Plus introducing Helena Eisenhart and see the quirky world of Melke
While all fashion presentations strive to be unique, it’s safe to say that Winter Babylonia was the most daring. Staged in a tiny gallery on the Lower East Side she had twin sisters pole dancing in two of her ballgowns–and then stripping them off to reveal two other designs. Other pieces were hung as installations in the gallery while the walls had photographs of the rest of the collection…or at least I think they did.
The place was literally packed and people were spilling out onto the sidewalk. (the weather so nice you could be forgiven for thinking it was September, not February) Among all the show goers were several who had been dressed by Tara in her designs from last season that had the same techniques and eco-friendly fabrics of her current collection. And those who weren’t were more often in thrifted ensembles of their own making as opposed to designer gear.
The result was that the entire event encapsulated the Tara Babylon vibe: it was loud, raucous and lively –and very very stylish.
I don’t want to forget to talk about the actual clothes because their energy matched that of the presentation. Inspired by styles worn by the Clash and other Brit punks of the ‘70s Tara took old concert t-shirts and upcycled them into ball gowns and other garments. She also designed prints with flames and flowers. These prints were also incorporated into the iconic carpet coat, with carpet textiles sourced from artisans in South Asia who use ancient weaving techniques. In continuation of Tara’s mission to bring sustainability to luxury fashion, all carpet textiles were woven with sustainable wool and eco-friendly dyes. Tara continues to bring her own creative twist to sustainable fashion.
One of the more radical shows this season was by the recent winner of the CFDA Emerging Designer Award, Elena Velez. Hailing from Wisconsin (neighbor to my Minnesota) Elena’s inspiration is ‘fly-over country’. What the coastal elites call everything in between. But if this makes you think of fleece jackets and khakis with stretch than think again.
“The collection was inspired by tropes of characters of bygone Americana, wasteland heroines, women who are building a legacy in a place of impermanence, prairie wives, lot lizards, trucker culture — things that are deemed unglamorous by cosmopolitan standards and refracting them into a way that feels new and fresh.”
The women on the runway seemed angry and aggressive and definitely ready to fight. Or perhaps just leaving a fight –judging by the look of the garments. Elements such as raw hems, asymmetry and uneven cut-outs could be read as rips in the fabric. And perhaps the tears in our society is what Velez is referring to – that middle America, both geographically and economically has been hollowed out by extreme income inequality coupled with a massive opioid crisis.
This translated into an edgy collection created from basic materials such as canvas, cotton and linen. A mix of workwear fabrics transformed into battle gear for glamazons. Whether her clothes appeal to you or not, Elena Velez offers a fresh and specifically female perspective in fashion that should be welcomed.
Brooklyn-based queer designer Helena Eisenhart made their NYFW debut with a unisex collection that that deconstructs traditional uniforms and dress codes. Held in a theater space so small that the show ran twice to allow for two audiences, the chain link fence backdrop along with an old printer repeatedly printing out papers that fell to the floor unattended created a post-apolcalyptic feel ala Blade Runner.
This worked well with the collection that was predominantly black and shades of gray with the occasional thigh high silver boot thrown into the mix. Despite the somber color the clothes held visual interest by Eisenhart’s construction. Of particular note is the knots used as a motif as a way to close a jacket or to show skin on otherwise modest cut shorts.
About their inspiration Eisenhart said:
“As a queer, mixed race person living in New York City, I often feel both isolated and celebrated at the same time. Uniforms and dress codes have been a big inspiration for my work since it is a clear way to share multiple identities through manners of dressing. It’s both a way to blend in and to show power and distinction. To dress according to a code, can also mean, to dress in disguise.”
We look forward to seeing more from this thoughtful designer.
Melke’s SS23 collection was based on the surrealist 1966 Czech film Daisies. The success of it might account for designer Emma Gage looking once again to the silver screen for inspiration as she prepared for her runway debut this season. For FW23, Peaches and Pests took its visual cues from Tim Burton’s production of the Roald Dahl classic James and the Giant Peach. The 27 look collection was interspersed with embellishments of chaotic fantasy, whether that was hand-embroidered rodents woven into chunky merino wool sweaters, or a bikini top crafted entirely from peaches.
Literal interpretations like this sometimes run the risk of being too conceptual – more art than fashion. Gage has avoided this possibility by embracing it. Her skillful execution of the quirky gives way to a playful collection that is avant-garde and nostalgic all at once.