Sex clowns, suburban ennui and empowered trans femmes: in a season of uncertainty, we meet the designers and muses giving New York fashion new rules to play by
Taken from the spring 2016 issue of Dazed
As a Paris Fashion Week that spoke of uncertainty and confusion comes to a close, New York seems like a long time ago. There, the new guard of underground labels reigned, and thrived, in confusion – coming together in order to bring diversity and the spirit of DIY back into New York fashion. This season, building momentum reached fever pitch, with new additions joining the growing list of independent labels hosting off-schedule fashion shows, taking NYFW away from sleek studio venues and bringing audiences into churches, art galleries, dance studios, Chinese restaurants and luxury furniture showrooms. The individuals often seen sitting in the front row at these shows are from the designers’ interconnected communities: the same familiar faces, artists, collaborators and peers who can often be seen backstage helping out before the show.
It’s an ongoing tradition with some labels like Moses Gauntlett Cheng that various friends, artists and designers frequent their work studios, getting drunk, trying on samples and pitching in to help where they can. “I remember two seasons ago, I was really struggling to make a pattern for a pair of gloves,” says David Moses. “Gogo Graham had just come to the studio to pick something up— and without even asking, she stayed to help me with it. Patric DiCaprio of Vaquera has styled many of our fashion shows and look books and every season I always go early to his show to help. Since we’re all really new at this, we exchange advice and support each other, because we’re friends and we’re all in it together.” Inspired by this uniquely collaborative community, we’ve shot a handful of NY’s most vibrant upcoming designers alongside their favorite muses, models, best friends and boyfriends, wearing pieces from their SS16 collections.
Like a true NYC legend, Moses Gauntlett Cheng formed in a taxi on the way to crashing John Waters’ 68th birthday party. En route, Zoe Latta (of Eckhaus Latta) suggested that her then-intern Esther Gauntlett should work with David Moses on the fashion label he was starting with Jenny Cheng. A few seasons later, the label – now run by Gauntlett and Cheng – still operates more like an underground fashion marriage than a business venture: best friends who spend their spare after-work hours drinking and bonding in various states of dress and undress, making outrageous DIY clothes in a shared warehouse studio in Williamsburg.
Last season, the label showcased their SS16 collection at the VFiles show at Spring Studios, kicking off fashion week with a parade of mature Italian hotties as represented by a cast of all genders and ages, including Esther’s mum Margaret. “Jenny and I went to Italy and got obsessed with these sexy, old Italian women – glamorous, with a demented edge,” says Gauntlett. “Arrogant, and feeling themselves, too.” With all the silky nakedness, flashes of fashion nipple and sex appeal that pervaded the show, one couldn’t help but get the feeling that no one was wearing underwear, even though they were dripping with diamante. More recently, AW16 saw the label graduate into utilitarian, soul-cycle chic – but don't worry, the nipple was once again nowhere unfree. VS
“Fucked-up glamour is always the look,” says self-proclaimed mall goth Eric Schlösberg, after admitting he’s been wearing nail polish and fishnets since the age of seven. “I have this innate interest in other people who don’t fit in and the way they choose to express themselves.” As one half of the design team behind the now-sadly discontinued, Lolita-tinged Ammerman Schlösberg, the designer’s aesthetic can best be described as James St James attending a funeral. “Marilyn Manson, Courtney Love and Brian Molko were my idols growing up – three people who also never seemed to fit the mould, but were uncompromising and glamorous in a fucked-up way that I will always love.” Pictured here with his boyfriend and his best friend – Logan Charap, a writer, and Amanda Pearson, a performance artist – Schlösberg cites his base in New York as the reason he wears and does whatever he wants. “I can walk down the street in crushed velvet bell bottoms and boots that weigh more than I do, with a giant fur coat on, fake blood and a feather boa, and no one will even look twice,” he says. For AW16, the designer launched his namesake label: a goth meets Ronald McDonald mash-up that told the story of a society girl's transformation into a punk. In Schlösberg’s own words: “batty and a little nuts.” AN
It’s incredibly difficult to Google Women’s History Museum without pulling up bizarre results of actual museums you probably visited on bleak primary school field trips. But Amanda McGowan and Rivkah Barringer’s brand is a museum of sorts – a historical reflection of female attitudes and oppression throughout time. “It’s clothing that caters to bodies, lives and identities that have been uncredited by fashion,” say the design duo of their collection of experimental, genderless garments. The pair met “at college while bonding over Etsy purchases” and soon after realised they wanted to create an all-inclusive label of deconstructed garments that would speak to the next generation of females. Unassuming materials like pelts and charred silk are assembled to create completely novel and exceptional pieces of wearable art for anyone that the pieces resonate with – such as Ser Serpas, an artist and student who uses her social media to discuss issues of political injustice and trans rights. Inspired by the aesthetics of “sex clowns throughout time”, the designers describe their work as “an ever-evolving multi-sensory project dedicated to femme identity and spirituality.” AN
“The Gogo babe is an empowered trans femme who indulges in conventional notions of feminine dress and doesn’t feel badly about it,” says Gogo Graham. She started her self-titled label in order to dress all the inspiring and powerful trans women around her, including Marx Blossom and Quay Dash. “I was drawn to Quay’s music before I met her,” she says of the fierce Bronx musician. “But the first time I saw her perform I watched in awe as this beautiful, powerful woman effortlessly delivered impassioned lines in stunning high-femme looks.” Graham’s SS16 collection, presented in the lobby of the Ace Hotel New York during fashion week, was in itself a love letter to trans sisterhood, a triumphant and empowering moment when everyone in attendance came together to celebrate the importance of every trans girl’s unique story, beauty and individuality. For AW16, the designer committed to delving deeper into trans issues and the darker aspects of transfeminine identity. In a powerful statement, she sent models drenched in blood down the runway. “It’s dangerous out there for trans women of colour, who often don’t have the luxury of dressing femininely in public without being accused of – or arrested for – soliciting sex. These girls are incarcerated and often thrown into men’s prisons where there is so much rape and violence inflicted upon them. It’s real, and yet some people think it’s all fun, games and positive attention for trans girls. It’s important for me to always be responsible for what I’m putting out there.” VS
“When I was a server at Applebee’s, my boss and I had a thing.” So reads one of the faux-confessional messages embroidered on Shan Huq’s SS16 collection, which was stitched with the uneasy signifiers of suburbia. Playing on the repetition that comes with pervasive nostalgia, the collection referenced “the 20s and 60s in the cuts and the 90s and 00s in the aesthetic”, says Huq. “The average suburban American life is something very close to me – I draw a lot from elementary school teachers and cheerleaders.” In addition to middle-American ennui, the on-the-rise designer – pictured here with models Yulu Serao and Ang Rand – was inspired by “80s Berlin and 90s Eurotrance, the gabber scene and Russia after the fall of the USSR”. Penned by writer Tyler Sayles, the clever, tender quips were the kind of poems made for peeling off a stick-’n’-poke tattoo. At the presentation, hosted at St Mark’s Church in Manhattan, the first thing that struck you was the soundtrack. Echoing from aisle to ceiling, the Michel Sayegh-curated mix blasted DeBarge’s “Rhythm of the Night” chopped with Olive Garden and acne treatment commercials, doubling down on the nostalgia of the collection. For AW16, the designer debuted a collection that was all sheer mesh and velour with strong references to Blitz Kids, Sofia Coppola in ‘The Godfather’ and Russian girl group t.A.T.u. AN
“Nautae is the woman that is our morphed reflection,” says designer Zoë Bleu. “We found her seed within the water and now we will nourish her so that she may evolve into anything and everything she desires.” The lovechild of aspiring artists Bleu, Darius Khonsary and Arielle Chiara, Nautae is a sensory project and fashion collective that explores the grotesque nature of the human body through the use of raw materials such as hair, silk, fur and latex. “These garments are literally an extension of the body,” says Khonsary of the SS16 collection. “They look like flesh, and in that way they are quite erotic.” When reproducing the bodily form through their garments, the designers will use authentic fur, but remain firm that recycling vintage fur causes less harm than the use of synthetics. “I study environmental and earth science, so these issues of ecological accountability are on my mind,” says Chiara. “People tend to ignore the devastating impact that the production of common synthetic fabric has in destroying ecosystems in which these animals live.” The trio’s watchwords for AW16 highlighted an even more twisted visions than their last collection. “Icicle sensual, glacial body, licking oyster, vinegar teeth, binding and suspending. She will be wet.” AN
After wearing private school uniforms for 14 years, stylist-turned-designer Patric DiCaprio of Vaquera knows the amount of controversy a single outfit can cause. “We’d have an out-of-uniform day once every two months and I would spend all my time planning what I could wear that would freak people out the most. I realised then the power that unique clothing could have over people.” Since graduating with a degree in photography, moving to New York and teaching himself to sew via YouTube cosplay tutorials, the southern boy from Alabama found himself working within a community of some of New York’s leading tastemakers, including the founders of DIS Magazine and stylist Avena Gallagher. “I learned more working with them than I did in my entire college career. They were interested in doing the seemingly impossible – like starting a clothing brand when you’re broke and can’t sew – and that is interesting work.” For SS16, DiCaprio showed at the Church of the Ascension in Greenwich Village. Attendees watched from dark wooden pews, observing clothes that mixed ren-fair romanticism, coquettish drama and a costume club’s love of puffy sleeves, voluminous bloomers and ruffled shirts. The last look, in a finale suited to the surroundings, saw DiCaprio’s boyfriend Tyler Sayles walk the aisle in a bridal gown. For AW16, Vaquera shut down NYFW with an anarchic show where models snogged strangers and put their cigarettes out in the audience’s drinks. As for the clothes, it was a case of Victorian and Pierrot elements turned autumnal: hand towels from the designer’s bathrooms made into tops and skirts, NYU Hospital’s baby blankets made into slips and embroidered texts that shouted “Raquel, take that fucking jacket off.” VS
Hair Wesley O'Meara at Honey Artists using AG Hair, make-up Kanako Takase at Tim Howard Management using M.A.C, photographic assistant Zoe Hoyi Yau, fashion assistants Ioana Ivan, Alexis Kanter, Olga Kiseleva, hair assistant Leeora Empire
Moses Gauntlett Cheng: David wears silk top Prada, knitted trousers and necklace David's own, shoes Fendi, earring Slim Barrett. Richie wears choker, sash, thong Moses Gauntlett Cheng, shoes Jimmy Choo. DeSe wears choker, cape, dress Moses Gauntlett Cheng, shoes Gianvito Rossi. Jenny wears knitted top 3.1 Phillip Lim, organza skirt Prada, swimsuit worn underneath Baserange, shoes Jimmy Choo, fabric ribbons worn around ankles Miu Miu, glass earring Slim Barrett. Esther wears mesh Comme des Garçons waistcoat from Rellik, organza shirt Prada, leggings 3.1 Phillip Lim, shoes Manolo Blahnik, glass earring Slim Barrett
Eric Schlösberg: Eric wears all clothes his own, choker Bond Hardware, fur bracelet Mordekai. Amanda wears fur coat Eric Schlösberg, body La Perla, checkerboard tights stylist's own, shoes, necklace Amanda's own. Logan wears mesh top and boots Logan's own, corset Sian Hoffman, trousers DROMe
Women’s History Museum: Rivkah wears shrug Women’s History Museum, cotton dress DKNY, printed skirt Found and Vision, shoes, socks, diamante belt worn as necklace Rivkah’s own, neck ruff National Theatre Costume Hire. Amanda wears shrug Women’s History Museum, knitted ruffle top worn back-to-front 3.1 Phillip Lim, striped Vivienne Westwood shirt from Veritas Couture, silk skirt Found and Vision, shoes Only Fools and Peacocks, hosiery Wolford. Ser wears all clothes Women’s History Museum, trainers, socks Ser’s own
Gogo Graham: Marx wears dress and jeans Gogo Graham, shoes Marx’s own. Gogo wears silk top Women's History Museum, printed corset Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini, knotted skirt AllSaints, gingham bikini Miu Miu, lace socks mytights.com, fishnet hold-ups Agent Provocateur, shoes worn underneath Manolo Blahnik, sunglasses stylist’s own, diamante belt worn as choker Contemporary Wardrobe. Quay wears silk dress Gogo Graham, knickers Hanro, shoes Quay’s own, tiara Slim Barrett
Shan Huq: Ang wears all clothes Shan Huq, trainers Nike, socks Falke. Yulu wears all clothes Shan Huq, trainers Diesel, socks Yulu's own. Shan wears gingham ruffle coat Miu Miu, bomber jacket Baracuta, cotton trousers Margaret Howell, trainers Nike, hat and glasses Shan's own
Nautae: Arielle wears leather sleeve 3.1 Phillip Lim, shearling dress Nautae, silk slip and shoes Arielle's own. Darius wears silk top 3.1 Phillip Lim, collar, asymmetrical fur dress, latex face mask worn around waist Nautae, trousers Paul Smith, shoes Darius's own, shell necklace worn as belt Pebble London, all other jewellery Darius's own. Zoe wears fur pelt Nautae, silk shirt 3.1 Phillip Lim, ruffle coat worn as skirt David Moses, ruffle trousers Dondup, shoes Zoe's own, shell necklaces worn as headpiece shell bracelet Pebble London, all other jewellery Zoe's own
Vaquera: Torraine wears cotton smocked dress and gloves Vaquera, shoes Sergio Rossi, parasol Stephen Jones, ribbons worn around ankles VV Rouleaux. Jake wears all clothes Vaquera, feathers worn in hair VV Rouleaux. Tyler wears all clothes Vaquera, clogs Bottega Veneta, marabou fan Costume Studio. Patric wears embroidered dress Gucci, arm cuffs National Theatre Costume Hire, trousers Vaquera, shoes Jessie Western, gloves Cornelia James, fan Costume Studio, socks Calzedonia
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