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Fashion   Sep 16, 2017

New York Fashion Week S/S'18 Recap

By Marcus Cuffie

CALVIN KLEIN

Raf Simons second outing as creativer officer for Calvin Klein proved a more cohesive and visceral affair than his debut. The collection begins with silk variations on workwear inspired looks that Simons showed last season, the familiar ends there as things takes a darker turn. Prints from Andy Warhol appear (Warhol’s work can also be seen in the first campaign images Simons released last season before his first collection), these are not soup cans but images of car crashes and electric chairs printed on tees, jackets, and jeans. 

Pieces made with the intervention of Sterling Ruby (American artist and close friend/collaborator of Simons) bring to mind degradation and vandalism, a violence against old structures and a radicalism that recalls Raf Simons early work at his namesake brand. Horror is also a point of reference (A blood red and black spray painted leather trench would be fitting for Jason Voorhes), the middle of the collection brings in latex in a move that feels like a nod to America Psycho, formal and sterile to the point of being sinister. Simons focus on tailoring in this collection has a sterility and classicism that is twisted by the graphic and material decisions he’s made.  As an outsider looking in (Raf’s recently planted himself in New York in order to lead the brand) Simons view on America present us familiar images through a new set of eyes. Raf has always used subculture and history as a playground for his designs, but with his use of America and it’s icons as reference Simons raises the stakes and his designs show a maturity to match.  This is a statement about America and it’s extremes, that it can inspire and repulse at the same time. One wonders how long Raf can mine Americana for inspiration, but as history has shown there will be no lack of conflict (and revolution) to inspire him.

HELMUT LANG

The “return” of Helmut Lang, with Shayne Olivers collection for the newly rebranded house (Helmut Lang appointed Dazed editor Isabella Burley as Editor in Residence to refresh the brands image earlier this year) was for many the most anticipated show of the season. While many a house in fashion swaps its designer or brings in an unknown to varying levels of success, the combination of Helmut and Shayne feels just right. Many of the qualities that excite people about Oliver (and his currently on hiatus brand Hood By Air) are the same ones that made Helmut Lang the tremendous influence he is on the industry today . Using friends of the brand alongside agency models, showing men’s and women’s collections at the same time, using sex and utility in their designs, these are decisions both Helmut and Shayne have made standards of their work. The collection should not disappoint those who are fans of Olivers designs and know the history of the Helmut Lang brand, there was what many love about the designer and more in this collection.

Starting with the fourth look we are presented with a male model in a suit jacket, skirt and skinny suit paint, with a leather bra to top things off. Oliver does not shy away from playing around with codes of masculinity and femininity, at Hood By Air he pioneered and aggressively sexual yet ungendered style of dress. This is not simply showing men and womens clothing together, but showing that mens and womens clothing can be worn together on one body, and that the divisions we place between them can be slashed and rearranged. There were outright nods to Helmut such as branded bags and shirts (and the use of Lang muses in the cast including Kirsten Owen, Missy Rayder, and Jake Boyd), but the subtler nods to his designs and their focus on multi use (the aforementioned Bra also turns into a bag when zipped up)  felt stronger and more distinct to Oliver’s point of view. Shayne’s designs represent for many a way of feeling and dressing that is unique to their own presentation and identity and his collection for Helmut Lang lost none of it’s personality while respecting the legacy of a designer that for many made New York fashion what it is today. While the brand has chosen to remain vague on Shayne’s continued presence (his collaboration is seen as one of many with various artists,designers, and creatives), wherever his path leads is one fashion and his dedicated fan base will closely follow.

 

ECKHAUS LATTA

As a satin black suit rounds the corners of the Bushwick warehouse that served as the showspace for Eckhaus Latta’s Spring 18 presentation, there was a seriousness and maturity that felt fresh and exciting (something not often said about a suit). Eckhaus Latta has revitalized New York design with a crafty and materially honest take on fashion. Eckhaus Latta functions as a bi-coastal brand with Zoe Latta being based in Los Angeles, and Mike Eckhaus working out of New York, designed separate from each other one can see a clashing of intentions in the designs of the brand. The clothing feels like a synthesis of what is best about both coast, there is an intellectual rigor to their designs that works alongside a kind of kookiness and naivety. The collection showcased a variety of techniques and ideas, and in 41 looks its apparent how much the brand has grown since its outset six years ago. There were a variety of knits made into sweaters, shirts and dresses (Eckhaus’ knits have their own fanbase) which feel familiar and are at the core the duo’s designs. 

The suit that opened the show was met with other more tailored pieces that are new to the brands language, and you could feel that the designers have a grasp on what they do well and are starting to show us how much more they have in their skillset. It was not just the piece themselves but also the way in which they were worn that felt diverse. Eckhaus has always shied away from industry standards in regards to weight and height and this show continued that tradition, models of all sizes and ages walked the collection and clothing did not feel restricted by gender (the brand has upheld unisex as a standard since its founding). For those in attendance there was a real sense of coming together, the collection spoke to the crowd and the needs they share. Each face in the audience could find something that fit them and as the brand has grown the language of their designs has become more established, between wearers and fans of the brand there seems to be a secret code. Looking around the show and its after party (a small reception held in the backyard of the space) almost everyone seemed to be wearing a piece from the brand, and no one person wore the same thing in the same way.

TELFAR

For those in the know Telfar has always felt like the underdog of the New York underground. Hopefully his nomination for the CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund will change that reputation. For his SS 18 showing, the designer held an intimate dinner on the roof of Hotel Americano in Chelsea. The designer and 20 muses (featuring singer Kelela, DJ Total Freedom, cellist Kelsey Lu, among others) sat alongside a collection of critics and fashion figures, the fervor of a fashion show was placed with the space of a dinner between friends. The clothing worn by the models (and shown in a lookbook the next day) are a greatest hits collection for the brand. In a moment in which the brand faces increased attention Telfar chose to dig in the archives. The brand finds its greatest success when it flips codes of sportswear and workwear on their head.  Staples of the brand such as off shoulder tanks, jeans with curved cutouts at the knees, and striped polo bibs (a cheeky take on schoolwear) appeared here in a unified color palette of beige, white, red and blue.

While looking over the collection one realizes in these past designs how much is owed to the identity of design in New York today to the brand. Telfar (Like HBA and Eckhaus Latta) stands as a pillar for the new guard of smart fashion in New York, and while the brand has not found as much crossover success as it’s peers, critics, designers, and creatives always name it a favorite. The brands recent collaboration with White Castle (Telfar has designed a unisex uniform for employees of the burger chain) serve as a strong counterpart to the pieces shown during NYFW and reveal the genius of Telfars view on clothing. Uniform or ready to wear Telfar’s designs expand an understanding of the purpose of clothing, and his focus has never felt sharper when one sees his ability to work in these two disparate markets. Here’s hoping that a New York favorite finds his time in the limelight when the winners are announced later this year.