The New New York: Presenting Four NYFW Brands Doing Things Differently
The landscape of New York Fashion Week is evolving. The scene has shifted from the times written about in Tina Brown’s autobiographical The Vanity Fair Diaries, captured in Sex and The City or parodied in Brett Easton Ellis’ Glamorama. Tradition remains with the glossy old guard still punctuating the schedule, but in the mix is a new generation of designers doing things against the grain and shaking up the scene. Whether it’s taking a more inclusive approach to casting or focusing on sustainability, there’s a progressively pervasive spirit of togetherness, collaboration, experimentation and change, which might be more typically associated with showing in perhaps London or Paris rather than the Big Apple. While names like Area, Pyer Moss and Maryam Nassir Zadeh are already the headliners of the NYFW schedule, we bring you the four exciting brands you should highlight in your diary.
The mysterious collective Section 8 first burst on to our radar with their debut collection shown at the David Lewis Gallery in New York’s Chinatown in February 2017. Memorably, models took to the catwalk with the tail end of fish (reportedly all procured from an aquarium on the Lower East Side) coming out of their mouths, wearing politically and culturally-charged clothes that put a club-y twist on classic office wear. Following their first season, Section 8 headed across the Atlantic to showcase their sophomore AW18 collection in the courtyard of the Parisian church Cloitre Des Billettes. For their next show, they’re heading back stateside and teaming up with fellow emerging brands Vaquera and CDLM/ Creatures of The Wind to share a slot on the schedule as they stage a triple bill show on September 9th. A cleverly collaborative and pragmatic solution to showcasing their collections at an unrealistic cost of a fashion show.
Section 8 is all about rethinking fashion, not only in their approach to design but critically confronting the system and wider cultural conversations. With guerrilla approach to comms, Instagram and word of mouth form their primary channels of communication. The collective is anonymous, although Justin Neely, Gert Naida, and HBA stylist Akeem Smith have all acted as spokespeople, with Landlord’s Ryohei Kawanishi named as one of the co-designers. Why anonymous? Wary of what attention can do following the election of Trump, they simply don’t want it. The collective’s name itself is taken from the US government’s low-income housing system Section 8 of the Housing Act of 1937, which has come under fire and rests in a precarious position under the federal budget cuts of the Trump administration. Despite their continual engagement and exploration of “uncomfortable” socio-political issues, Section 8’s clothes themselves are contemporarily provocative yet intentionally wearable. Solange and Lauryn Hill have both donned their pieces for performances and Pamela Anderson has worn some too. Enough said.
Although Becca McCharen-Tran has relocated from the big apple to Miami earlier in the year, Chromat remains an excitingly fresh fixture on the New York Fashion Week schedule. Chromat’s shows have continually championed diverse casting, not only in terms of race but also gender, body type and ability, which is unparalleled with on-schedule shows, not only in New York but across all fashion weeks. Celebrating the body and advocating positivity, inclusivity is at the fore and McCharen-Tran is genuinely creating clothes for everybody.
McCharen-Tran launched the brand in 2010 and first caught our attention as a CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund Finalist in 2015. Despite training in architectural design, she began creating tech-savvy performative pieces that quickly became a firm favourite for stage wear of pop stars including FKA Twigs, Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj and Madonna. Since 2016, in reaction to successful sales, Chromat’s focus has shifted from fashion onto swimwear. Climate change and global warming inspired her AW19 collection, taking into further consideration the materials she uses to create her swim, beach and bodywear. Already using Lycra created from old fishing nets and post-consumer plastic bottles and biologically-based TPU, also began using deadstock materials. With a focus on cutting-edge fabrications and often collaborating with scientists, Chromat’s pieces are all made in safe, ethical, fair-wage factories in NYC and Sofia, Bulgaria. What have they got in store for SS20? You’ll have to wait until September 7th to find out.
Photographs by Jason Lloyd-Evans
Batsheva Hay designs the dresses that you could have only dreamed of wearing whilst growing up. Since 2016, Hay’s namesake brand has been creating some of the most unapologetically girlish and fun frocks for both children and adults. Having originally trained as a lawyer, she began making dresses for herself following the birth of her children after a pattern of an old Laura Ashley dress. She would trawl eBay for materials using a mix of cotton, calico and even upholstery fabrics, often in twee prints and ditsy florals. Quickly, her friends and people of the streets of New York started complimenting her on her dresses and she started putting them into production. What started as a hobby has bloomed into a brand stocked internationally and worn by countless celebrities including Natalie Portman, Erykah Badu, Elle Fanning and Florence Welch.
Now creating four collections a year, Hay still designs with herself in mind while using limited-edition runs of cotton and vintage fabrics. However, she is also taking into account different body types, as well as pieces that can be styled into outfits for those who are perhaps not quite ready to go full-blown Pollyanna. Batsheva’s collections are continually inspired by an amalgamation of sources including Laura Ashley’s archive, the conservative dress of contemporary Orthodox women in NYC, all-American prairie girls, “kinderwhore” à la Courtney Love and photographs from Cindy Sherman’s 1970s Untitled Film Stills series. This coming season, Batsheva will be showing on schedule as part of the the final day of New York Fashion Week (September 11th) in the atrium of New York Law School.
Photographs Alexi Hay
PUPPETS & PUPPETS
“After working together for a few years in the studio on sculptures and videos, we decided to venture into fashion,” explain Carly Mark and Ayla Argentina, the minds behind Puppets and Puppets. “We were drawn to the storytelling aspect of it. We also love the way a garment moves on and with a body. It’s a beautiful physicality.” Puppets & Puppets it the ultra-arty, exciting brainchild of New York-based multimedia artist Mark and fashion designer Argentina. Their shared interests include: sculptural construction, classic storytelling and character play. Continuing and evolving her practice, Mark’s art was brought into wearable, body-based life with Argentina’s expertise in both garment construction and costume, with a large helping of non-traditional styling. “Progress, sustainability, and an aesthetic bacchanal,” they say of their ethos. “Fashion should always be enjoyed.”
Puppets and Puppets’ debut show captured at once the essence of the downtown New York art scene in tandem with the love of dressing up. The clothes themselves were an intentionally tongue-in-cheek cacophony of prints, patterns and textures with shoes viscerally cast in resin blocks. Their AW19 collection was inspired by clowning, dualism and mutation, as well as the archive of the Japanese designer Kansai Yamamoto and the 1980s-defining fashions of Claude Montana. Showcased in a high-energy presentation in a brownstone, their looks were worn by a mix of the most exciting models (also the pairs’ friends) including Richie Shazam, Lili Sumner, Jane Moseley and Ruby Aldridge. For SS20, Puppets and Puppets will be taking over the neo-Renaissance Prince George Ballroom in Koreatown on September 8th. What can we expect from the upcoming second season? “A new storyline, exciting silhouettes, more fantasy.” CAN’T. WAIT.