[FASHION REVIEW] New York Men's Day and Private Policy

text by Adam Lehrer


I can't be the only amongst us fashion editors feeling a little cognitive dissonance towards my chosen medium. Every single day, I'm glued to the news and witnessing yet another national tragedy: Alton Sterling, Filando Castile, the Dallas police. All of my energy goes towards tweets and Instagram posts and expressed sympathies and it all results in a general sense of feeling useless. Of feeling like maybe what I'm doing is not worthwhile. And then I have to turn around, plug my mind into the information highway, look at fashion, at art, listen to new music, and try and formulate ideas about it all and process it to reframe the information.

Thus, it's been a little harder to get excited by fashion recently. On the bright side, it's a lot easier to discern when something is generally amazing. Raf's Mapplethorpe collection, Demna at Balenciaga, the arrival of Kiko Kostadinov. When fashion is good, it hits you on all senses: visually, sonically, emotionally. It takes you out of your own anxiety and allows you to just put your bullshit aside and be defeated. 

New York Fashion Week: Men's, now in its third season, doesn't offer much in the way of transformative fashion experiences. There just isn't a lot of support here for radical thought, and it feels a little more obvious with each passing season of the shows. A year ago, the first Men's Fashion Week was the first fashion week I ever fully covered and I was probably pretty psyched to be wearing my best suede boots and get photographed while posturing around. I was drunk on weed and beer and sunshine and my own newly inflated ego. All that bullshit can alter your sense of objectivity, and next thing you know you're throwing 5-star reviews at the most trite High Street aping garbage rags coming down the runway. Not this time. That's right, one year in and I'm jaded. And hopefully, jadedness comes in handy when covering fashion.

New York Fashion Week: Men's starts with New York Men's Day, where eight or so brands offer looks at new collections in what amounts to a more inclusive buyer's presentation. In theory, it's a nice way to glimpse new clothes: there's no cat fights over seating, you are given a healthy time frame to come and go, and there's a Cadillac provided free meal. I always have a good time. But a lot of these brands have shown over and over: Chapter, Krammer and Stoudt, PLAC, and others have used this forum for almost every season. It's starting to feel a little same-y, and doesn't feel essential at all to providing our readers an overview of what's exciting in fashion right now.

There is always at least one brand that warrants a second look, however. Last season, it was Edmund Ooi, a Royal Academy of Art-trained Malaysian designer that channels early Raf caught naked at a leather club. This season, it's the nice Parsons grads Siying Qu and Haoran Li and their label Private Policy. Though there were a couple looks that could have been edited from their SS 2017 show, such as pretty basic Navy trench coats, but there were some startling looks here. Siying told me at the show that much of this collection was centered around the idea of the warriors fighting for justice, and she noted that recent news events weighed heavily on both their minds when conceptualizing the collection. The starting point was a news article about enslaved fisherman in Southeast Asia. How do we find justice? There's no doubt that self presentation has much to do with that, and designers have played with this trope time and time again. But the clothes were nice here, and harsher than past Private Policy seasons. There were still the fun pieces, like the colorful souvenir jackets. There was a theme of protection versus aggression. A black jacket layered and draped recalled Yohji and his desire to protect his customers' bodies, but these deconstructed and slashed tank tops came on strong, like the warrior announcing his battles, perhaps. Like an older editor at the presentation said, "Deconstructed, now that's fashion."