[FASHION REVIEW] Siki Im Spring 2016 Collection Is A Celebration of Sub-Culture

John Varvatos technically closed NYFWM. But for me, it all ended with Siki Im. At its best, fashion tells stories. Of the designer who created it. Of the sub-cultures that inspired it. Of music. Of art. In 15 minutes, Siki distilled everything that I love about fashion into one seamless collection.

Siki Im has a lot of interests. He collects Jordan sneakers. He appreciates Black Metal and is an avid Hip-Hop fan. He loves literature. But as a former architect, the common thread that ties together all of Siki’s cultural influences appears to be structure. He is passionately obsessed with how things are created, whether they are objects or simply, emotions. Siki has serious design pedigrees, having worked under Karl Lagerfeld and as head designer at Helmut Lang after its namesake designer left the brand to pursue an art career. But with his own brands, Siki aims for the personal, and his presentations are fueled by emotional touchstones. One thing that had been missing from Men’s Fashion Week in New York was showmanship. As one attendee at the show put it, “This was the only collection that felt like there was anything at stake.” It’s true, it feels as if Siki Im is deadly close to entering the big leagues of menswear designers: Rick, Raf, Wang, Kim Jones. These guys do not seem to exist in a world that far removed from Siki Im anymore.

At NYFWM, Siki Im presented the Spring Summer 2016 collections for both his high-end Siki Im line and his more street-ready Den Im brand. He presented the collections together, blending the higher end and street looks into a cohesive street army. The collection, entitled “Youth Museum,” explored Siki’s most prevalent passion: New York City. Growing up as a skateboarder in Germany, Siki longed for the day that he too would shred the streets of the Big Apple. When he got here, however, the city wasn’t quite what he imagined it would be. Or was it?

The show, the most star-studded of any I attended this week, started when a man (Sam Wheeler) entered the middle of the catwalk with an electric guitar. He started welding Dead Man-era Neil Young-like riffs, full of tremolo and power. Then, the Opera singer Anthony Ross Costanzo took the stage. He put the microphone to his lips, and in an earth-shattering operatic falsetto, he began singing the opening line to LCD Soundsystem’s song, ‘New York, You’re Bringing Me Down.”

The message was clear: New York is different, but we are here, god damn it.

As a bass thudding soundtrack, composed by Casey Mullen and helmed by Sam Wheeler kicked in, the looks came down the runway. One of the wonderful things about Siki’s garments is that they are in many ways classic utilitarian work wear, but with flourishes and details Siki is able to turn a sweatshirt into a garment that can be work into an infinite number of presentations. Chalk it up to his talent for structure or his belief in individuality, but in Siki Clothes you can really wear them however you want. A Den Im bomber jacket came with a detachable skirt. A “Jedi poncho” was a call back to Siki’s youth, and most likely, your youth. We all love Star Wars.

Prints from German artist Frank Thiel called back to Siki’s home in Germany. Jeweler Chris Habana embellished the looks with broaches and charms that will be available when the collection drops next year. Siki also amped up the looks with futuristic sunglasses that he designed in conjunction with Gentle Monster Eyewear. With sneaker brand No. 288, Siki designed simple and sleek slip-on sneakers that could be worn at the beach or in space.

As the finale reigned in, Sonic Youth’s ‘100 Percent’ blared from the speakers. The collection was a celebration of New York and of Siki’s life. This was a supremely personal collection, but at the same time it felt remarkably resonant and life affirming. I got into fashion through art and music. Or perhaps, it was just by living in New York that fashion was inevitable. Siki Im’s SS ’16 presentation of his Siki Im and Den Im lines was a celebration of sub-culture and its resilience in the face of gentrification, industry, and commerce. Yes, New York culture has been chewed up and spit out many times over. But it’s still here, and we are still here.

Adam Lehrer is a writer, journalist, and art and fashion critic based in New York City. On top of being Autre’s fashion and art correspondent, he is also a regular contributor to Forbes Magazine. His unique interests in punk, hip hop, skateboarding and subculture have given him a distinctive, discerning eye and voice in the world of culture, et al. Oh, and he also loves The Sopranos. Follow him on Instagram: @adam102287