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Dispatches From the Back Row: The Voice Does New York Fashion Week

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As part of our first-ever fashion issue, our expert Village Voice fashion bloggers Alina Cohen, Alice Hines, and Jenna Sauers will be out and about throughout New York Fashion Week from the catwalks to the sidewalks. 

Thursday, September 15

Lou Dallas Makes Art-School Couture

If Marie Antoinette were a RISD grad, she’d probably wear Lou Dallas. The label, now in its fourth season, is inspired by couturiers like Christian Lacroix, John Galliano, and Alexander McQueen — as well as designer Raffaella Hanley’s past as a painter. This is couture with dangling threads as well as fuzzy tulle ruffles and raw hems in addition to Swarovski crystal beading. Styled by Haley Wollens — who also works with Chloë Sevigny and Miley Cyrus — and produced by actress Georgia Ford, the latest collection, “Plutonian Tears,” had us dreaming of picking up a needle and thread.

Tell me about the materials.

The pieces were actually all made of furniture upholstery fabric, which was donated to me. I lined it with linen of various weights. Then I made all the knits, creating patterns using a punch card and my knitting machine. I try to do custom, small editions. I definitely was aspiring to couture — not that I have the French training — but it’s always where my inspiration comes from.

Why couture? That’s an interesting starting point for an emerging designer.

I always have this horror that there are too many clothes in the world, and I want something that’s very special and unique. Couture, to me, is the ultimate fantasy in fashion. I cannot help but love fantasy and escapism. And being a RISD graduate who studied painting, I’m so attracted to making unique, one-of-a-kind pieces. I’ve tried to make T-shirts. It never works.

Also, I love that making these collections brings together my friends. I’m interested in production as a group activity. That’s why the couture houses appeal to me: It’s done all in-house. Friends of mine came over to help hand-sew. My friend Anna Pierce made the jewelry. And the models were a mix of agency girls and my friends who are artists. When you’re around these people, the energy is so intense and special. That is also a big part of my process.

Where did the name Lou Dallas come from?

From the character Korben Dallas in [Luc Besson’s] The Fifth Element. I have always love the name Lou, so I combined the two. Also, Jean Paul Gaultier did the costumes for that movie, which are so dreamy! — A.H.

Raquel Allegra x Assembly Get Into the Game

Throughout the week, the constant noise of New York Fashion Week crowds presented a challenge during interviews. For the first time though, I found myself speaking over the din of a basketball game. As I interviewed Raquel Allegra at her show (for which she partnered with Greg Armas, who runs the shop and label, Assembly), a very unconventional version of the sport played out alongside us. Allegra is a California-based designer who first gained notoriety by experimenting with vintage tee shirts recycled from the Los Angeles County Prison System.

The show consisted of models first running drills and then competing in a game, all while wearing clothes by her and Armas. Luckily, they appeared comfortable: Allegra’s designs included a wrap and shift dress; a loose-fitting, striped leisure suit and kimono sleeve dress; and sport shorts. The game even featured young, local cheerleaders, the Brooklyn Titans, who performed throughout the competition and during halftime.

“I don’t know that showcasing the clothing was actually the point of the presentation,” said Allegra. “For sure, we’re here to show clothing — this is Fashion Week. But I think it feels more important now than ever to be more fun and creative and think outside the box and do something that makes people smile. It’s really about women. I dress women. I couldn’t have a job unless women wanted to look fabulous.”

Behind her, the announcer yelled, “There we go! It’s about the sprints!”

I asked if she herself plays any sports. She thought for a moment. “I hike,” she said. — A.C.

David Michael Channels the Atelier Days

Down on Orchard Street, designer David Michael stood outside his presentation with his daughter in his arms. She wore the one dress he’d made for her so far, a cute polka-dotted number. She reached for the champagne in his hand, and he quickly pulled it away. “This is sparkly juice,” he warned.

At the back of the small gallery inside, Michael’s models lounged around in black and white. A man in a suit sat in a chair in front of a DJ booth and sipped a drink. A woman in a long white skirt and an oversized, sheer white top leaned against the wall. One male model wore braids, another sunglasses. They appeared a cool coterie, removed from the onlookers just feet away.

With his small venue, Michael said he was trying to bring the presentation “back to atelier days.”

Michael got his start designing for musicians. “I grew up around musicians,” he said. “When I was younger, I didn’t think I was musical, so I started making clothes for the shows.” He viewed that work as his own way to contribute to the scene. He often plays music with his friend, Jamie del Moon, who was at the booth behind him in the gallery.

These days, Michael is listening to Ariel Pink, Connan Mockasin, and the Psychic Ills. He watches music videos late at night, which impact his work. Mostly from the 80’s — “Lou Miami, ‘Dancing With Death’ is a good one.” — A.C. 


Veja Co-Founder: ‘We Get Much More Inspired by Streets’

I began to ease out of Fashion Week slowly, by attending a party for the French sneaker brand, Veja.

Held at ANTHOM, which will showcase the shoes for a month, the event featured Benjamin Bronfman at the DJ booth and a blissfully un-crowded open bar. Many of the guests hadn’t been making the NYFW rounds — I spoke to two men in advertising (a lawyer and a publicist) who hadn’t attended a single show or presentation. Neither, it turns out, had François-Ghislain Morillon, who founded Veja along with his friend, Sébastien Kopp, in 2004. While the duo has gained acclaim in Paris for their eco-friendly, classic sneakers (Marion Cotillard has vouched for them), they’re just taking off in New York. The pair is also also starting to use more premium materials in their newest Bastille collection, such as vegetable-tanned and fish leather.

Morillon asked if it was okay to speak outside so that he could smoke. He apologized for being so French. “I don’t attend Fashion Week,” he said. “We tend to be a bit atemporal. We are trying to do shoes that can be in fashion for years.” He does, though, pay some attention: “I don’t go to the shows, but I like to see what the people from the crowd wear. We get much more inspired by streets.”

And there you have it, straight from the shoe brand founder’s mouth: For those unconcerned with the high-budget shows and presentations, impossible-to-get-on guest lists, and an influx of celebrities and models, NYFW still creates an invaluable opportunity to take the pulse of the city, sartorially speaking. What are we wearing now, and what does it say about contemporary culture? We’ll all be considering that as we catch up on sleep. — A.C.

‘Bain Couture’ for a Pool Party

A presentation of clothes — that really weren’t clothes — was an appropriate way to wrap up New York Fashion Week. After seeing bolts upon bolts of fabric, I longed for less.

Adriana Degreas, a Brazilian designer showing in New York for the first time, creates swimwear that she calls ‘Bain Couture.’ There were silk bodysuits with voluminous shoulder ruffles and collage-like textures. There were velvet bikinis, beaded bikinis, and bikinis with hydrangea-esque appliqués. There were gold geometric one-pieces with nude tulle bandeaus, and a high-waisted bottom with no top at all — just seashell jewelry.

“The idea is to make swimwear that’s the center of a wardrobe, and that’s not restricted to the beach,” the designer told me, through a translator.

Wait — but could you actually swim in it? Some pieces yes, some no.

“It’s resortwear, with a heavy focus on swim,” Degreas’s publicist explained. “Think a party at a pool.” Tatler deemed the brand “what international playgirls wear on the beach.” The presentation — a champagne soirée at the Academy Mansion on the Upper East Side — looked it.

As it so happened, I brought a friend of mine who is the exact opposite of an international playgirl. A graphic designer, he had just come back from a ten-day silent meditation retreat. For what it’s worth, he also liked the swimsuits (and the models). — A.H. 


Wednesday, September 14

Betty and Veronica by Rachel Antonoff Got Its Start on LinkedIn

Rachel Antonoff’s collaboration with Archie Comics started in an unlikely place: On LinkedIn, the communications graveyard of annoying emails and endless notifications.

“I was like, ‘Oh my god. LinkedIn. How do I get off this list?’ ” recalled Antonoff backstage after her show, as models, dressers, and two Dalmatian puppies on leashes all scurried around. “Then I read the message and I was like, ‘Holy fucking shit, this can’t be real.’ ” Antonoff was a “big time” childhood fan of the Archie series and jumped at the chance to do a collection themed around the characters Betty and Veronica.

“I wanted to take the focus away from two girls fighting over a guy,” said Antonoff of the impetus behind the collection, which imagines what the pair — who are, let’s not forget, friends in addition to competing for Archie’s affections — would wear today. “The question was, how are we going to take these characters, who are wonderful, but diversify them? And make it feminist? And make them strong, interesting women? I read back through a lot of the comics, and the rivalry is totally there. But there are also a lot of instances of support for one another and actually putting each other before Archie. We chose to focus on those things.”

The collection was appropriately young and contemporary, with lots of cropped baby tees, cheerleader-inspired skirts, graphic printed swimwear, and a polka dot print that (upon closer inspection) was actually made of speech bubbles. The best pieces incorporated cute trompe l’oeil elements, an idea Antonoff has played with before in her own namesake line, to good effect.

Actress Alia Shawkat, who played Maeby Fünke on Arrested Development, and musician Tracy Antonopoulos, frontwoman of the band Cable, modeled in the show. The cast was racially diverse and included a plus-size model, Barbie Ferreira, whom the designer gave the opening and closing spot.

“I really hate the question ‘Are you a Betty or a Veronica?’” said Antonoff. “Like, are you a skinny, white brunette or a skinny, white blonde? No thank you!” She made a face. “We wanted Betty and Veronica to be any girl. Logistically, it’s hard to avoid the uni-size models. That’s the sample size, and if you want to make different sizes, it’s more expensive and it takes longer, but I still think that’s important.” — J.S. 

Things Get Woolly on the Gabriela Hearst Runway

Gabriela Hearst is part of the sixth generation in her family to raise merino wool, so it’s not surprising that the material turned up all over her spring collection. Hearst was born and raised on a sheep farm in Uruguay, and wool from her family’s land materialized in feather-light open knit tops, covetable knitted bodysuits, and slinky knitted dresses that clung to the models’ bodies as they walked through her light-filled Chelsea studio in a relaxed presentation format. Wool for spring? Why not? Wool offers superior temperature regulation, breathability, and moisture wicking. The lightweight wools that played a part in Heart’s collection — alongside silks, cottons, linens, and a lovely multicolor Swiss lace — were crisp and eminently wearable.

Hearst said she was inspired by witches for this season — or, as the show notes put it: “how women are intimidating, to the point of being feared.” Sexuality was on display: most dresses were off-the-shoulder and the pants were wide-legged, a little 70s, and powerful. Everything hung and draped beautifully — these were fabrics with great body and movement.

In July, Hearst — who launched her line in 2015 — was named the U.S. regional womenswear winner of the International Woolmark Prize. She will join winners from five other regions at the international competition in January. Over the years, the Woolmark contest has helped launch the careers of many well-known designers, including Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld.

It’s safe to say this won’t be the last we hear of Hearst. — J.S. 

Tuesday, September 13

Zero + Maria Cornejo Do White After Labor Day

The clothes this season at Zero + Maria Cornejo were conceived in white, and the models walked down the runway barefoot, their hair loose and wavy, like they’d just strolled in from the beach. But the same dresses or separates in black or one of Maria Cornejo’s signature prints — and, you know, worn with shoes — could work just as well for work or an evening out. One strength of the Chilean-born designer’s clothes is that she cuts to flatter a wide variety of body types. Her pieces have a way of curving around the body just so — although loose-fitting, they don’t swallow or overwhelm, nor do they make it look like one is trying to hide herself. Although the all-white theme clashed somewhat with Cornejo’s stated inspiration — the city and culture of New Orleans, which conjures lush sights and music and histories — the restrained palette did put the focus on cut and line.

“I wanted to show that the clothes are still desirable, [that] they can be interesting, when you take the color and the print away,” Cornejo said afterwards backstage. Of course, she added, “they still exist in color and jacquard and everything else.”

So why New Orleans? “I finally went there in April. I was fascinated by all the different cultures: Spanish, French, Creole, there’s voodoo, there’s magic. It’s a very special place.” Actress Marisa Tomei, who’d sat front row, leaned in to congratulate the designer on her show during our conversation.

One subtle but significant change this season was in the viscose fabric that is the “backbone” of Cornejo’s designs. Cornejo decided to switch to a more environmentally friendly viscose from Italy. “Wherever possible, we’re trying to change things to be more sustainable,” she said. She is now working with recycled cashmere and merino and vegetable-dyed leathers. Switching out the fabric that is used in the majority of her clothes is a change on a bigger scale: viscose is a cellulose-based synthetic fiber and the cellulose is usually derived from wood or bamboo. Cornejo explained that the new viscose comes from sustainably harvested forests. — J.S. 

Rag & Bone Rock Denim, Slouchy Cable-Knitwear

Rag & Bone co-founder Marcus Wainwright showed his first collection as a solo act without his long-time business partner David Neville, who resigned from the company in June to launch a forthcoming beauty line.

If you hadn’t heard the news, it’s unlikely you would have noticed. Everything about the collection was true to the brand’s aesthetic, and the show’s production relied on a familiar set of collaborators — like Thom Yorke, who often composes new music for Rag & Bone’s shows.

“I do not want to be told that I’m wrong,” announced a computer-synthesized voice — the same voice as on “Fitter Happier,” if you’re a Radiohead fan — at the start of the show. Radiohead is actually a pretty good avatar for Rag & Bone; both have been able to harness huge mass appeal with more esoteric and highbrow preoccupations. Even the clothing company’s name comes from a line in Yeats’ “The Circus Animals’ Desertion”: “I must lie down where all the ladders start/In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.”

The show had lots of denim as well as some pieces that hinted at an English school uniform vibe, like perfectly slouchy, deep V-necked cable-knit sweaters and a navy blue blazer with wide red and white stripes. Bright red shoes in a very current shape, the mule, looked fantastic with grey terry cloth sweats. Thom Yorke’s music soared as his computerized voice listed off a litany of complaints, mostly inaudible, and rose in intensity as it was overlaid with other voices, beats, and handclaps.

After the show, Wainwright emerged on the runway to take his bow alone. — J.S. 

Back-to-Back Jeremy Scott and Rosie Assoulin Shows: A Study in Contrast

I arrived at Moynihan Station for the Jeremy Scott show before I’d had my coffee, but the swarm of photographers and the mass of onlookers immediately woke me up. A crowd pressed up against the boundaries of the stanchioned-off path leading into the venue. The rest of the crowd and I wondered what the likes of Paris and Nicky Hilton, Aly Raisman, and Kelly Osbourne were all watching inside.

The woman standing next to me asked me if I’d like a gift card for VSPOT Medi-Spa. The woman she’d come with, Lexi Stout, explained why the two of them had come to stand outside the show. “This is the easiest way to find the clientele for our company,” she said. “These people seem to really like it. Laser hair removal’s huge and so is waxing. And the o-shot’s becoming a big thing.” And what is an o-shot? “It’s an orgasm shot. They take blood from your arm and they put it into your clitoris and your uterine walls so it makes things more sensitive.” Stout wasn’t a particular fan of Jeremy Scott, but she says she knew that his clientele would be more open to her product.

Three younger girls, probably not in Stout’s target demographic, were there for other reasons. Pelinor was visiting from California and had just stumbled upon the action. Her favorite designer, she said, was Christian Siriano. Amaya (15) and Jahsenda (13) were studying art and had the day off from school. They giggled behind me when they thought they saw Amber Rose. Unfortunately, it was a false alarm.

Down the C train in Chelsea, a much more tranquil scene awaited. Rosie Assoulin hadn’t released the location of her presentation, which helped preclude a bustling crowd à la Jeremy Scott. White packing peanuts littered the ground of an industrial space from which palm trees were sprouting. At the front of the gallery, a bartender poured lemonade from behind a table. Guests filled cellophane bags with salt-water taffy that was spread across a white tablecloth.

At the back of the gallery, models showed off boldly hued floral prints and stripes; mismatched patterns; and flowing, floor-length garments. A loose fit united the looks as well as an assertive femininity — sweet but not too sweet (perhaps like that salt water taffy). A particularly remarkable dress looked like a long, oversized tee-shirt with bright, sparkling, horizontal bands.

Neiman Marcus SVP and Fashion Director Ken Downing took an iPhone shot of a model wearing a tiered orange ensemble. “Perfect, honey!” he gushed when she looked up at just the right moment. Later, he chatted with NYFW creator Fern Mallis. The relaxed atmosphere, though welcome, reminded me that I hadn’t had my coffee. I left for Gansevoort Market and finally got a cup. — A.C.

DKNY Does ‘Neo Soho’

If the last big news we heard about DKNY — that LVMH was selling them to G-III — set the Internet abuzz with fear about the future of the company, yesterday evening’s show on the High Line certainly delivered on a big opportunity to regenerate the brand. Anna Wintour, Emily Ratajkowski, and Teyana Taylor were all seated in the front row.

New Museum director Lisa Phillips sat front and center, too. Phillips told us that DKNY “has been an amazing supporter of the New Museum over the past couple of years, and in particular, exhibitions by women artists.” On October 26, the New Museum team will open an exhibition of work by Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist.

Bella Hadid opened the show in a navy blue garment that looked like a cross between a dress and a hoodie (a “classic navy tech milano hooded jacket dress” according to the program) made even more alluring by a plunging neckline. The models wore dark lips and sleek hair, ambient music emanated from the speakers, and bright lights alternated between orange and blue. These combined elements gave the show an energetic intensity. Models walked in shades of blue and navy along with some shocks of orange, matching the illumination scheme. The audience remained captivated as logo bra tops and jumpsuits, knee high socks and much mesh appeared.

Designers Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne are calling the futuristic look “Neo Soho.” If the overall vibe was sporty with dark, serious solids, designers Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne kept things mischievous with cutout details. On many of the models, skin appeared in unexpected places, through holes and gaps in material. The top of one model’s posterior proudly bounced out of her pants as she walked. Bags belted and buckled at the waist — a new interpretation of the fanny pack — completed some of the looks. During the finale, the models marched in formation along the runway and then back — all in oversized hood jackets.

With thick, cushioned soles, all the footwear suggested an emphasis on comfortable shoes this season. As previously noted in this blog, we’ve seen a similar pattern at shows such as Monse and Collina Strada (let’s disregard that wobbling model at Yeezy, for a moment). Not a trend we’re about to argue with. — A.C.

Monday, September 12

Gypsy Sport Makes a Multi-Tiered Spectacle

If all fashion shows are performances, designer Rio Uribe’s Gypsy Sport extravaganza yesterday brought the format to the next level, incorporating quirky commentary and dance at a venue meant for sporting events and concerts. Held in Samsung 837, the massive crowd took up three levels — lucky guests sat on tiered stone steps on the ground floor while everyone else pressed into the balcony spaces on the second and third floors. The lowest level goings on became spectacles as photographers snapped Tinashe and Whoopi Goldberg. The seating-and-standing arrangement heightened the divide between the elite ground-floor group and the rest of us who had just a bird’s eye view of the action. Instead of a few feet — as per usual — entire floors separated us.

The show began as six dancers in red hats and shiny red outfits and high boots danced across the stage and on the steps to Beyoncé. After a few numbers, models finally started strutting down the stairs, across the floor, and upstairs in a variety of bright, gender non-conforming outfits. Dresses for all! Knee-high socks, head wraps, loose-fitting tops, and Chinese slippers ruled the day. Bold colors — bright orange, green, and purple — made the pieces even more attention-grabbing. Some models’ hair stuck straight up into a cone or bright orange points. The whole collection begged to be looked at.

For anyone who couldn’t see from three stories up, a large screen at the front of the venue broadcast the show while running commentary parodied sporting event announcers with lines (Think: “I see water sports happening with this knit right here”).

After the show, the dancers stuck around for photographs. I caught up with one of them, Kayla Jones, who explained how she’d arrived at Fashion Week. She’s part of an organization based in D.C. Their annual runway show got a lot of attention, and then someone from Gypsy Sport invited them out to perform. “The clothes were amazing,” she said. “I like the sports gear. I like that we get to keep our cute little hats.” — A.C.

Scenes From ‘More Than a Muse’ and Julia Restoin Roitfeld’s Jewelry Launch

In this city, the fashion and art worlds are never far apart. Fashion photographers exhibit in galleries, designers collaborate with artists, and everyone goes to each other’s parties. So it came as no surprise when the crowd at the More Than a Muse opening looked as though they’d just left Saturday’s Eckhaus Latta show — the vibe was tattooed, grungy, downtown, and a little punk.

The show featured photography by Larry Clark (director of the iconic film, Kids), Sandy Kim, Ryan McGinley, and Dash Snow. Clark wandered around in a Supreme shirt, making his own fashion statement. Perhaps his recent participation in the Dior Homme campaign invested in him more sartorial concern?

One of the attendees, Ashley Park (a friend of Kim’s), eventually migrated back uptown to DJ the New York launch of Julia Restoin Roitfeld’s designs for jewelry house Didier Dubot. The collection, said Roitfeld, takes inspiration from Parisian design and subway entrances as well as pieces her grandmother had handed down to her. She wants buyers to be able to “tell a story” with her pieces and then pass them on.

Park, who also occasionally models, explained one of the reasons she prefers DJing to walking in runway shows: “I think girls with boobs aren’t really that well represented in fashion shows. Not really for me.” — A.C. 

The Blonds Serve Up Sparkles Galore

Fashion week: Is there ever a time when so much of so little consequence is taken so seriously by so many? In a week where the default mode can be a kind of po-faced anxiety, one thing is guaranteed: The Blonds show is going to be an explosion of fun and delight. Even waiting to check in at the door is an experience, because the assembled crowd is so amped on the idea of getting dressed up to cheer on their friends. The Blonds is about fantasy — not subtlety — and it inspires fierce loyalty among those who wear and love it.

The design duo behind the brand, Phillipe and David Blond, are masters of creating a technically demanding garment — the corset — with nontraditional materials: metal spikes, computer cables, gold chains, feathers, or anything else they dream up. Beyoncé, Rihanna, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minaj, and Lady Gaga have worn their delightfully over-the-top corsets and bodysuits onstage, and anticipation was running high for this, the label’s tenth anniversary show.

Muse and trans icon Amanda Lepore, stylist Patricia Field, fashion photographer and longtime America’s Next Top Model judge Nigel Barker, and Orange is the New Black star Dascha Polanco sat front row. The crowd was full of drag queens and genderfluid people in spectacular outfits, many involving corsets. The models walked down a runway past two enormous, silver mylar Pegasus balloons. All the women in the racially diverse cast wore big platinum wigs that bounced as they walked, and the men wore silver laurel wreaths in their hair. Fittingly, the show notes referenced Tina Turner (circa Thunderdome) and Greek mythology.

The clothes were as fantastical as could be hoped — tough-looking corsets in silver and gold, lots of slinky lamé, and what must be metric tons of crystal paillettes. Phillipe and David dedicated the show “to our dads,” David said afterwards — David Trujillo Sr. and Juan Rollano. “Our families have been a huge support,” David continued, “especially our fathers, because they both taught us work ethic.”

“My dad means the world to me,” added Phillipe. “He’s taught me everything: He taught me to believe in myself, to be strong and powerful and never give up in anything that we do.” — J.S.

Sunday, September 11

Eckhaus Latta Will Make You Want to Buy a Sewing Machine

Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta, the RISD-educated duo behind the young fashion brand Eckhaus Latta, always seem to have one foot in the fashion world and one foot in the art world. They showed their spring collection on a cast of models diverse in age, race, height, and body size. Walking along with the agented models in the show were a number of artists, like Michael Benton-Gates and Susan Cianciolo, as well as art collector Thea Westreich (photographer Rachel Chandler did the casting). Artist Nate Lowman sat front row, along with actress Hari Nef, and Chairlift singer Caroline Polachek.

Polacheck said after the show that the collection left her feeling an urge to buy a sewing machine — and it wasn’t hard to see why. Eckhaus Latta’s men’s and women’s designs, dominated by denim and day wear, are striking and deceptively simple enough to be inspiring. And, to anyone who came of age in the early aughts, the silhouette and the signatures of Eckhaus Latta are deeply familiar: wide-legged jeans with long pockets and panels, deconstruction and visible seaming, and an overall utilitarian vibe. This collection was impressively polished and coherent. The dressiest look was a boat-neck green dress with pockets — all the dresses had pockets, a welcome touch — and sleeves that revealed a striking open back when the model wearing it passed by on the catwalk. Most of the fabrics used in the collection were vintage deadstock.

The show was held outdoors in Chinatown’s Seward Park. The 90-degree heat didn’t prevent a line of would-be show-goers from stretching around the block. Savvy (or just curious) New Yorkers watched through a chain-link fence from the adjacent basketball courts. Dev Hynes, also known by his stage name Blood Orange, performed an original score for the show live on his cello.

The models wore jewelry by Latta Jewelry, a Santa Cruz-based jewelry company run by Jay and Atticus Latta — relatives of Zoe Latta, presumably. Per the show notes, all the jewelry referred to birth control: “IUD bracelet,” “IUD earring,” and “Contraceptive choker,” though the pieces did not seem to overly recall the shapes of the items they were named for. Was there some meaning behind this? Some statement about reproductive rights in the age of conservative demagoguery and Donald Trump? If so, was this a message to be read in the context of the t-shirts that trumpeted the slogan “Election Reform”? Impossible to know, because the designers were not available for an interview after the show.

Similarly opaquely, the designers’ written statement consisted of a poem written by Latta that read, in part:

I just wanted to grow

Grow really hard

And the power is something I want

Only if I can give it to you

— J.S. 

A Détacher’s Mona Kowalska: ‘It’s a Specific Aesthetic, but I Want to Address a Multitude of People.’

Often in fashion, designers and the press speak as though each brand addresses a singular woman: “the Prada woman” or “the Dior woman” are portrayed as distinct entities and never the twain shall meet. (Worse, when it comes to the “little sister” brands of major houses, sometimes the woman becomes a girl, as in “the Miu Miu girl.”) Not only does this perpetuate the weird fantasy that most women shop entire collections —as opposed to amassing a wardrobe quietly over time, incorporating many different labels — it portrays identity as fixed and immutable. It was refreshing to hear A Détacher designer Mona Kowalska say, after her show, that she doesn’t start with a specific woman in mind when she starts to create a collection. “I’m not thinking of a specific character,” said Kowalska. “It’s a specific aesthetic, but I want to address a multitude of people.”

I suspect a lot of women could find themselves in A Détacher’s spring collection. Kowalska began with the idea of “self-management,” an idea she also explored in her most recent fall-winter collection. “I’d never done this before, but I just decided to continue with the same theme, because we do it year round. We manage our identity, we manage our time, we manage ourselves, we manage our emotions.” Accordingly, there were some wintry aspects that reappeared in different ways: The collection had a lot of layering, including skirts over pants, and layers of sheer lace printed with a tiny floral. There were textures, too, like in the crocheted ribbon sweaters that topped some of the looks, as well as the fetching, knife-pleated skirts.

“I love that technique,” Kowalska said, speaking of the crochet, “because it’s very precious and elegant, but messy at the same time. It’s not one thing.” She continued, “I always like things to be at least two things, if not more. To go in these different directions. Because then I think everyone finds themselves in them. Somewhere in all those references, you can find yourself.” — J.S.

Band of Outsiders Collection Revives the Nineties, Back-to-School Prep Scene

For all the New Yorkers trying to prolong the days of summer, last night’s Band of Outsiders show at Skylight Clarkson Square confirmed that the season’s really over — it’s back to school time now.

With varsity jackets, tracksuits, and some plaid, the label channeled the Nineties’ prep scene. Much of the clothing featured the brand name woven into a pattern, affixed on a patch, or splayed across the front or back of a garment. Wu-Tang Clan’s hit song from 1993, “C.R.E.A.M.,” played as the models walked, throwing everyone back to the year that Bill Clinton entered to Oval Office and Jurassic Park dominated the box office. The fresh-faced models looked barely old enough to even remember the decade.

Backstage after the show, first-time runway model Aaron Dilakian didn’t seem fazed by the experience. The only thing that surprised him, he said, was “how fast the people were walking.” He described the clothes as “chilled out.” His brother, Jonny, who’d also modeled in the show, said the outfits were “clothes I would wear hanging out with friends, chilling out, like a casual party… like a fondue party, or something like that.”

This show marked a revival for the brand. In 2015, Band of Outsiders shuttered due to financial issues. The original founder, Scott Sternberg, is no longer involved. Three foreign 30-something designers — Matthias Weber, Niklaus Hodel, and Florian Feder — are now at the helm. Can three European men successfully resuscitate a label that often adds “Los Angeles” after its name… and “treasures a collective memory of the City of Angels?” Stay tuned. — A.C.

Collina Strada: ‘I Start With Color. I Start With Bodies.’

Backstage at the Collina Strada presentation at Pier 59, posters displayed photographs of all the show’s models. And Grace Jones. While only one of the models sported a haircut similar to Jones’s signature boxy coif, the collection still radiated a certain edgy, androgynous hipness often associated with the singer. Loose fitting tops, flowing bottoms, and a white ensemble that trailed a long ruffle gave the sense of ease, comfort, and wearability. Deep greens, light purples, and white featured prominently.

Designer Hillary Taymour elected to cast only black models this season. She’s tired, she says, of watching other labels use just one black person for their shows. “I’m like, ‘We don’t have to do that,’ ” she said.

Many of the models wore Croc-like footwear, much of it featuring a sparkling green camo pattern. Birkenstock had given the shoes to Taymour, who repurposed them. “It’s just very, like, chef wear,” she said. “Those are like the chef shoe. I just like how weird and disgusting it looks. It’s a little bit dirty. It’s very easy fashion. It’s very simple.”

Behind the models, a projection depicting flowing resin played. Colors swirled, bringing to mind the ‘creative process.’ When asked about particular references or influences for the collection, Taymour laughed and shook her head: “I don’t work that way. I start with color. I start with bodies.”

Outside, guests reclined on white chaise longues and sipped rosé. Some tired models began to sit down. The carpet that extended up the wall behind them began to slip. Taymour didn’t seem too bothered. A low-key afternoon, as far as someone on the outside could tell. — A.C.

Saturday, September 10

‘Backstage’ at Tommy Hilfiger, a Patch of Sidewalk Under the FDR

Tommy Hilfiger’s collaboration with Gigi Hadid debuted at a giant carnival last night at South Street Seaport. Though the event was invite-only, the brand wasted no opportunity to bombard the public with its $250 denim-leather tops and $65 nautical hats. Before the show, models — excluding Hadid — recieved hair and makeup touch-ups on a well-trafficked patch of sidewalk underneath the FDR.

“BACK UP. BACK UP. BACK UP NOW!” screamed a hoarse security woman at the mushrooming crowd of photographers and random passersby. One woman craned her iPhone. “Backstage at Tommy!!” she captioned a Snap.

A homeless man with a cardboard “Jesus Saves” sign pulled down his sunglasses as a street-style photographer snapped. An older woman stood in the middle of the crowd with her eyes closed, cooling herself with a paper fan.

Screams erupted. Gigi Hadid had arrived. She lead a procession of models from the patch of sidewalk into what had been rebranded — just for the weekend — “Tommy Pier.” Inside, there was a ferris wheel, fried food, and 2,000 people (half media, half members of the public recruited through a company loyalty program).

Tommy Hilfiger is one of many fashion week exhibitors trying to harness the event’s marketing opportunity with livestreams and shoppable collections. Tommy Hilfiger is also one of many mall brands groping for relevance by teaming up with social media influencers. It’s going fine: sales at Tommy Hilfiger, owned by PVH corp., climbed in 3.2 percent first quarter of 2016.

One onlooker’s face was wet from tears. She had seen Taylor Swift. “I don’t care about Tommy Hilfiger,” she said. “We came to see the celebs.” — A.H. 


This Label Will Convince You To Wear a Tracksuit like it’s 2003

When I think of 2003’s clothes, Paris Hilton and Juicy Couture terrycloth tracksuits come to mind. In other words: Not the happiest memories. But at Area’s presentation on Friday, I was reminded that the tracksuit — and general early-aught fashion — could be chic, especially if it’s done almost entirely in silk.

Area, the New York label run by Beckett Fogg and Piotrek Panszczyk, is one of my favorite up-and-comers of late. It makes playful, feminine clothes whose fabrics have interesting backstories. When I interviewed them a few years ago, Beckett and Piotrek told me about using a Depression-era hydraulic embosser (Read: a giant machine used to stamp car seat leather) to create honeycomb-like textures on cotton. This season there’s an embossed faux-croc, on what turned out to be an OG Lyonnaise lamé velvet.

I caught up with Panszczyk after the show to talk textiles and the importance of 2003.

Tell me about this season’s fabrics.

P.P.: There’s silk scarfing — basically like a twill — and a lot of crepe-backed satin. The initial idea was camouflage, which quickly became leopard and dalmatian. We started looking at pictures in old Vogue where Naomi was walking a bunch of dogs, or a picture of Marc Jacobs and his dalmatian, who is called Tiger. We tried to take all these animals, things that seem natural to us, and implement them on something that doesn’t feel per se natural. Our snakeskin is on lilac and yellow, for instance.

What eras were you looking to?

It was a mix between a lot of Sixties, Eighties, and 2003.

Why 2003?

You had this nouveau riche feeling, where everyone was feeling super wealthy, super glamorous, and chic and dewy. And there was a very big hip-hop moment going on, which I grew up with. So for me, that was always aspirational and glamorous. And you see the bootcut kind of Ralph Lauren collection kind of vibes — and that’s more Beckett, being from Kentucky. So we tried to pull all of these kind of memories and feed them into one big mishmash.

I feel often when that early 2000s era is referenced lately it’s jokey. It’s kind of like, ‘Haha, you wore a Juicy tracksuit!’ But you guys made such a classy version of a tracksuit.

It is. They were all silk. And we appliqued silk shapes that look like ribbon, kind of draped over the garment and tied into a bow on the neck. So you wear a tracksuit, but you’re basically a diva!

And there were the accessories to go along with it.

We did shoes last season, but now we like, went REALLY hard. But it was fun. We did a bag also. We did sunglasses. We tried to pull off a total look. And we just tried to make it super-hyper-mega fashion. Don’t be ashamed of it! Embrace it.  — A.H. 

At Monse’s Third Show, the Label’s Appeal Branches Beyond Celebrities

Monse is a young label, launched one year ago, and Friday afternoon’s outing marked only its third show. Co-designers Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim met at Oscar de la Renta, where they were both longstanding employees.

Last week, they were named as the incoming creative directors of Oscar de la Renta, after Peter Copping’s unexpected departure in July. That news prompted such a cascade of RSVPs and ticket requests for today’s Monse show that it had to be moved to a larger venue at the last minute. (Yours truly was one of many who didn’t get the message, and dutifully turned up at the old location. Sometimes it’s a relief that fashion shows habitually start half an hour late — in this case it gave me time to run 15 blocks back downtown.) Garcia and Kim’s first collection for Oscar de la Renta will debut at fashion week in February, and they say they’ll keep designing Monse, too.

That’s good, because Monse is fun. It’s easy to see why celebrities including Sarah Jessica Parker, Lupita Nyong’o, Zosia Mamet, and Christina Ricci wear the brand regularly on the red carpet. (Mamet and Ricci were seated front row.)

Garcia and Kim showed a lot of looks based on the dress shirt — deconstructed, tailored, hanging off the shoulders, or turned into a fetching shirt dress. Surprising takes on shirting have quickly become a Monse signature. There was also a lot of eveningwear, including some lovely, draping silk charmeuse dresses that flowed with the body as the models walked. Many of the dresses were slipping off one shoulder, giving them an unstuffy elegance, as if the woman wearing them was too busy to pull it up or too preoccupied with more important things to notice it had slipped off. Some harder edged looks were encrusted with sequins.

Even with the outfits that skewed more towards evening, many of the models wore cool, pointy-toed flat shoes or midnight blue velvet flat Chelsea boots, instead of towering stilettoes — a gesture of understanding of how many women, especially New Yorkers, actually dress, and one that I, having only made the show thanks to my trusty flats, appreciated. — J.S. 


Friday, September 9

Kanye Collaborator Vanessa Beecroft on Fainting Yeezy Models: ‘It Was Like a Technical Production Issue’

Back at the House of Peroni on Thursday night, Vanessa Beecroft — visual artist and Kanye’s collaborator on Yeezy shows — wasn’t exactly apologetic about the falling models at Wednesday’s Roosevelt Island extravaganza. After a conversation with HOP Creative Director Francesco Carozzini, one audience member raised the issue on everyone’s mind.

“Yesterday at the presentation, there were a few models that fainted,” she said. She mentioned how in the past, Yeezy models have complained that they weren’t treated “super well.” “Does that bother you, or how do you feel about that?” she asked.

“Well, in that case it was like a technical production issue that wasn’t really related to me,” Beecroft responded. “I’m not sure why certain people fainted yesterday. But in my case, when it happened in my performances, the level of emotion, stress, being looked at, people would faint. It’s not a physical… There was food, water. The situation is so intense.”

To be fair, the level of Beecroft’s involvement is a bit nebulous. She told me she usually provides Kanye with references or proposals, but this time, she says “there wasn’t anything definite until the moment.” She only arrived in New York the day before the show. In some ways, the fiasco coincides with her beliefs about women: “When you put women together in a certain configuration, they immediately understand why they’re there. They’re there not to be looked at, not to please the audience. They’re there to remind you of the uncomfort they live in every day.”

In her current artistic practice, Beecroft has turned toward materials impervious to “technical production issues” — ceramics. “It’s basically female’s heads,” she says. “Female torsos…I chop the parts off.” — A.C.

Don’t Worry — Amy Sedaris Fangirls Over Adam Selman, Too

Backstage at the Adam Selman show, as me and a half-dozen other reporters crowded around the man of the hour, I bumped into actress and comedian Amy Sedaris, an old friend of Selman’s, also trying to say hello.

“He’s busy!” said Sedaris, wearing a t-shirt illustrated with a spiky-haired anime bandit — Selman’s design, of course. Friends since they met on the shoot of a Dolly Parton video, the pair’s hive mind was responsible for the masterpiece that is the book, Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People. (“On an emotional downswing, toss a fistful of nails into your backyard. At a later date, during a manic phase, string them together to make a windchime.”)

“Adam’s a great collaborator. He’s funny. We come up with great ideas,” said Sedaris. Of the crop of young, buzzy designers in New York City who make feminine clothes beloved by the likes of Rihanna, few have Selman’s playfulness. One print from Thursday’s collection featured silhouettes of female nudes, stretching and aerobically stroking their own shoulders and thighs. The clothes made you want to do the same: Billowy pajama tops and bottoms made to roll around in a pile of pillows and slinky dresses to roll around a pile of bodies at a disco.

“I loved the beaded dress. And the culottes. I liked it all!” said Sedaris. — A.H. 

Colovos Champions Ease and Comfort, Draws Inspiration From the Subway

In person, Nicole and Michael Colovos exhibit characteristics similar to those of their collection: understated, sophisticated, smart, and incredibly cool. Yesterday, the former Helmut Lang designers, partners in both business and marriage (a feat unto itself), presented their SS17 collection in a Chelsea showroom on Wednesday evening.

Focusing on a palette of whites, blacks, and blues, the clothing featured intricate, thoughtful detailing. Slits up the backs of jeans reveal skin in a sexy, subtle way. A jacket, when folded and zipped correctly, turned into a small bag with its own handle. “Seam welding” on a few of the pieces created lightness; Michael described the technique as a way of sealing fabric through a high-heat machine. The process reduces bulk as it eliminates the need for stitching and doubling fabric back on itself.

The more technical of the pair, Michael notes the collection’s elements of menswear and suiting — which he doesn’t like unless it’s a little “fucked up”. He says that the brand aims for a “subtle identifiability.”

“We want you to look at that and know that it’s ours, but not be so obvious,” he explains.

One dress and shirt in the collection feature more vivid color: a print with rough-edged splotches of orange and red among grays. The image derives from a photograph that Michael took in a subway corridor — at the Christopher Street-Sheridan Square station — where old posters had been torn down. He describes the scene as “like being in a Gerhard Richter painting. I think it’s a metaphor for how we look at the collection, because it’s very city.”

Previously, he’s cited Richard Serra and Paul Klee as inspirations. Music and architecture also impact his work. “I’m always inspired by beautiful, industrial shapes,” he says.

Nicole describes her goals for the collection in practical, personal terms: “It should be modern. It should be fresh. It should still have a really strong silhouette. It should feel new… I want ease. I want comfort. I want something that makes me feel good.” — A.C.

Thursday, September 8 

Creatures of the Wind’s Christopher Peters on the Power of the Female Gaze

At Creatures of the Wind on Thursday, David Lynch was in the air. Julee Cruise — who sang the eerily beautiful songs in Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks — crooned from a stage. Models in surreal prairie girl looks — floral-print silk crepe dresses with jagged lace backs, hypnotic houndstooth coats — floated through the giant, Gilded Age theater of New York City’s Masonic Hall. On the way in, we were greeted by photos of blinged-out older men and lots of plush red velvet. Red room, anyone?

Backstage, we caught designer Christopher Peters, one half of the label, who told us about the inspiration for the collection, dubbed “Angel.”

What were your references when designing this collection?

CP: Female rock musicians we love and admire, like PJ Harvey and Lydia Lunch. There’s this tradition of the male gaze in rock that they’re subverting. Lydia would do covers of early rock songs, where she’d be singing about a boy. And the boy would be the angel; he’s the one who is untouchable — the one she can’t have. At the same time, she’d wear these fucked-up slip dresses. It never felt like she was compromising who she was — but she could be the proactive one, the aggressor in that conversation. Our dresses were a slightly weird interpretation of that ‘30s silhouette. They’re elegant, but there’s a twistedness to them.

How did Twin Peaks fit in?

CP: I think it just sort of happened like that. We were thinking, “Oh let’s show here — it’ll be our space.” Then you put the white dance floor [in] and you put the vintage chairs [in], and you’re like, “Oh, it’s kind of Twin Peaks!” Then you get Julee Cruise and you’re like, “It’s even more Twin Peaks!” [The songs she sung] were the ones she wrote for David. She’s the coolest person ever; I’m so intimidated. I was crying at the dress rehearsal! — A.H.

Wednesday, September 7

Art? Capitalism? Sadism? Yeezy Season 4 Was All of the Above

The Milgram experiments, which began in 1961 at Yale, studied human’s willingness to inflict pain on other people. The experimenters instructed subjects to administer high-voltage shocks on another participant — that participant was, in fact, an actor. Even as the actor began banging on walls and screaming, more than half of participants obeyed orders to increase voltage.

I was reminded of Milgram’s study at Kanye West’s Yeezy Season 4 show, watching a model with a broken stiletto boot perilously limp down the runway. It took everything her limbs could muster to simply keep upright, and as she inched forward, the crowd stood with mouths agape. The question on my — and, I imagine, everyone’s — mind was: Should I intervene before her ankle snaps? Or should I follow orders and behave as one does at a typical fashion show?

What I learned at Yeezy: fashion is basically torture.

A video posted by alice hines (@deadmallkiosk) on

Season 4’s mood was, overall, apocalyptic. Mostly, this seemed intentional. There was the dark, dissonant music, somewhere in between a La Monte Young drone and a horror-movie soundtrack. There were young, streetcast black and brown women in increasingly sweat-drenched bodysuits. The hot sun blared down on the models — this all took place in a public park on Roosevelt Island — while guests including Kylie Jenner, Kendall Jenner, Anna Wintour, and Pharrell watched from scant patches of shade. (At one point, one of the models fainted, poor thing.)

And then there was the sheer magnitude of the event. Fashion shows are typically 15 to 30 minutes long. Yeezy Season 4 lasted four hours. It began at 1:30 p.m., when guests boarded shuttle buses on Manhattan’s West Side (cabs weren’t allowed near the entrance to the park) and ended at 5:00 p.m. The clothes in the show were — as in previous seasons — mostly beige, cream, and black, in either oversized or body conscious silhouettes. Parkas, sweater-bralets, and off-shoulder hoodies were all paired with the aforementioned boots, wobbly on more than one occasion.

Past Yeezy shows have positioned themselves as performance art. At Yeezy Season 3 in February, extras were instructed to channel Rwandan refugees in distressed, neutral clothes, as West debuted tracks from his latest album. That show, like yesterday’s, was billed as a work by visual artist Vanessa Beecroft. Prior to becoming West’s chief collaborator, Beecroft was represented by gallerists including Jeffrey Deitch and Larry Gagosian.

Was yesterday’s show art? Capitalism? Sadism? The line seems hard to draw. Eventually, one man did intervene to help the wobbling model. As she limped off the runway, leaning on his shoulder, the crowd applauded. — A.H.

For Internet-Famous VFILES, Gender Roles Might as Well Be AOL

At the VFILES runway show, rapper Young Thug channelled a soccer mom, whipping out a giant iPad to photograph one of Alessandro Trincone’s runway looks from his front-row seat… which was totally appropriate. Genderbending was crux of Trincone’s collection, and a central theme of the VFILES’ show. “It’s 2016. We can wear what we want!” the Italian designer told me backstage.

VFILES, the social media platform-cum-retailer, lets users on its website nominate designers to appear in its NYFW shows, tapping celebrities to help mentor the winners. This year, mentors included Naomi Campbell, Mel Ottenberg, Pat McGrath, Jerry Lorenzo, and Young Thug (who wore a piece by Trincone on the cover of his latest album, Jeffery).

Male models wearing Trincone’s collection were covered head-to-toe in bows and ruffles. Like brides at a beach wedding, they glided barefoot down the runway, ribbons streaming behind them. Some wore elaborate headdresses topped with paper umbrellas. Underneath the regalia were well-tailored pieces: jackets, trousers, coats.

The vibe of the show was club. A-trak was the house DJ, and the presentation was sandwiched between two live musical acts: teen metal band Unlocking the Truth and rapper Playboi Carti. Though the show was inside and at 8 p.m., I counted 12 people wearing sunglasses. Just another trend crossing gender lines. — A.H.

OAK Channels Sinead and Sade’s ‘Tough Girl Ease’ and House of Peroni Helps Take the Edge Off

OAK co-founders Louis Terline and Jeff Madalena didn’t want to present at New York Fashion Week until they were sure they could do it right. Turns out, now’s the time.

“This was the first season we felt like the collection was fully formed enough to tell a full story,” Terline told me. “So we said, ‘Let’s do it.’ ” We were standing in the basement of a desolate, gallery-esque space in Chelsea, near West Side Highway.

“We wanted to do it sweaty,” he added, as beads dripped down his face. Loud music blared as a line of models stood by the wall, many of them in blue and black tube socks. Against denim, black, and white garments, two in particular stood out: white tee shirts scrawled with what looked like black Sharpie, reading “SWEETEST TABOO” and “SADE CONCERT TEE.”

Terline explained, “I wanted to speak to…an old punk aesthetic, but I wanted to blend that with the glamour.” He looked to Sinead O’Connor and Sade as feminine ideals. “They really were the first ones to hit this tough girl ease.” Rock on.

Later, over at the House of Peroni pop-up on Elizabeth Street, guests decompressed with the Italian beverage and live sets by Neon Indian and Jamie N Commons. Mixed with Aperol, fig, cynar, etc., the beer — and dancing — began to take off the edge from Fashion Week’s first official day.

Catherine Martin arrived in a phenomenal long-sleeved, patterned dress, cinched at the waist with a wide belt. Martin — the costume designer for such iconic films and shows as The Great Gatsby, Moulin Rouge, and The Get Down — showcased some of her most famous work on mannequins at the back of the venue.

“It’s by Stella Jean, an Italian African designer who works out of Milan,” she said. “I thought it was an appropriate cross-cultural dress to be wearing tonight to celebrate my great friend’s incredible work.” Martin may or may not make it to this week’s shows — it’s back-to-school week for her children, and they’ve just “moved house.” Martin is still in the process of unpacking boxes, using Marie Kondo’s tidying up strategies as a guide. “It’s hard,” she lamented. “It’s hard to put into practice.”

Martin’s friend, House of Peroni Creative Director Francesco Carrozzini, admitted that he definitely won’t be able to enjoy all of this week’s festivities. “I will be chained to this place, but with my eyes to what’s happening elsewhere in the city,” he explained. Even if Carrozzini doesn’t make it to the shows, the pop-up will be broadcasting them live. He’ll be guaranteed a front-row seat. — A.C.

Sanitation Uniforms Get a Chic Makeover Thanks to a Helping Hand From Heron Preston

Burly sanitation workers and pastel-haired hipsters don’t usually mingle at parties. But the launch of a collaboration between the streetwear designer Heron Preston and the New York City Department of Sanitation — held at a department salt depot on far west Spring Street — drew an unlikely crowd. In the touristy stores that line Canal Street, racks of t-shirts bearing the letters NYPD or FDNY are a common sight — but DSNY? Even the MTA arguably has more cachet. Preston’s collection, inspired by sanitation worker uniforms, aims to make the Department of Sanitation cool.

“I started in 1989,” said Brian, a retired sanitation worker who was enjoying the event. “Back then, you wore green pants, and you wore either a green t-shirt or an orange t-shirt. It’s evolved over the years, and now you wear safety stripes and things.”

Brian (who declined to give his last name) was sipping a Budweiser as he explained that he worked at the department for over twenty years. He lives in Queens and estimates that he worked at 40 of the department’s 59 garages over the years, ultimately rising from trash collector to the superintendent of his own unit. He loved his job.

“The main thing was the camaraderie,” Brian explained. “The only thing I didn’t like was no matter how hot it was in the summer, we had to wear long pants for safety reasons. It could get pretty hot. I always joked they would take the horses out of Central Park when it hit 90 degrees, but we were still behind the truck, loading the garbage. It could be 105 and we’d be out there, loading that garbage into that truck.”

Brian was standing just outside the DSNY’s new salt shed, which looks a little bit like a giant salt crystal perched next to the West Side Highway. The $20 million building, which opened late last year, holds over 5,000 tons of pinkish-grey imported South American salt, ready for spreading on roads after winter storms. The building is strikingly beautiful — and, thanks to a coalition of property developers and famous neighbors (like Kirsten Dunst, John Slattery, and the late James Gandolfini) who fought a well-funded battle against the project in state court, it almost wasn’t built. It seems nobody wants a sanitation department building in their backyard, even though distributing depots and garages throughout neighborhoods cuts driving miles and lowers emissions. The sanitation department and sanitation workers may desire greater visibility for their labor, but many New Yorkers don’t seem to want to see them.

The three sides of the salt depot that face the street are made of smooth, poured concrete with no windows or doors; the neighbors wanted all truck activity to be hidden from view, so salt is loaded and unloaded through a single door facing away from the street that towers at 34 feet high. Through that immense portal, guests stood before the salt pile, inspecting Preston’s clothes, or watching a performance of the sanitation department’s pipe and drum band, the Emerald Society. Brian, the band’s drum major, was dressed in the uniform of the Emerald Society: a green kilt, black shirt, and black kilt socks with white flashes and spats.

“I’ve always had a desire to redesign uniforms,” said Heron Preston, standing in front of the salt pile. Preston is a creative director and fashion designer known for his work with Nike and Kanye West. Growing up in San Francisco, Preston developed a fascination with uniforms at an early age. “My father was a police officer, so his uniform was rad,” he explained. “As a little kid I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen, with the duty belt, with the handcuffs, and the pepper spray, and the gun and everything.”

So how did Preston’s collaboration with DSNY come about?

“One day,” Preston said, “I was swimming in the ocean and this plastic bag, this garbage, brushed my arm. And that encounter with garbage made me realize, I hate litterbugs. I hate garbage. I care about keeping the beaches that I vacation at and the city that I live in clean.” He sent an email to the Department of Sanitation. The subject line: “Big Idea.” The department agreed to enter into an unusual partnership.

Soon, Preston was reading the book Picking Up by Robin Nagle, the DSNY’s anthropologist-in-residence and a professor at NYU. The book opened his eyes to the stories of the workers who handle our city’s refuse and snow.

“It’s actually the most dangerous job,” Preston said. (City and Bureau of Labor Statistics data confirm sanitation is very dangerous work.) “Sanitation workers are exposed to toxic chemicals. Garbage bags could explode, and if chemicals are in that bag, they could inhale deadly toxic dust. They could cut their legs on license plates when they’re going in between cars to collect our trash. The hopper that crushes the garbage in the trucks could squeeze something tight and project it right at you, like a bowling ball. Or you could get run over by a car. Or you could get run over by a truck. They risk their lives to keep this city livable for us. They need more recognition.”

Long before the show, the department notified workers at all the sanitation garages around the city that Preston was interested in their old uniforms. Soon, boxes of clothes were arriving at Preston’s home. Preston dyed, recut, screen-printed, and embroidered the donated clothes with logos, creating fashionable streetwear pieces out of the old uniforms — hoodies ($155), baseball caps ($65-75), and long-sleeved t-shirts ($120) all emblazoned with the letters DSNY, and high-visibility yellow tote bags made out of old safety vests ($1,250).

The collection, simply called ‘Uniform,’ is the first of a series of collaborative projects Preston and the DSNY will unveil over the coming year. Through this partnership, Preston hopes to raise awareness about 0X30, the Department of Sanitation’s recycling-focused zero waste initiative, which has the goal of getting the city to contribute zero waste to landfills by the year 2030. (Currently, New Yorkers send about 6,000,000 tons of residential and commercial waste to landfills each year.) Part of the proceeds from the Uniform collection will go to the Foundation for New York’s Strongest, a nonprofit organization dedicated to honoring the service of sanitation workers in New York City.

I asked Brian what he made of the collection and the crowd. “We are one of the city agencies that doesn’t get a lot of acclaim,” he said. “God bless the police, god bless the fire department, but a lot of people don’t realize that we’re picking up the garbage off the street, we’re out there in the middle of the night clearing the snow off the street. A lot of people think it just magically disappears.” He paused. Nearby, a 20-something in fashionably ripped jeans held up an $80 DSNY t-shirt on a hanger. “We have a lot of pride in what we do. And now, seeing people are looking at the fashion and buying different shirts and hats with DSNY on it, that I think is a good thing, because it will promote the department and let people know that we do serve a very important function in the city.” — J.S.

Tuesday, September 6

Eva Mendes Helps Kick Off New York Fashion Week With a Turban in Tow

“Is she here?” I asked the woman next to me. We were sitting in gilded chairs in the Upper East Side’s Academy Mansion, waiting for the Eva Mendes x New York & Company show to start.

“If she’s not, she’s whack,” the woman replied. We’d just enjoyed Prosecco with blueberries in the mansion courtyard. Rooms on three sides held separate seating sections for the show. About 45 minutes behind schedule, a group of models of refreshingly diverse color, shape, and size began strutting through the rooms to songs in English, French, and Spanish. All wore head wraps. Many wore beaded dresses and jackets. Light pink and maroon figured into very SFW separates. Oohs and aahs welcomed only a strapless off-white dress with light blue beading.

At the end of the show, Mendes finally appeared from the courtyard, poking her own wrapped head into the room and blowing kisses. Goodbye summer. Hello fashion week. — A.C.


[This is part of the inaugural Village Voice fashion issue during New York Fashion Week — from an in-depth profile with Lola Kirke and the best vintage finds in NYC to this season’s hottest goods and more.

Check out the rest of the fashion issue here.]

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