From LUAR putting NY’s ballroom scene on the runway to Maison the Faux’s novel take on body positivity, these labels prove the city’s fashion week isn’t all commercial
This season, the MADE New York crew killed it with their emerging talent showcase. They had no fewer than 22 labels showing at Milk Studios and The Standard, along with a creative partnership with Tumblr Fashion and a shop where you could buy items straight off the SS17 runway. They even found time to host Dev Hynes’ Freetown Sound merch pop-up, with all proceeds getting donated to homeless LGBTQ youth. For some designers, MADE represented an opportunity to make their New York Fashion Week debut, while for others it was something of a comeback and, in the case of one brand, the chance to hold an epic casting call for NYC’s top celebrity lookalikes to model their collection. Here were some of MADE New York’s SS17 highlights.
Ottolinger – the Swiss label of designers Christa Bosch and Cosima Gadient – have never been afraid to take a perfectly made item of clothing and destroy it. For AW16, their weapon of choice was lighter fluid, which they used to burn holes in beautifully tailored camel coats and white shirts. The message was about upcycling and constructing a collection from completely raw materials – with a side of floor length ponytails and entire rolls of packaging tape wrapped over every shoe.
Satin, shirting and nylon scraps were stitched together to create raw ruffles, asymmetrical hems and jagged edges, while one skirt appeared to have been fed through a paper shredder – what was left of it was tied around the model’s waist. With entire chunks missing from it, a once business-ready khaki blazer seemed to have been employed as a fabric swatch donor – these holes actually served as a peekaboo detail revealing the corporate blue shirt below. Off-kilter cinches, wrinkles and pintucks abounded throughout the collection, with disembodied shirt sleeves here, nude nylon pantyhose legging shreds there. What Ottolinger have done here with madcap, handcraft-intensive tailoring is a daring exercise in turning clothing factory trash into Frankensteinian treasure. To their credit, the clothes perfectly fit the models, with not a safety pin in sight.
After doing menswear for four seasons, Polish designers and high school sweethearts Natalia Maczek and Thomas Wirski decided to shift over to womenswear with a goal to revive female streetwear. For this collection, they aimed to create the clothes they lusted after in the 2000s. “It’s a look back at the year 2000 when I was in love for the first time,” said Wirski. “It’s us looking back at what girls in the discos were wearing – I think I would be in love with any of the girls in the show back then. This is our aesthetic, something that we know very well.”
Of this “millennium” aesthetic, a few things in the SS17 collection strike a personal chord of nostalgia – the drop-shadow, metallic, futuristic font slogan, iron-on iridescent rhinestones and the ultra-wide bottomed patchwork jeans with cargo pockets. “I remember girls wearing these really weird denim trousers that all the boys fantasised about,” recalled Wirski. “It was about the certain cut of these trousers, quite wide. Every cool girl in the class had them. They were like the coolest jeans.” “I’m really happy to say that we honestly still design for ourselves and our friends,” added Maczek. “I think that’s authentic and real. I’m not offended when people call our label streetwear, because I feel like that’s what fashion is all about right now. It’s about how people dress in the street.”
MAISON THE FAUX
Design team Joris Suk and Tessa de Boer are known for their guerrilla shows, flamboyant style and self-mocking approach to fashion. This season, Maison the Faux took “free the nipple” and body positivity to another level with an installation at Milk Studios that resembled a billowing bouncy castle, printed with a collage of cleavages and a hodgepodge of nudity. “It’s a Maison the Faux titty tent! A fat tent covered in tits and ass!” Suk said.
The voluptuous model enthroned upon this so-called “titty tent” (who held court with a bowl of tropical fruit and toy boobs) is who Suk dubbed the “Maison the Faux goddess”. “She has the chubby everyone wants to chase! She is holding the Garden of Eden in her hand, the forbidden fruit.” The collection itself was a whirlwind of DIY disco dress-up, featuring ripped seams, ravaged denim, supersized suits, oversized silk satin shirts and ill-fitting trousers – all adhered to each model’s body with parcel tape or laced up with string – is about never having enough. “It’s about limitlessness, going overboard and letting yourself be free, giving into excessiveness and the never-ending desire for what you really want,” de Boer explains. “It doesn’t matter what size you are, if you are an XXL and you want to wear XS – do it!”
At Barragán, a strong man in silver hoops and lucite heels toiled away with a large styrofoam boulder, rolling it up a sloped platform before letting it roll back down, at which point it sometimes knocked into members of the audience. A scantily clad group of models took to the runway, accessorised with rock-textured handbags, crimped sections of hair, smeared red make-up, thin gold circle chain mail and tufts of moss worn as ear cuffs. This was glamour on a very different level to the highs of NYFW – with a 70s Star Trek, civilization-on-a-budget quality to it. Barragán (once called Ytinifninfinity) is a label by Victor Barragán, who was inspired by the ubiquitous quality of everyday workwear, incorporating Dickies and familiar signatures. In a nod to the label’s previous graphic t-shirt designs and his favourite 90s TV show, Victor included a logo t-shirt emblazoned ‘L.E.S.B.I.A.N.’ in the Friends logo. “They were always making fun of gay people on that show, and back then my friends and I never even noticed!”
Ruben Gutierrez, who designed the set and the jewellery pieces, is Victor’s producer and full-time collaborator. “We wanted the show to be a parody of a runway, instead of having the models just walking or standing still. We wanted them to interact, and for the set to interact with the audience.” The most obvious metaphor for the rock comes from the myth of Sisyphus, who is cursed eternally to push a rock up a hill in hell, only have it roll back down every time. However, it wasn’t their intention to be as heavy-handed as that. “It’s very lacy workwear. It plays off having the models struggle, to show and parody a little bit the utility of the clothes,” adds Gutierrez. Some of his jewellery, worn as neck cuffs and earrings, were cast in bronze and designed after sex toys: a dildo, anal beads, and a cock ring. “I like that kind of double play where you understand it as a sex object, but when it’s on the model it plays into the rest of the clothes and brings out the hardware and workwear elements in a delicate way.”
Raul Lopez launched his menswear career as one of the co-founders of Hood By Air, which he left to start his own line – previously known as Luar Zepol. This season, Lopez re-launched his label LUAR at the Highline Ballroom with voguing models parading up and down a riotous room of friends and fans. It was an appropriately named venue, as his SS17 offering was all about bringing ballroom culture to the runway. “The kids that walked the show – they’re all from the ballroom scene. I wanted to bring the culture that I grew up with, from when I was a kid going to Christopher Street and going to balls. Before I knew anything, I knew about fashion and balls.”
Known for his utili-goth, dystopian designs, Lopez’s re-emerged embracing a renewed techno-lust and appreciation for femininity in clothes. “Tech glam” zippered trenches, mini utility shorts and even an iPhone holder wrap belt were styled with sensuous ruched wrap skirts, ruffled sleeves and back-baring tops, clinging to the curves of the divine bodies catwalking and pulling elegant shapes. “I took a hiatus for two seasons and just used that time to get myself together,” says Lopez. “I felt like a caterpillar. I put myself in this cocoon and locked myself up to create the LUAR man and woman, and added the new feminine aspect. But I’ve always been a tech queen!”