In stark contrast to the black space inside the Fashion Week tent at Lincoln Center, Jeff and Justine Koons’s White Space is a small, white loft with just one security checkpoint. Coconut water and Thai iced tea are assembled in the sink, not a refrigerator brandishing its corporate sponsorship. There are no models, so there are no hordes of photographers outside clamoring to flash their cameras at any stylish attractive person who may or may not be a socialite. Alison Brokaw, curator and organizer of The White Space, assembled a group of designers who stand by their work, enthusiastic to describe their inspirations as they think aloud, rather than in publicist-approved statements like “fin de siècle Paris.”
A stately woman wearing red pants introduced herself as Ivana Jermoluk Berendika, the owner and designer of Arme de L’amour. Her background is in sartorial design, so her jewelry imitates fabric-oriented features like ruffles and collars. The wildness of her designs is kept in check by the simplicity of her materials: gold, silver, or rose gold casting, never simultaneously. Before being cast, her designs are executed by a 3-D printer. She holds up a purple, spiky bangle that looks like an esoteric sea creature: the printer’s first reproduction of her vision.
Finlay & Co. sunglasses was created by a group of four friends from London who thought the sunglass industry could use a bit of a British invasion, which I take to mean slightly anachronistic and slightly futuristic. A good example of this is their steampunk-ish goggles, some of which employ Italian acetate, with clip-on golden lenses. They also have wooden sunglasses with mirrored lenses of pink, amber, and aquamarine. They are currently only available at the high-end British department store Harvey Nichols, but let’s hope they invade the U.S. soon.
Piotrek and Beckett met during a master’s program at Parsons and created Area, a clothing line specializing in embossed textures, which Beckett explained is usually done to make a leather bag look like an alligator-skin bag. Their clothes are designed in New York and manufactured in New Jersey. Unfixed lines and blips in patterns are supposed to be there; in fact, it’s a proud point for the company, as it shows their clothing is handmade rather than cranked out by a perfect machine. My eyes fell on a unique jacket that was actually a vest with a detachable bolero shrug, with puffed white lines along the end of its sleeves and the bottom of the vest. What I liked most about Area is how much fun Piotrek and Beckett seem to be having with their designs. When Beckett held up a pair of embossed leather shorts, I noticed her velvet shirt of the same navy was also embossed. They have a motif throughout the collection of Leonardo DiCaprio’s head against a net. “We took a screenshot of the still while watching The Basketball Diaries and decided to emboss it onto our clothes.”
Jody Candrian stood in front of a colorful, kaleidoscopic painting wearing a sequined, kaleidoscopic shirt. “Kaleidoscopes are my theme this season,” she said. And it’s a fitting theme for the jewelry in which she specializes: semi-precious stones from around the world, purchased in Arizona at the country’s largest gem and mineral show. The mold is created to accommodate the shape of the stones, not the other way around. Candrian does not smooth out her stones (I noticed a lot of jagged, potentially lethal jewelry) or add any dye. “I want the stones to speak for themselves,” she said. And that they are definitely capable of. They have names like leopard jasper, vanandinite drusy, snowflake obsidian and spessartine garnet, and though Candrian describes her jewelry as earthy — and some of them definitely look it — her gems resemble the surfaces of distant planets. We know, at least, that she’s influenced by different urban landscapes. After living in New York for 10 years, Candrian moved to New Orleans. She claims her jewelry line thus adopted the violent, raw colors of the Crescent City.
Holly Fowler dipped her paintbrush in a palette and deepened the blue of a peacock on the shoulder of a silk robe. The English designer, who has worked for Louis Vuitton, Diane von Furstenberg, and Chloe, also hand-paints her own exclusive dress line for Bergdorf Goodman. At The White Space, she displayed Italian silk robes that could be worn out or in. She borrows from motifs often seen associated with exotic royalty — rhinos, elephants, and birds covered in gems — and cites Cartier and The Gem Palace in India as her inspirations. (Unsurprisingly, she’s been commissioned to design a gown for the latter.) Fowler’s regal yet whimsical patterns are precise but not without their human mark, which seems like something she could be rightfully pompous about; instead, she told me with a big smile, “This season, I’m going digital!” Which means that instead of hand-painting each piece, she can pour more labor into one piece and have the rest reproduce her masterful work.