I got a message in my inbox the other day with a subject line notifying me that I’d been invited to an exclusive Vogue event in the middle of fashion week. When I excitedly clicked on the ‘get your passes’ button, I was rerouted to a payment page – for just $3000, I could have front row access to the magazine’s events as well as entry to their private lounge. LOL.
My ‘invitation’ was a reminder of how far Fashion Week still has to go – in terms of accessibility, in terms of doing things for others rather than itself, and especially, in terms of getting the word out that the industry is actually trying to be better. The good news is that it is trying to be better – the number of designers working for positive change in the industry is growing, and NYFW’s SS/23 lineup features some really exciting ones. In chronological showing order, here’s who we’ve got our eyes on this year.
After a two year COVID hiatus dapperQ returns to the Brooklyn Museum for its 7th year, Thursday September 8th, kicking off fashion week with what it calls NYFW’s largest queer style event. Open to the public, the show is a celebration of queer talent in Brooklyn, with a new lineup that includes Hesta, FreeMen by Mickey, DEVONATION, THÙY Custom Clothier, Transguy Supply, Stuzo Clothing, LLESSUR NYC and LANDEROS NEW YORK. But a standard runway show this is not – the event also features a happy hour hosted by NYC’s longest-standing queer women’s bar Henrietta Hudson, mini pop-up shops and vendor booths from the featured designers, and live music from dapperQ’s resident DJ, M.O, who will be spinning well into the after party. The festivities promise a return to dapperQ’s celebrations of ungendered fashion and sustainable innovation leading the positive changes in the industry.
Our endless fascination with Mia Vesper is likely due to the designer’s aptitude for reinventing her brand. While it stays true to its unmistakable glam aesthetic, each collection breaks new ground and pushes the boundaries of Mia’s creativity. It’s almost like she’s a fabric whisperer, on another plane from the rest of us, where she confers with vintage velvet curtains, glittery plissés, and deadstock faux croc to find out how they can live their best lives back on Earth. Sadly (not really though) this theory got dismantled when she added accessories to her repertoire, proving that her talent goes beyond a knack for textiles – the jewel tones synonymous with her clothes have found a place in, well, jewels, and we can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.
Puppets & Puppets
Puppets & Puppets (PNP for short) founder Carly Mark got her start in fashion by making costumes for videos and shows, and launched her own label in 2019. The designer’s previous success in the fine arts sphere comes through in the mixed and matched collections, of which there are now six. The clothes are made from both new and preloved yarns (all made from recycled and organic contents), and incorporate sculptural elements, including some much discussed cheese-wedge heels and a dress with plates atop boobs. Playful might be the operative word here, or maybe just straight up FUN, but whatever it is, we are so into it.
Rentrayage takes its name from the French ‘to make whole again’ – appropriate since the collection is comprised entirely of old clothes, vintage fabrics and dead stock. But very much in the vein of modern couture. Handcrafted in New York and Brooklyn, the upcycle venture represents more than just the power of stitching things back together – it lays the groundwork for thinking about how to make things in innovative ways. Founder Erin Beatty describes her creative process like this: “it’s looking at a garment and feeling whatever its energy is and finding out what it needs to become in order to remain interesting”. Switch out ‘garment’ for ‘fashion at large’ and we think there just might be a future for the industry, with labels like Beatty’s leading the way.
Locally made, ethically made, and gender fluid – these are a few of our favorite things, so obviously MELKE is a must see for No Kill. What really gets us though is founder Emma’s perspective on what sustainability actually is. For her, it’s a multi-pronged practice that needs to pay attention to economic, social and environmental sustainability. An understanding that true sustainability is working in harmony with the planet, and that includes both the material it provides and the people inhabiting it. So while we LOVE brands that are focused on using non-toxic materials and natural dyes (MELKE does this too btw), we admire the way that the label stands up for the humans, and especially the women, making our clothes. The practice is all about valuing and uplifting the workforce – what Emma rightly calls “the beating heart of the apparel industry”.
Ukrainian born Svitlana Bevza unveiled her fall collection at NYFW back in February. A month later, she was a refugee, living in a spare room in the Czech Republic with her two young kids while her husband stayed behind to fight. In the true spirit of resilience and determination, Bevza restructured her eponymous label while her life unraveled – all the while sticking to her sustainability guns. The new collection will hit the catwalk next week, where we expect her trademark elegant silhouettes, sharp tailoring, and responsibly sourced fabric will be on show. What we’re really psyched for, though, is her other signature style move – her willingness to confront problematic and uncomfortable realities of the world through her work.
When Uruguayan designer Gabriela Hearst launched her namesake label in 2015, she wanted to create a brand that reflected a slower pace and process – where things are made with care and to last, where tradition is more important than trend, where every piece has both a purpose and a story. The materials are ever evolving (we could, and probably will, write a whole article on her innovative fabric practices), and the company works with Manos del Uruguay, a non-profit women’s cooperative that empowers Uruguayan women who are in charge of the label’s hand-knits – which are sourced from her family’s sixth-generation merino wool farm. Oh and did we mention she’s just a phenomenal person? Her humanitarian work rivals her sustainability initiatives, and she’s endlessly fusing the two together when she does things like donate the proceeds from her carbon neutral runway shows to families affected by climate change. Talk about fashion for a cause.
SNOW XUE GAO
Parsons graduate and LVMH Prize nominee Snow Xue Gao opened her flagship store in the Bowery earlier this summer. We stopped by and we wanted – well – everything. The locally crafted designs feature vibrant, lush fabrics artfully draped into imaginative blazers, tops and dresses. These clothes are in a category all their own – you’d have a hard time finding a definitive word to describe them, and that’s likely because of the duality that is at the core of Snow’s aesthetic. Having grown up in Beijing and come of age in New York, her collections are an eclectic and unlikely meeting point of masculine and feminine, East and West, and perhaps most notably, elegance and funk. Selfishly, we’re insanely glad that she settled in New York – her collections bring a new dimension to the design scene and we get to be here for it.