For SS18, the heavy hitters of New York Fashion seemed to trade innovation for Instagram attention. From Alexander Wang’s overhyped afterparty to Rihanna’s motocross-inspired runway, mass-marketing was in. But in an era where speed rules and trends turn over almost weekly, it feels as though big brand designers are the ones losing the race.
The departure of major labels like Rodarte and Proenza Schouler from NYFW has left a vacuum for new brands to fill, encouraging buzz-worthy young labels to move away from experimental, art-like design into well-made, marketable collections. Unsurprisingly then, it was the underground that seemed to step it up this season—inspiring a promising future for the changing landscape of New York fashion.
Following in the footsteps of HBA-turned-Helmut Lang designer Shayne Oliver and the no-longer-underground Eckhaus Latta, young, NY-based brands adopted themes of ‘growing up’ as both a literal and conceptual framework for SS18. At Gauntlett Cheng’s Soon Ripe, Soon Rotten, the blaring, throaty voice of Audioslave’s Chris Cornell (R.I.P.), was the only aesthetic reminiscent of the Tumblr-friendly early aughts revival. Instead, designers Esther Gauntlett and Jenny Cheng took this season as an opportunity diverge from Insta-friendly pieces and DIY-couture, ramping up their marketability with heavy knits, sensual cut-outs, and an oscillation between muted patterns and bright fabrics—a play on the anxieties of falling out of adolescence and into adulthood.
Even newcomers to the New York underground seemed to adopt this on-the-cusp narrative. At Nausicca, designers Richard Gray and Jameson Montgomery (of FIT and Parsons), experimented with thrifted materials, upcycling scraps from concert t-shirts. Wedding dresses were similarly revitalized to form flirtatious slip-dresses, while matching tube socks were stitched together to create pajama-like sets—a playful take on recycled aesthetics that managed to come out more polished than most.
At the Church Street Boxing Gym, designers Patric DiCaprio, David Moses, Claire Sully, and Bryn Taubensee of Vaquera took the coming-of-age narrative quite literally—creating a series of ambiguous yet cohesive designs that toyed with the imagined character of a fashionably stunted it-girl going through an identity crisis. Hawaiian-print tops styled with punk-inspired pants were reminiscent of the awkward outfits of an angsty-teen, the type a girl from Laguna Beach might wear after discovering Trash & Vaudeville for the first time. Best in show was a ball gown-inspired robe, a cheeky play on a look only a real housewife could pull off.
At Barragàn (formerly Ytinifninfinity), ill-fitting skirts devoted to the low rise phenomenon of the early aughts were out-staged by restrictive mesh tops, carefully tailored denim, and brightly-colored mules made in collaboration with Maryam Nassir Zadeh. Most notably, tribal mesh, knits, and metallic accessories (a potentially tongue in cheek nod to the overwrought so-bad-it’s-good trend), littered the runway—signalling that perhaps not all of New York’s young designers are ready to grow up.
© 2019 The Editorial Magazine