[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. 


The Radical Designers Re-Defining New York Fashion

Text by Adam Lehrer

Traditionally, New York City has been thought of as the most traditional, commercial, and retail-driven of the fashion markets. For the record, this is true. Designers here, by and large, are not as fueled by “the concept.” The fashion show in New York is largely not conceptual, not a story and certainly not art. You won’t have Raf Simons examining the lonely platitudes of the state of creativity, like he did with the Raf Simons FW 2016 collection (but with him rumored to be on the way to Calvin Klein, that might change). You won’t have Rei Kawakubo using the medium of garment design as pure creation. Most brands here, historically, have thought of fashion shows as product displays and the product itself generally has to be sellable. There have been exceptions of course: Marc Jacobs, Helmut Lang (who moved his brand to New York from Paris in 1997, shocking the fashion industry in the process), and Proenza Schouler among them.

But with the establishing of several new brands, those perceptions about New York as a fashion city are quickly changing. New York, perhaps more so than any other city in the world, is an art city. But for some reason, that notion was not always apparent from its fashion brands. But now with the interconnectivity of creative mediums more in your face than ever as a result of the internet, fashion is being embraced by the art savvy young crowd and you are far more likely to see not only artists caring about fashion labels, but also to see fashion people rubbing elbows with the art world. Perhaps this shift started with Hood by Air, a brand that became associated with its sexually and racially diverse customers even while it started blowing up in the mainstream. Hood by Air, whether you like the clothes or not, indicated that different standards of beauty applied to this new generation of creative millennials. It was like all of a sudden fashion realized that there was an untapped market of style obsessives that found beauty in face tattoos and oversized hoodies more than they did a Michael Kors cocktail dress. Since Hood by Air, several brands have started that are clearly appealing to the tastes of radical culture savvy and sexually adventurous art school drop out types. While everyone is still (justifiably) freaking out over Demna and Vetements and everything going on in Paris, there are just as many brands in New York after a similar market of buyers. These brands are selling with the promise of a concept, of an idea that you can buy into. These are those brands.

Alyx Studio

Alyx designer Matthew Williams is only 30-years-old; two years older than me. That thought is depressing considering the career this guy has had (and subsequently the one I’m trying to have). He has a knack for exploiting the inner punk rebel within pop culture icons; he grunged up the aesthetic of Lady Gaga as her stylist and helped Kanye become Yeezus (sub pink polos for billowing Rick Owens tops and shredded Ance jeans) as Creative Director of West’s Donda creative agency. He founded the DJ art collective Been Trill with Heron Preston and Off-White designer Virgil Abloh, blurring the lines between youth culture driven music and high fashion with designer collabs with Martine Rose and Hood by Air. It was only a matter of time that he’d be fueling his Southern California skate punk aesthetic into a high fashion label of his own and in February 2015 he did just that with Alyx Studio. In a profile, W Magazine noted Williams’ ability (alongside contemporaries like Demna and Virgil) to re-create the styles of underground clubs within the context of high luxury. His SS 2016 collection features a pair of worker jeans baggy at the leg and cropped at the ankle as to fall into a boot while carefully distressed throughout. A t-shirt in his FW 2016 collection is based on a t-shirt he tricked his grandmother into buying him in high school: an obscured graphic clearly reads “FUCK YOU” when folded. Cool fashion girls and the industry are responding. Even though Williams approaches growth slowly and responsibly, the brand is already stocked at Dover Street Market, Machine-A, and Colette and Williams has been shortlisted for the LVMH prize.

Eckhaus Latta

The little avant-garde fashion label that could, Eckhaus Latta designers Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta have been named to (my other regular publishing outlet) Forbes’ “30 Under 30.” Mike and Zoe are RISD graduates. The school may (or may not) have formed the brand’s DNA, which more than any other has tapped into the spirit of this new generation of New York artists. In an early interview with Interview Magazine, the duo explains that their early fashion memories are stripped of glamour: Mike fondly remembered his family’s utilitarian approach to dress and Zoe discussed discovering garments in the good will bins. They are more art than fashion, and their clothes reflect that. Using plastic and translucent leather to create early Margiela-recalling deconstructed garments mostly created for wear for both and all genders. Perhaps more so than any other brand, they capture the styles of those displayed by kids that hang out at art openings in Bushwick and spend their nights dancing to ‘90s R&B and harsh techno. The clothes are both easy and free but also odd, allowing comfort and a distinct sense of “hey take a look at that person” vibes. They are also smart and have played this aspect of their brand up, with avant-garde fashion videos, a FW 2016 runway show staged at MOMA PS1, and runway models consisting of hip folks like artist Bjarne Melgaard, musician Devonte Hynes (Blood Orange), and artist Alexandra Marzella. The brand has cultivated a customer base by making the base its friends.

Gypsy Sport

In many ways, New York is leading the pack in terms of diversity in fashion. I (clearly) am a massive Raf Simons fan, but he has only in the last few years started using models that weren’t uniformly white. Vetements, the radical brand of our times, feels much less radical when noting that Demna failed to use any models of color in both his Vetements and Balenciaga FW 2016 collections. But in New York, color (along with gender and sexuality) is not just utilized but celebrated (just look at Hood by Air). And it makes sense, I’ve always said the most stylish ‘hood in the Five Boroughs is Flatbush, a pre-dominantly black and Latino working class area of Brooklyn. Us New Yorkers see beauty and style in all shades. And no brand is celebrating ethnicity quite like designer Rio Uribe is with his Gypsy Sport label. The brand was started by Harlem native Jerome Williams, Uribe stepping in shortly thereafter. They garnered instant praise when they debuted their garments at the VFiles fashion show in 2014. Though Williams seems to have left (please notify me if I’m wrong about that), Uribe has maintained the aesthetic that appears to be a gender fluid take on popular urban streetwear labels with notable references to tribal warrior patterns and silhouettes. The brand has collaborated with ‘90s hip-hop culture labels like DKNY and Coogi while furthering its own aesthetic. What I find most fascinating about the label is that while it is heavily steeped in ‘90s New York urban culture, it has removed macho posturing from the equation. Take for example the FW 2016 collection where Uribe did a full menswear presentation full of abstract and feminine takes on streetwear while presenting some of the same garments in the womenswear collection. It is a truly modern manifestation of urban streetwear derived from the melting pot of culture that is New York. Aside from Hood by Air, there is no brand that feels so authentically inclusive and celebratory of real life honest-to-goodness people. Gypsy Sport is fashion as exuberance.

Moses Gauntlett Cheng

Of Moses Gauntlett Cheng, I believe Dazed’s Veronica So said it best: “Moses Gauntlett Cheng is really like a fashion version of an art school punk band – they create clothes out of an instinctive necessity to challenge the status quo, piecing together a brand with what they have and seeing what happens.” If Eckhaus Latta started the art-fashion crossover, Moses Gauntlett Cheng takes the concept and steps it up to a more extreme degree. Not surprising then that the brand’s founding designers; David Moses, Esther Gauntlett, and Jenny Cheng; all met interning at Eckhaus Latta. Moses has left the brand, but their gang sensibility remains strong. I once met Moses at an event at the gallery Signal in Brooklyn, and it was easy to see where the brand’s aesthetic comes from. The young art set the designers hang around are wildly stylish but doing so in a way that looks like they could care less about fashion even though they clearly do. See through tank tops and hiked jeans are made to look stunning. And even though the clothes are quite arty, there is an emphasis on quality with Moses Gauntlett Cheng that makes them appealing to those maybe less interested in fashion but still interested in clothes. Their knitwear, for instance, is tremendous and would appeal to someone who shops at Front General Store in DUMBO just as much as an Alexander McQueen obsessive. Even though Moses has moved onto the Vaquera label, Jenny and Esther keep the spirit of the brand that was founded by three friends in the back of a cab on a way to a John Waters event alive.

Pyer Moss

Fashion has never been thought of as a political medium, but it should be. How we dress indicates so much about us: our income brackets, our backgrounds, our interests, in some cases our sexualities and genders. Pyer Moss designer Kerby Jean-Raymond believes that all artists should reflect the times in their work, and in his SS 2016 collection he entered a cultural discussion few fashion designers have ever even publicly voiced their opinions on. In two shows, one for men and one for women, Jean-Raymond collaborated with Los Angeles-based visual artist Gregory Siff on a presentation entitled “OTA BENGA” named after a Congolese man who was kept in the Bronx Zoo in 1906. At the fashion shows, a documentary examining the wreckage of police brutality told through sound bites of victims’ families was played throughout. The show was deeply emotional and undeniably timely and catapulted Jean-Raymond both into the upper echelons of New York designers as well as established him as a political voice. Most fascinating is that when Jean-Raymond started Pyer Moss he consistently faced the lazy description suffered by other black designers (Virgil Abloh, Public School): streetwear. The SS 2016 show made the fashion industry aware of its own complicity in institutionalized racism. Kerby Jean-Raymond is a high fashion designer with a powerful aesthetic; streetwear doesn’t really apply to what he does. And even though he is already tired of his label being constantly associated with race, it is important to have a designer sharing his political beliefs at the cost of risky business. If fashion is really an art form than it must behave like an art form, and Jean-Raymond is not holding back.

Shan Huq

The Los Angeles native self-taught designer Shan Huq garnered attention with his SS 2016 show that was staged within the St. Marks church in the Lower East Side with the concept of turning the styles of Middle America mall rat youths into high fashion. And while the terms “mall rat” and fashion might seem like antithetical concepts, Huq found something endearingly romantic with the vision through short skirts, plaid shirts, cargo’s, and runner pants. His FW 2016 collection featured prints of reality star (and one-time porno actress) Tila Tequila across the back of shirts. Huq finds beauty within the banal. It almost feels like he is elevating the trash culture of the early aughts because, for better or worse, this was the first culture he was ever exposed to. Designing for both men and women, Huq brings some much-needed conceptual head fuckery to the New York fashion schedule. His lack of design training has allowed for him to heed the advice of no one. He likes what he likes, and he finds the beauty in what he is exposed to. Though he is aware of art, he actively avoids referencing most of it. In the process, he has been able to cultivate an insular vision that brings something legitimately new to the industry.


Telfar Clemens is 28 seasons into his Telfar gender-neutral though technically menswear brand. So, he’s no spring chicken and certainly is not on the come up; he’s a veteran. But I feel it important to mention Telfar here, in that he was one of the first New York designers to actively rebel against the fashion schedule and commercial demands, in stead opting for avant-garde presentations and cultivating a small but loyal uber-cult customer base. Telfar’s designs are strikingly minimal; the designer incorporates what he calls the “simplex” aesthetic in which he mutates traditional garments like polo shirts and jeans by transforming belt loops into odd pockets and other small but strange flourishes. He has always been known for his multi-racial casting often featuring strong and broad men dressed rather effeminate and off beat. Telfar has always had a strong association with fine art and is proud of his label’s association with experimental garment manufacturing. The photographer artists David Lieske and Rob Kulisek used Telfar’s garments in a photography series based on early black metal. The models in the photographs wore traditional black metal corpse paint while wearing Telfar’s garments which emphasized the inner sensitivity and vulnerability that defines an artist working within a medium even as extreme as black metal music. And that is really what Telfar is about: letting the wearer’s soul shine through. He is extremely important to conceptual fashion in New York and the world.


Vaquera founding designer (former stylist), the Alabama native Patric DiCaprio, has a serious sense of reckless abandon in his clothing. The FW 2016 collection had a female model in skin-tight tye-dye leggings with an oversized trench coat opened exposing her tits, a male model wearing a short purple dress, and high-waisted pink pants with ruffled seams. He may have developed this “devil may care” attitude while growing up in the rural South where he painted his nails black and straightened his hair to accommodate his look for a string of goth and screamo bands he played in. It’s almost like the oppressive environment inspired him to stand out and be weird (“it’s being in an oppressive environment that really makes you turn it out,” said DiCaprio in a piece by Dazed). But in New York, especially amongst the art and fashion crowds DiCaprio has found a home in, having a striking look requires a higher degree of severity. It’s logical then that he has really pushed his fashion brand to the extreme in gender-blurring, overblown and tastefully distasteful silhouettes, and a freewheeling almost druggy aesthetic. Also, having gained mentorship from the founders of radical arts media platform DIS Magazine, DiCaprio has a rebellious “fuck systems” approach to fashion that feels generally authentic, whether it be staging shows at the Essex/Delancey Manhattan train stop or presenting the first clothes he ever constructed as the first Vaquera collection. Recently, David Moses (formerly of Moses Gauntlett Cheng) has joined the Vaquera party, and it looks like these two merry pranksters will be quietly disrupting New York fashion in the distant present.


Sadly, the 19-year old architectural fashion master Vejas Kruszewski has moved his brand (you know, himself) from New York to Paris after being shortlisted for the LVMH prize as well as citing the incestuous nature of the glut of young New York brands (many of whom are featured here). So, technically, Vejas is a Paris brand now. But I’m still including Vejas here, because why the fuck not? Of all the designers on this list, Vejas is the brand where almost every piece I see I think, “I want that now.” The clothing is gender neutral, but Kruszewski is so in tune with the structure and shape of his garments that every piece is to accommodate both a female and a male frame. It comes down to a matter of sizing. Kruszewski started his label fresh out of high school without any design training, making his knack for pattern cutting and sewing all the more admirable. Kruszewski admitted in an interview that he still has a lot to teach his self, but believes his informal approach allows him freedom from preconceived notions of what fashion should be. The brand’s FW 2016 collection, which was its first shown in Paris, featured trans activist Hari Nef modeling a shaved goat fur jacket, a gigantic tote bag, and architectural knits. There is a certain intellectual trash aesthetic in Kruszewski’s vision that I find appealing; much of his garments remind me of the guys in Trainspotting (the most stylish menswear film ever) and their knack for blazers over camo t-shirts and suede jackets and drainpipe jeans. But the clothes are embellished, in structure not decoration, allowing for every piece to be highly coveted and extremely desirable. New York will surely miss Mr. Kruszewski, but his brand Vejas should prove a valuable addition to the Paris fashion revolution with Vetements Y Project, Gosha and the like.