, draws a firm line between her artwork and her social-media presence. “I don’t set out to make art on social media,” she says. “Of course, my tone will be in everything I do. I can’t help that.”
Inspired by Seventies adult film posters, centerfolds, and vintage typography, the Bridgehampton-bred artist and model enjoys being able to connect with 18,000 followers without the interference of an editor. “I think ‘selfies’ are a fun challenge,” she says of this photo. “There’s a fine line between narcissism and indulgence.”
“We’re all the same.” That’s the concept that Jamaican-born photojournalist Ruddy Roye says he keeps in mind when photographing his diverse selection of subjects. To date, Roye has posted more than 4,200 photos to his Instagram account, @ruddyroye, drawing better than 250,000 followers to images of people whose styles aren’t typically brought to light. “Photography for me has always been a collaborative effort,” he says. “I’ve always photographed pieces of me in the eyes of people I see.” Instagram has given Roye a platform to reach a wider and more accessible audience — though he does note that often a photo of a dog will get more feedback than a portrait of a person living in poverty.
Before shooting this photo, Roye explains, he chose his model carefully. “I wanted to photograph someone who, by her own look, lived the struggle,” he says. “Most black models will tell you the struggle is hard, much less a black woman with a bald head.”
The Art of Vintage Shopping
With Brianna Lance
“You can wear vintage every day and still look modern,” explains Brianna Lance as she tries on a delicate white crochet dress, with a few dangling threads from years of love, in the dressing room at a photo shoot. It’s a theme in Lance’s life: Basic Rights, a menswear line that the designer, model, and Bad Girlfriend frontwoman co-founded earlier this year, uses deadstock fabric for 80 percent of its pieces; before that, she was head designer at Reformation, pioneering the brand’s casual-cool-girl uniform made from sustainable textiles and repurposed vintage clothing. When buying vintage for her own closet, Lance subscribes to a philosophy: Layer, layer, layer. Today, the vintage dress sits atop a current-season Etro gown, paisley silk peeping out underneath crochet. “Mix it in with everything you already own,” she says. “It’ll look natural.”
The fact that so many big labels — Gucci, Prada, Valentino — are finding inspiration in vintage for their fall collections makes this task particularly easy, says Lance: “Everything has this treasure-hunt feel, with beautiful embellishments, like you found it in an antique store.” But that’s still no replacement for a real treasure hunt, so we followed Lance to three of her favorite New York City vintage stores. The loot we found seemed swiped from the runway — or was it the other way around?
377 Broome Street, New York, NY 10013
Tiny Nolita boutique Ritual feels like a rock star’s closet. There are original glam-rock platform boots, a fringed Victorian mourning jacket, purple lamé disco pants, custom patchwork bell-bottoms. Every piece seems to have a story, which owner Stacy Iannacone is happy to share. “I just sold a 1920s embroidered piano shawl kimono to a good friend,” she tells me. “And then I stumbled across a picture of Janis Joplin wearing the same one.”
Lance is also a musician, formerly singing and playing guitar in the band Bad Girlfriend, and now working on a solo project, so it’s no surprise these clothes fit her aesthetic. But while the pieces might seem tricky to wear offstage, they mix seamlessly with the right modern elements, says Lance. “The main thing I love at Ritual are slip dresses, which you can wear day or night,” she notes. And in the winter, nothing vamps up jeans and a sweater like a vintage fur, of which she and Ritual have plenty. “Fur is controversial, but when it’s vintage you’re taking something that would otherwise be trash and making something of it,” Lance says. “Whereas a new, mass-produced coat, even if it’s made of nothing to do with fur, does damage to the environment.”
Iannacone hardly keeps up with runways when curating pieces. “I follow my heart and my instinct,” she says. “I love to think about the good times someone had in that pair of custom platforms or those lovingly patched jeans. Just like my party clothes are out there, too, hopefully having another spin.”
104 Rivington Street, New York, NY 10002
Owner Edith Machinist curates her airy Lower East Side store for classically chic — if also trend-conscious — New Yorkers. Well-cut trousers, silk blouses, and sturdy Chelsea boots are the store’s main course, with a generous scoop of runway-influenced pieces for dessert. “The clothes are fresh and ladylike,” says Lance. “When you buy them they feel modern already.” Vintage that doesn’t look vintage is “kind of the goal,” adds Machinist.
To keep up with fashion, Machinist looks first to street style. “The best part about New York is that it challenges you; people experiment and you see the trends appear a couple of seasons later on the runways,” she says. Lately, her finds have played into the Seventies office look: for instance, an original Missoni knit and a silk jersey dress by Bruce Oldfield, one of Princess Diana’s favorite designers. “And I’m feeling the pussybow blouse — maybe it’s the Gucci influence,” Machinist says. Lance pairs it with Gucci loafers and jeans, or menswear-influenced suiting à la Annie Hall.
In that movie, Diane Keaton’s wardrobe was full of dark colors and tweeds; Machinist’s store is similarly dominated by elegant neutrals like black, navy, and gray. Some trends never go out of style.
9th Street Haberdashery
346 East 9th Street, New York, NY 10003
This East Village boutique specializes in clothes from the 1950s and earlier: 1920s kimonos, chambray button-downs, varsity jackets, tennis dresses. But while the clothes are antique, they’re curated with contemporary fashion in mind. “We do our research and see color stories and trends,” says Meri Rauber, who co-owns 9th Street with Stacey Luckow. Recently, as designers found influence in the Seventies, Rauber and Luckow curated a selection of pieces from the Thirties and Forties. “That’s what the Seventies were influenced by,” she notes.
Rauber’s personal style is sporty (think Levi’s 501XXs, World War II–era tees) while Luckow’s is feminine (embroidered Mexican blouses, satin pajama sets). Lance embraces both points of view. “I get a lot of beautiful vintage dresses at 9th Street, and jeans,” she says. “They do a great job finding interesting denim with unusual hems or patchworks.” Recently, Lance paired straight-leg Levi’s with a chambray top and a metallic fringed Missoni jacket for a look that was half Badlands, half Boogie Nights. “It’s interesting because everything is so referenced now,” she says. “When you take a piece and put it in a different context, it can look totally new.”
Three Up-and-Coming Designers Show Off Their Creations — and Their Influences
Parsons School of Design
Angela Luna views things with double vision. Having grown up outside of Boston in a design-centric household — both her parents are architects — the 22-year-old Parsons grad says her garments often focus on the symbiosis between form and function, and how that intersection can be manipulated in fashion. “My mind was always thinking about the dual functionality of things,” she explains. “Like, OK, how do we make this skirt detachable or give it some customizable features?” But it wasn’t until her final senior collection, which featured a cape that converted into a tent, that her designs took on problem-solving directly.
Inspired by the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis, that recent collection clinched Luna the Womenswear Designer of the Year Award (shared with Jackson Wiederhöeft) and gave her a new sense of direction. The burnt-sienna cape is expected to go into production in the next few months (with proceeds going toward refugees), but Luna’s mission doesn’t stop there. “I don’t know these people, but we’re all rooted in humanity. The refugee crisis should be something that relates to all of us, and it’s something I want to continue to create solutions for,” she says.
Concerning form and function, the waterproof garment-turned-shelter seems just as ideal for a weekend trek through the woods as for a rainy-day stroll through downtown Manhattan. “I didn’t want it to be totally functional as a tent and not as a jacket, or totally functional as a jacket, not a tent. I’ve definitely worn it home a few times,” Luna says, smiling.
Parsons School of Design
Jackson Wiederhöeft is having a very good year. In the spring, the 22-year-old Parsons School of Design grad received the college’s coveted Womenswear Designer of the Year award (shared with classmate Angela Luna) and landed a job working for designer Thom Browne. “I’ve been watching Thom’s shows since I was in high school, and I always thought he was incredible, which is why I’m so thrilled to be working for him now,” Wiederhöeft says of his internship-turned-full-time-position.
Although Wiederhöeft always loved the idea of handcraftsmanship, the Houston native’s interest in fashion design didn’t take hold until his teen years, when he began making costumes for his high school’s plays. His sense of elaborate costumery and familiarity with fashions from the past still shows up in Wiederhöeft’s work today: A look from his graduate collection included a modern take on a Victorian apron-front skirt, complete with a bustle. It’s an altogether unsubtle style that the young designer characterizes as “spooky couture.”
“I think of spooky in this whimsical, quirky, not too serious way,” he explains. “Plus I’ve always been obsessed with Halloween, magic, and that idea of fantasy. But then I love high fashion, I love technique, and the details that go into the garment.” It’s an ethos that lends itself to Wiederhöeft’s ideal model, and even his ideal customer. “Attitude is more important than looks,” he says. “Anyone whose eyes light up when they see the clothes — that’s the person who I want to wear them.”
Fashion Institute of Technology
Had it not been for the Fashion Institute of Technology, Stephanie Ali would likely have pursued a different career altogether. “FIT was the only fashion school I applied to, and then I applied to other business schools because I wanted to be a business management major,” she says. “When I got into FIT, I decided to just go for it.” The decision proved to be fortuitous for the 22-year-old Long Island native. Upon graduating in spring, Ali received the school’s esteemed Critic Award in the Intimate Apparel category.
Though she had a strong sense of personal style growing up (“When I was three years old, I would pick out my own clothes,” she laughs), the notion of fashion as a career came late to Ali. The same goes with her awareness of notable names in the industry. “When I got to FIT, I didn’t know fashion designers in the way that I know them now,” she admits, though she cites Alexander McQueen as a current inspiration. Perhaps it was that early lack of influences that gave the young intimates designer the fearlessness to push the boundaries of her designs: “Early on in my FIT career, I really let myself loose to explore what I was thinking,” she says.
One garment Ali showed this past year displays this unrestricted approach: A quilted metal bodysuit adorned with belts and chains, it would hardly fall into the everyday lingerie category, yet it speaks volumes in its representation of Ali’s ideal woman. “I have a tendency to portray really strong women. They have to own what they’re wearing,” she says. Rooting that sentiment at the very foundation of a woman’s outfit seems like the right start.
How They See It
Four Designers. Four Neighborhoods. One Blouse.
Four neighborhood influencers put their spin on a $49.99 H+M woven-cotton bow blouse.
Candice Pool Neistat, jewelry designer
Her style: “Right before I turned thirty, I accepted and settled into the fact that I wasn’t really a hair-and-makeup girl,” explains Candice Pool Neistat, the designer behind the fine-jewelry label Finn. These days, Pool Neistat’s closet contains a consistent lineup of timeless basics — white tees, chino shorts, jeans, and a perfect black sweater — and she’s happy to call herself a preppy tomboy. “It’s about being comfortable,” the Texas-raised designer adds. But even tomboys appreciate a little sparkle here and there, and for Pool Neistat that’s the pavé diamond eternity band she wears. (She is in the jewelry business, after all.) “Since I don’t really dress up, jewelry is the one thing that lets me feel a little more polished,” she says.
The look: “I usually love jeans that are a slim fit or a looser boyfriend fit,” Pool Neistat says, citing her distressed-denim jeans by AMO as a perfect combination of the two. Sockless Gucci loafers and employing the blouse’s sash as a tie belt complete the pretty but fuss-free look.
Sofia Karvela, stylist
Her style: When Sofia Karvela moved to New York fifteen years ago, her style was decidedly different from what she wears now: “I arrived an underage rebel, wearing underwear and pumps out to dinner, and now I’m a working and baby-obsessed mom living in oversize shirts, skinny jeans, and flat mules.” These days the 32-year-old Chelsea resident tends to fall back on a monochromatic, neutral palette of timeless, “anti-trendy” pieces — including an Ann Demeulemeester blazer stolen from her mother that she’s kept for years — while outfitting women of varying personalities and aesthetics. “It keeps me sane,” she explains.
The look: Despite her attraction to neutrals, Karvela retains an impulsive streak. “This reflects my daring side,” she says of her floral-skirt-and-leather-jacket ensemble, which she’s boldly kicked up a notch with a pair of pumps and sparkly socks. As she puts it, “It’s all about going with that impulse.”
Alix Verley Pietrafesa, fashion designer
Her style: Though Alix Verley-Pietrafesa’s workday uniform of dungarees, striped tees, and motorcycle boots conveys a rather functional aesthetic, the fashion designer’s more intrinsic style is anything but minimal. The daughter of a French artist mother and an Italian father with a generations-old textile legacy — both “sublime sartorialists,” she says — Verley-Pietrafesa finds that her own dressing habits reflect the global eclecticism found in her line, Alix of Bohemia. “It’s essentially the best way I can convey what I feel inside: colorful chaos,” she says of her handcrafted, one-of-a-kind pieces, including ornate jackets with intricate, folkloric trim details.
The look: “Kinda Georgia O’Keeffe meets Annie Hall. I hate girly.” Striped trousers, contrasted with leopard-print flats and a poplin-sleeve jacket from her own line, offer up a sense of texture — topped off with a clever use of the blouse’s tie: “I can never resist a good piece of headgear.”
Third Fernandez, designer
Her style: “I think if there’s one word that applies to everything I wear, it would be ‘fluidity,’ ” says Third Fernandez. “My style can be so varied.” Fittingly enough, Fernandez herself is a hard figure to pin down with just one descriptor. A part-time model, transgender advocate, and recent Parsons School of Design grad, the 24-year-old is currently working on a gender-neutral fashion line to debut this month. Fernandez tends toward fashion pieces with a kind of languid chicness and likes to play with waist-accentuating shapes and shoes with a bit of lift to them. “Always high heels — always,” she says, laughing.
The look: “Because of the kinds of stores in my neighborhood, my clothes are often vintage or retro-centric,” Fernandez says of her Seventies-inspired fall look. Along with her Roger Vivier buckle pumps and high-waisted pants by Yune Ho, Fernandez has incorporated another trademark element into the ensemble: a covered neck. From turtlenecks (seen here) to silk scarves, “it’s become a uniform,” she says.
No.6's Karin Berenson Shares a Selection of Her Favorite Things
Karin Bereson, owner of Nolita boutique No. 6 and the person who single-handedly made all New York City women want to wear clogs, shares her latest favorite items, wearable and otherwise.
A Season of Exaggerated Silhouettes
Cozy up with this season’s oversize apparel — from Nineties-style dad coats and drapey dresses to sky-high platforms.
Photography by Cheryl Dunn
The Designer Duo Behind Gauntlett Cheng
Fashion designers Jenny Cheng and Ester Gauntlett’s studio sits at the end of a somewhat-dead street in Williamsburg, about twenty feet from the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. When Gauntlett opens the giant metal door at street level, she’s wearing a heather gray t-shirt and pale yellow knitted skirt; the outfit looks far too heavy for today, one of the hottest days of summer. “I’m so sorry,” she says to me as we wait for the elevator, “but we don’t have air conditioning in the studio.”
Upstairs there’s a steady whir of the sewing machine. Fabrics flung about. Swatches taped to the wall. Cheng hovers over knitting machine at the back wall of the studio. She’s just as affable and welcoming as Gauntlett, equally as apologetic about the heat. Cheng is tall and pretty, a light perspiration over her face, wearing a simple cotton sundress with stripes. It’s practically an advertisement for F.I.T. students looking to quit their day job and follow their dreams. Come to our bare-bones studio, we’re waiting for you.
“It’s really harmonious,” Gauntlett says, nodding earnestly, like it’s not boiling in here, and as if they’re not under a ridiculous amount of pressure around putting together their next collection to show at this year’s fashion week.
Their ease comes as a surprise. This label, Gauntlett Cheng — formerly Moses Gauntlett Cheng — has had a great big spotlight on its work throughout just two years of existence. They were recipients of the VFiles award, from the fashion collective and SoHo store of the same name that mentors young designers. Their 2016 collection appeared in VFiles’s NYFW show last year. It was a hit. Press came heaping on. “Their aesthetic has a tender, hand-spun quality, infused with flirtatiousness like a downtown kid’s dressing-up box,” wrote Veronica So in Dazed. They’ve been in the influential Australian fashion pub Oyster Magazine. They’ve been in Vogue.
And yet, neither of these women are even mildly irritable on a sweltering day in New York City. Because, come on, no one smiles in this kind of heat, especially with zero air conditioning.
But there’s even more. They sold 140 pieces to the downtown shop Opening Ceremony, all of which sold out. Kim Kardashian was rumored to have worn their clothes. (It’s true, I learn later – Cheng has photo proof on her phone). Laverne Cox showed up on CBS’s The Talk in their white polyester stretch wrap top. Last month, Rihanna wore a custom Gauntlett Cheng du-rag in her performance at the VMA’s. By young-designer standards, they’ve more than made it.
In practice, it’s a bit different. Cheng hand-knitted their last collection (they got an intern for this one). They work full time jobs, Gauntlett as a retail consultant at Aesop and Cheng as a freelance knitter. Their Fall 2017 collection, they tell me, is inspired by this struggle. “People see that you have your clothes at Opening Ceremony, but they don’t see that you’ve been sitting in your hot studio for two months making it all yourself,” says Gauntlett. “Jenny and I still haven’t been able to take a single cent from the business. It’s all completely a labor of love.”
“Like a double life,” adds Cheng.
It’s impossible to ignore the paradox, that despite the level of success these women have had, they are stuck sweltering in a studio in Brooklyn on the hottest day of the summer talking about being broke. I can’t help but come to the conclusion that Gauntlett and Cheng are, all at once, on the precipice of something huge, while also slightly drowning.
There’s a fabled story, from their Dazed interview, about the genesis of Moses Gauntlett Cheng. It goes like this: They’re in the back of a taxi, headed to filmmaker John Waters’s birthday party, and a magical moment materializes in the cab where they, poof, decide to launch a clothing line.
Here’s what actually happened: Gauntlett, Cheng and their former co-designer, David Moses, met at a casting for the New York-based line Eckhaus Latta. Gauntlett was interning there at the time; so was Cheng, who was also making samples for them. Moses was assisting Hari Nef, who was then Eckhaus Latta’s casting director. Moses asked Cheng to teach him how to knit. A little bit later, he said, “Hey, let’s start a label,” the way you might say, “Hey, let’s get a drink.” A show was the next logical step, and soon enough, Moses, Gauntlett, and Cheng were running at breakneck speed. “We were,” as they told me, “kind of naïve.”
This was their honeymoon stage. “The first collection was kind of an exploration about corporate life and domestic life coming together,” says Gauntlett. They were interested in the similarities of a pair of pajamas and, say, a suit. They took an inspirational trip to Rhinebeck, three city kids in Upstate New York, just to watch how wool was made. There were no money struggles, no stress. Their look — summed up in an ensemble of a felted cropped sweater with faux moth holes and a matching skirt — was “a twisted kind of normal,” Gauntlett says. “They deliver awkward silhouettes, improper cut-outs of the body and knits that fold peculiarly,” Matthew Linde, director of Centre For Style, told me via email. A bastardized mutation of classics, a concept they still adhere to now. A misfit glamour, Linde explains. “It seems there is an immediacy to their work, a sort of ‘go for it’ method.” It was something of a fantasy.
Much has changed since then, but probably the most noticeable shift is that the name “Moses” has been dropped from the label. He left in the middle of last season and is now part of another New York brand, Vaquera. It’s not uncommon for labels to break up. But it’s still a big shift. The trio were industry darlings. There are pictures of the three of them snuggling all over the internet. Now they’re a duo. Gauntlett Cheng.
I ask them how it’s going without Moses and both of the women smile coyly as women do when a man leaves a situation and you no longer have to manage him.
“It’s good for everybody. There’s no animosity,” says Gauntlett. Then her tone changes. “It was unexpected.”
What about the celebrity connections? Google Moses and you’ll find he’s friends with Lily-Rose Depp and Zoe Bleu Sidel, Rosanna Arquette’s daughter.
“He’s a great PR person,” says Cheng.
“Yeah, a great PR girl,” Gauntlett laughs.
And this is all they want to say about Moses, who declined to be interviewed for this article.
There’s a relaxed moment as they speak about the transition from three to two. They lost David, but they gained themselves. Their 2017 collection feels like a departure from that carefree, fantasy aesthetic they started with. This season is more rigid and fraught, drawn from a New York corporate vibe.
“Both of us work day jobs to kind of support this label as well and it’s more about maybe our fake corporate aspirations, you know?” says Gauntlett. “This season we’re coming at it harsher. We’re making clothes about not having money. There’s always going to be a little tension in that.” It does not deter them, though. “They’re very, like, we want to make this stuff and we’re going to do it at any cost,” says Liz Collins, an artist and designer who was also one of Cheng’s advisor’s at RISD. Collins sees their hard work and commitment to their design as an age-old tale of being a young creative in New York. “I see Jenny busting ass, you know. Hobbling it together, like we all do.”
There’s a harsh-femme sensibility in this collection. “A sexy, power woman-type silhouette,” Cheng says. Which makes sense – two women run the label now. It should feel female-dominated. One outfit, a white, silky wrap dress, is a take off on a Diane Von Furstenberg classic. On the wall above the sewing machine hangs a line board, which is made up of 4-inch by 4-inch cards with sketches of the collection. Gauntlett fingers a soft fabric swatch. It has a very Sigourney Weaver-Working Girl feel. The white material is covered with miniscule black monograms that read MGC (for Moses Gauntlett Cheng), GC (for Gauntlett Cheng) and S.O.S.
Why S.O.S? “After our sales meeting,” at VFiles, Cheng laughs, “we were like, ‘Help!’ ”
We get up from the couch where we’ve been sitting, unsticking our shirts from sweaty bellies. They walk me through their side of the studio floor; the rest is split between a hairdresser and another designer. Soon this will change: By the end of August, they’ll be moving – the owners are kicking all the artists out and building fancy Williamsburg condos. The new Gauntlett Cheng studio will be in Chinatown.
I press them about the future, realizing slowly that I probably sound like an anxious mother. But Cheng, who is sitting on the production table, swinging her legs, matches my nerves with a calming presence. “In terms of the times and what we’re going through,” Cheng says, “It’s always changing. Our ideas for each season are always changing.” They both seem to have digested the fact that chaos is part of the creative process. Everything they’ve been working towards, the excitement around the upcoming show, the no sleep till NYFW, the new design aesthetic – all of it is universal for the struggling artist. Or maybe it’s something bigger.
“The kind of people that we work with, that changes a little bit each season,” says Gauntlett, her cheeks are shimmering now, or maybe it’s just the dewy sweat from the heat. “But this time, it feels like the we’re all going through something together.”
“With your business?” I ask.
Gauntlett sighs and thinks about it. She smiles. “With the world in general.”
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