[FASHION REVIEW] New York Fashion Week SS17

text by Adam Lehrer

New York Fashion Week is what it is. Of all the fashion weeks, it presents the most missable shows by a fairly wide margin. That being said, it’s also the fashion schedule that is most ripe for radical re-interpretations and deconstructions by a new generation of art-minded malcontents hell bent on making fashion and art in equal measure. Despite, or perhaps because of, the fact that New York Fashion Week maintains its representation for being the most commercially minded of the schedules, a prominent fashion underground has slowly been rising to the surface. Let’s call it the New York millennial fashion revolution (even though the Gen X’er could be seen as a progenitor to this movement in his embracing of both high art and trash pop culture). Almost analogous to the rise of young New York artists like Alexandra Marzella, Julia Fox, and India Menuez, the new New York fashion scene draws upon underground art, pop music, digital media, and celebrity in equal measure. The creativity that results from this lurid amalgam of ideas can be simultaneously fascinating and grotesque, but very indicative of New York now: DIY but tuned in, underground but digitally connected.

Hood by Air Spring-Summer 2017

How many images do you consume per day? Can you even estimate a number? How many of those images are pornographic and how many hold artistic merit? Does it even matter? Can pornography have artistic merit? Maybe. Those questions all filtered into Shayne Oliver’s Spring-Summer 2017 Hood by Air collection that saw the designer juxtapose abstract shapes with bastions of lurid digital imagery, the porno companies Hustler and YouPorn. The collection captured the mood of New York 20-somethings perfectly. In all honesty, there is a renewed interest in art and abstract ideas that you can feel wafting in the bars, theaters, and galleries of the Lower East Side, Bushwick, Gowanus, and Harlem. But at the same time, that interest in art is always in competition with de-personalized digital imagery, often of a sexual nature. Oliver, a true modern conceptualist, decided to embrace this dichotomy in this stunning HBA collection. As with most HBA collections, there were some wild images in here: jump suits folded into capes, Wall Street suits cut off at the shoulder exposing corsetry, and the much-talked about collaboration with Brooklyn heritage boot brand Frye revealing a Western cowboy boot designed to look like two boots attached at the heal. That last example especially reveals Oliver’s understanding of the modern consumer; the shoe works as both a meme and a feat of artistry. And then there were the Hustler and PornHub branded shirts whispering to the audience a sly acknowledgement of the conundrum of being both an artist and the boss of a very hype-driven brand. Time and time again, Oliver is able to deliver conceptual ideas in both silhouettes and viral marketing.

Side note: Wolfgang Tillmans has been my favorite artist, PERIOD, for years, and it’s rewarding to see the German photographer have this strange pop cultural moment. In addition to releasing two EPs of dance music and working with and shooting the cover for Frank Ocean’s Blond/Blonde, Tillmans served as a surprise model for the HBA SS 2017 show. He is EVERYWHERE, all of a sudden.

Ottolinger Spring-Summer 2017

Berlin-based Ottolinger’s Spring-Summer 2017 show was styled by Berlin-based arts and culture bi-annual 032C’s fashion editor Marc Goehring, and to me, Ottolinger fills a similar independently spirited intellectual punk void in fashion to the one that 032C fills in fashion publishing. Berlin just might be the last counter-culture major metropolis in the world, and designers Christa Bosch and Cosima Gradient filter that Berlin-bred radicalism into their couture quality pieces: the Berlin post-punk and industrial music scene of the mid ’80s, Berghain and gay techno culture, and the contemporary Berlin gallery scene all manifest in the design duo’s ideas. Like contemporaries Vetements and Y Project, Ottolinger’s aesthetics can be harsh and confrontational. But, Christa and Cosima have a specific vision of beauty that came through loud and clear with this most recent collection. In the collection, contemporary staples like pleated trousers, graphic tees, oxford shirts, and blazers were tattered and left with fringe hanging towards the floor. More extreme looks saw a pink satin jacket burned off at the top on one side (burned garments is an Ottolinger staple) and tattered see-through lace tops and pants. Despite Ottolinger’s Margiela-esque knack for deconstruction, the duo’s annihilation of threads does not feel like it’s for shock value. Instead, Bosch and Gradient only think about their garments’ relationships to their own bodies. This collection reeked of sex from the half naked models to the propulsive and full-volumed harsh techno soundtrack. The Rapunzel length pony tails were only one of the many reasons I couldn’t stop staring at Ottolinger’s exceedingly hot women.

Vaquera Spring-Summer 2017

Vaquera designer Patric DiCaprio brought on his friends David Moses (formerly of Moses Gauntlett Cheng) and Bryn Taubensee effectively turning the label into a three-person show. Despite it no longer being the sole creative vision of DiCaprio, the Vaquera SS 2017 show felt like an organic building upon of ideas that DiCaprio has honed in label’s previous seasons (both Moses and Taubensee have worked on every Vaquera collection in some capacity).

Much of the label’s signatures remained: ruffles aplenty, big sleeves, revealing cuts, and Southern pastoral colors. DiCaprio also played with a “graduation” theme insinuating plans to take this small and cultish label to greater commercial success. There were lots of very played-out references in the collection, from the Rolling Stones to Che Guevara. It made sense, reminding one of the kid at your college dorm (perhaps it’s you or me even) that eschewed fraternity life for early experimentation in counter-cultural icons. Sense of humor abounds in Vaquera; but jokes aside this was a very ethereal and important collection from an exciting talent.

Thom Browne Spring-Summer 2017

Thom Browne strikes me as being to fashion what Phil Spector was to pop music. Like Spector, Browne uses imagination, ingenuity, and experimentation to create a conceptually interesting and commercially successfully formula. In that formula, there is room for endless re-invention and re-configuration.

Browne’s SS 2017 collection strayed from his most consistent formula of grey suiting, however, opting for experimental garments with unique function. The brightly colored and humorously printed dresses were designed to look like Browne’s signature suit and pants. Ever the witty showman, Browne’s women all entered the floor at once. Revealing the clothing’s multiple uses, the girls unzipped their pieces and stripped away layer by layer, revealing shirts and pants and finally swim suits. What I love about Thom Browne is his inventor qualities. Unlike fashion experimentalists Rei Kawakubo or Simone Rocha, Browne constantly introduces new inventions to his brand that have practical uses. This isn’t about art, it’s about clothing. It’s an ingenious application of creativity in the high-minded artistic atmosphere of the fashion world. Browne has more in common with Spector or Joy Mangano than he does Picasso or Yves.

Adam Selman Spring-Summer 2017

Adam Selman is one of New York’s most talked about designers. Part of that is due to his well-established connection to Rihanna (Selman has designed costumes for the star and his boyfriend, 032C style director Mel Ottenberg, is Rihanna’s stylist), but his ideas stand on their own and his label grows more interesting with each passing season. Selman lives in a solitary fashion world in which fashion is taken lightly and with humor but never with stupidity. It’s refreshing that one of New York’s most interesting designers seems in touch with being American: the Texan designer’s SS 2017 referenced country, rock n’ roll, and disco (with a disco soundtrack to boot). The show started off with a soft pink dress, and slowly the show took on similarly light fabric’d clothing in easy patterns and shapes. Selman also believes in the fashionista’s right to be sexy. That sentiment rang loud and clear with a t-shirt sporting a graphic sourced from a 1940s porn film, and was lightly hammered in with looks that revealed legs, waists, shoulders, and clavicles. The designer also nodded to his own Venice Beach-recalling style with a Hawaiian print shirt tucked into a pair of loose fitting denim jeans. Selman is a master editor. I’d be hard pressed to find any designer that can pack so many concepts and, yes, FUN into a 32-look show. 

Marc Jacobs Spring-Super 2017

Am I the only one that thinks that it seems like, culturally, Marc Jacobs has a lost a bit of his shine? Sure, you’d be hard pressed to find someone that says, “Marc Jacobs is a bad designer.” But since leaving Louis Vuitton, it appears that Marc is often spoke more of in terms of commercial designers like Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein than he is radical conceptualists like Nicolas Ghesquiere, Raf Simons, or Rick Owens. That is a shame, because Jacobs’ real talent has always been marrying high and low culture and filtering it through a conceptually driven but commercially appealing brand. Just look at the David Sims campaign for his excellent, Salem Witch Trial-influenced Fall-Winter 2016 collection. In the campaign, massive pop stars and models like Cara Delevingne, Cher, and Anthony Keidis appear alongside ads with radical performance artist Kembra Phahler, Throbbing Gristle/Psychic TV frontman/lady and conceptual artist Genesis P. Orridge, and even the iconic Japanese noise/free improv/psych rock guitarist Keiji Haino (if you want your mind fucked a little, go seek out Haino’s band Fushitsusha from the ‘80s/‘90s). Marc features enough fame in the campaign to captivate pop junkies and also enough radical artists to capture the attention of, well, artists and radicals. Truly genius campaign for a beautiful, dark collection.

Jacobs’ Spring-Summer 2017 show wasn’t as good as the previous one, but still, very fucking good. The show took elements from ‘90s rave culture; the last great sendoff before the potential Trump presidency that could halt the party forever. The clothes were all glamorous and trashy, but chic, if that makes sense. Lots of metallic lamé, fur collars, and holographic sequins. The show worked less well when Marc infused his Marc by Marc Jacobs diffusion line into the main line; army jackets didn’t illuminate upon the collection’s theme. If I were him, I would use the show for his good Marc Jacobs shit, and do a buyers’ presentation for the Marc by Marc Jacobs line. British illustrator Julie Verhoeven, who worked with Marc way back in 2002 on a Lou Vuitton collection, applied her work to sweatshirts, shoes, and bags. But really, Jacobs is the great celebrator of fashion and pop culture’s interactions. He clearly loves music, but he is less attracted to sub-culture than he is the cult of the icon.

Side note: I’m getting really sick of fashion critics going after designers for diversity of casting, especially when the man they are going after is Marc Jacobs. It appears to be an effort to feel relevant when talking about the silhouettes of jumpers that nearly ever designer has become a target for social justice warrioring. Sure, Vetements does have a race problem. But MARC DOES NOT. His casting has always been diverse, so stop trying to make yourself feel important by counting the amount of women of color on the runway. Let’s discuss AESTHETICS. When race is an issue, it’s an issue, and we can discuss that when it’s absolutely relevant. But it is not an issue in the casting of Marc Jacobs.

Eckhaus Latta Spring Summer 2017

For their SS 2017 collection, the duo’s 10th, designers Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta brought it home. Opting to show the collection in the Lower East Side’s Seward Park, the SS 2017 show exemplified all that Eckhaus Latta has come to be known for in their leadership role over New York’s new fashion generation: strange romantic cuts, gender-blurring, diverse casting, and a soundtrack provided by this generation’s hero musician Dev Hynes. Showing the collection an arm’s distance from where the now five-year-old brand started was fitting, as this label is firmly on the rise after getting named to the Forbes 30 Under 30, expanding to e-commerce, and opening their first retail boutique. Emblematic of the brand’s evolution, this was the most product heavy of any Eckhaus Latta show to date. Opening with an oversized white denim jacket and long skirt, the show featured a ton of easy-to-wear pieces accented by just enough oddity to appeal to the artsy weirdo acolytes of the brand. There were tattered jeans, re-built dresses, knit smocks, and nylon material dresses that looked wet when the wearers moved. Always a patron of interesting artists, Los Angeles-based multi-disciplinary artist (and former musician who used to perform under the name Barr and was a fixture of infamous LA punk club The Smell, which was home to bands like No Age, Mika Miko, and Abe Vigoda) Brendan Fowler contributed work to the collection in the form of pieces made of recycled garments, all emblazoned with the slogan, “Election Reform!” (it appears that Mike, Zoe, and Brendan were feeling the bern). Eckhaus Latta is growing (Zoe admitted to Dazed that she was aghast when she found a Zara rip-off of one of her ideas priced at $8), but their homegrown attitude and that closeness to the youth-driven art scene of New York could allow them to grow with their audience (Alexandra Marzella, India Menuez, Petra Collins) the same way that Marc Jacobs did with his (Kim Gordon, Sofia Coppola).

Lyz Olko Spring-Summer 2017

Lyz Olko, formerly of the label Obesity & Speed, offered a break from the rapid speed of New York Fashion Week with her namesake’s SS 2017 NYFW debut. As opposed to the super fast in and out nature of runway shows, Olko invited some journos and friends down to Elvis Guesthouse in the Lower East Side. There, you could grab a highly potent mystery drink in plastic sippy cups labeled “Drink Me” and mingle with models hanging out and wearing Lyz Olko. The collection itself consisted of lots of rocker girl staples: see-through sequin tops, suede dresses, denim jackets, and a Jeanette Hayes-illustrated leather biker jacket. There wasn’t a lot of product, per se, but there was an attitude. The all-girl rock band Pretty Sick capped the night off with a performance while wearing the collection.

Telfar Spring-Summer 2017

“This is clothing,” said Telfar Clemens of his brand Telfar and its Spring-Summer 2016 collection.   Teller’s “basics minus gender with a twist” has been ripped off countless times. But its Telfar’s aesthetic that makes him special: clean, minimal, colorful, and carrying odd but functional garment quirks. As collections, his work is beautiful, and as individual pieces his garments are fascinating. Coming in a palette of what Clemens called “Old Navy” or “Martha Stewart" colors, Telfar warped wardrobe staples into his vivacious vision: polo shirts with the backs removed replaced by bra straps, cardigans with deep (very deep) V’s, track pants sliced at the knees, suit jackets missing sleeves (reminiscent of Raf’s mid-00s work actually). The sportier looks were increasingly strange: a male model strutted down the runway wearing a one-piece bathing suit that could also work as compression gear for the gym. Telfar captivates a similarly fashion-minded audience as Vetements but in many ways is the antithesis of Vetements. While Vetements is a brilliant experimentation in branding that reflects its audience’s consumption of culture through the clothing (a Vetements collection can reference ‘70s glam rock, Norwegian Black Metal, and Justin Bieber in the same collection while still remaining free of any cultural philosophy, allowing the audience to apply their own specific interests to the brand and make it work for them), Telfar is truly about the brilliance of clothing design. The only branding in this collection was Telfar’s beautiful logo printed small on a couple pieces. Telfar has a vision of the future that is free of hype and branding. Will this future ever come to fruition? No one knows, but no doubt the Telfar brand will continue to grow and embrace new garment ideas.

Pyer Moss Spring-Summer 2017

Pyer Moss designer Kerby Jean Raymond subverted the fashion senses of evil Wall Street fuckfaces like Patrick Bateman, Bernie Madoff, and Donald Trump in his brand’s Spring-Summer 2017 collection. Following the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling and others and potentially preceding the very election of one of those evil fuckfaces in Donald Trump, Raymond appears to be slyly tackling contemporary political discourse. Back in the days of Occupy Wall Street, the movement was constantly denounced as lazy, under-dressed, and incomprehensible hippies, largely due to their fashion aesthetics. Noreen Malone wrote for NY Magazine of this problem, believing that the movement could have gained more traction and respect had the protesters dressed for success. Raymond has proposed the ultimate protest wardrobe in this collection with a series of luxury office wear styled down in the way that artists and radicals like it: slouchy but beautiful double breasted blazers, cropped perfecto jackets, twill trousers with sippers from the hem to the knee, and Prada-recalling leather jackets with smartly placed bleach stains. The politically charged prints remained, with Madoff himself appearing on t-shirts, as did the brand’s knack for luxurious sportswear. But what remains strongest about Raymond’s vision is that Pyer Moss is aspirational to the max. No one could argue that you don’t look dressed up wearing his clothes. It is a brand for people looking to take their activism or art to a state of legitimacy: to play their game you have to look the part, but you can hold onto your individuality while doing so.