Reality Bites at New York Fashion Week, Alongside a Lot of Fantasy

New York Men’s Day

New York Men’s Day continued its mission to highlight the future of menswear. Several designers stood out in particular, namely Chelsea Grays, STAN, and Timo Weiland.

Chelsea Grays’ collection was an homage to 2020 with references to police brutality, protesting, coronavirus, and voting. There was a rugged, dystopian approach to the clothing—Mad Max: Fury Road meets high fashion streetwear.

Designer Tristan Detwiler of STAN created a genderless collection based around quilting. Detwiler, who is a member of The Bumann Quilting group, an organization dedicated to the art of preserving quilting, created maximalist pattern garments that were ripe with the history of generations of quilters.

Timo Weiland created an aesthetic of polished leisure fit for a Zoom call, but still comfortable for home. While some might think any reason to dress up is lost, Weiland reminded us that formality has just taken a new approach. Kristopher Fraser

The Black Design Collective

The Black Design Collective, founded in 2018 to promote and support the work of Black designers in America, joined forces with the Council of Fashion Designers of America for a New York Fashion Week virtual event to help propel the careers of emerging Black designers. The designers spotlighted this season included Asia Hall of Neon Cowboys, Byron Earnest Lars of In Earnest, Geoff Duran, Marrisa Wilson, and Okera Banks of OTG Essentials.

Neon Cowboys was an ode to the future of the intersection of fashion and technology. The brand quite literally specializes in western glowing apparel and accessories. Their space-age take on western style was arguably unprecedented and transcended far beyond your run-of-the-mill cowboy boots or point collar with flap breast pocket shirt. As we as spectators ponder how will technology and fashion merge in the future, Neon Cowboys appears to have some answers.

In Earnest took an innovative approach with an Afro-Victorian mashup. While African and Victorian inspiration might seem like strange bedfellows, Lars prides his collections on two things that are prominent in both cultures, texture, and pattern. A major statement piece in the collection was an embellished varsity jacket with colorful trims that was inspired by Masai warriors. The jacket itself almost looked like a living jewel and spoke to Lars’ craftsmanship as a designer.

Geoff Duran gave us a new spin on minimalism by reinventing the white mandarin collar sports shirt in as many ways as possible from mismatching-colored cuffs to pleating. The idea was to deformalize a piece that is traditionally seen as uniform to present it to a new era of the modern man.

Marrisa Wilson found inspiration in something she knows best, the journey of being both Black and female. Wilson was also equally inspired by the Harlem Renaissance, and this and other social movements are still relevant today. Wilson’s collection showcased the livelihood, spirit, and freedom of Black creativity through bold colors, color blocking, and fabrics that were easy to move in.

OTG Essentials’ color palette included green and yellow—colors of optimism in anticipation of a better tomorrow. KF

Anna Sui

Anna Sui is usually one of the most dependable designers on the fashion week calendar—pre-pandemic, her shows would start on time (or very close to it) and were always held in Spring Studios (not some far-out warehouse). So it makes sense that in this unpredictable reality, Sui would keep calm, carry on, and inject some much-needed escapism into her fall collection.

According to Sui’s notes, this season’s looks are inspired by that eventual, slow-coming “‘black-and-white to color’ moment” when the pandemic ends. “The limbo that we are living in will turn psychedelic, exuberant with color and pattern—it’s going to be Phantasmadelic!”

Soon we will join the part on the other side.

Anna Sui

Maybe not, but it’s fun to imagine. Sui’s lineup, inspired by the 1968 swinging sixties Jane Birkin vehicle Wonderwall, featured a video of models seen through a peephole, as if we’re voyeuristically watching our future. “Soon we will join the part on the other side,” Sui’s notes read. The vision is pure acid and very punchy. Sui mixed her vintage sensibilities with nods to Gen Z TikTok wear (see: cow print, bicycle shorts, bucket hats, and knitwear galore). One recurring color, used on pants, a paisley dress, and a puffer vest, is emerald.

It’s rich and very promising, a perfect visual reminder of the better days to (eventually, hopefully) come. Alaina Demopoulos

Badgley Mischka

Embracing the moment—which has become a compulsory lifestyle “choice” for everyone—means that fashion designers have turned the online fashion show platform into a cornucopia of creative delights, moving far beyond what would be possible in a traditional runway show.

Badgley Mischka, a brand known for its sumptuous gowns and enveloping sense of luxury, created a gorgeously moody mini-film to showcase its newest opulent collection. The film exudes a sense of déjà vu, blending memory together with the present moment and giving visual texture to the sense of vague longing that is so pervasive these days.

Evoking a nostalgic time long past, models sashayed around a Gatsby-worthy interior, while donning glittering gowns with furs, shimmering satins, glamorous lamé woven catsuits, and bedazzled stilettos. The design brand said this collection was about “celebrating events big and small, from postponed weddings to a cozy ski vacation to meeting up with friends you haven’t seen since 2019. This collection provides a platform for us all to make the memories we have been missing, and to do it with effortless glamor.” Sarah Shears