No one could fault the latest crop of designer showing, in New York, for effort. In a busy Monday, the first full day of New York Fashion Week, with almost 30 collections, their arty videos and polished ideas were a welcome reminder of how hard many talented people have been working during the endless pandemic.
A day that was much an ode to New York; to designer pride in living in the city and to respect for the very dreams that attracted people to the metropolis, as it was to fashion. With one key message – the explosion in volume, with body-conscious clothing banished, and not a skinny jean in sight.
A. Potts Fall/Winter 2021 – A. Potts
Nowhere was volume so evident than at A. Potts, by Aaron Potts, a son of Detroit from a working class family from the south. A Parsons School graduate, who has managed to pack in stints with Marc Jacobs, Donna Karan, Emanuel Ungaro and Victoria’s Secret.
If his resume is eclectic, his mini show video was focused; with a cast of handsome dancers emoting proudly inside a 14th Street loft. Majestic priestly cloaks; giant blotched check mohair coats; massive loon pants and oversized judo jackets. Made in great hues of bitter yellow, muddy orange and brownish anthracite.
Somehow doing exactly what fashion is meant to do; making some sense of our collectively nervous moment by virtue of the exaggerated forms of these clothes.
Chelsea Grays Fall/Winter 2021 – Chelsea Grays
The day’s most arresting collection was ‘Homage 2020’ by Chelsea Grays, an American who lives in Paris and designs menswear. Seen on a dashing gang of hipsters marching about the city, the clothes were a mashup of abstract expressionist splotch print shirts and tops; funky kilts; asymmetrical men’s skorts; chopped up tweed hacking jackets; patchwork hobo dresses and dense check jodhpurs. One needs chutzpah and nerve to wear these clothes, but isn’t everyone in New York blessed with those two traits?
Chocheng Fall/Winter 2021 – Chocheng
One brand that looks like it knows what it is doing is Chocheng, by designer Cho Cho Cheng, whose video captured what’s best about this designer: plausible, pristine and rather posh ensembles in well-chosen colors and fabrics.
Flared lapel coats; ruffle-topped blouses; accordion pleat finishes to blouses and calico frocks; snugly cut professional blazers. Anchored by lots of accomplished tailoring, underlining how much Cheng had picked up in her apprenticeship in Savile Row, after studies at Parsons School of Design.
Finished with coolie hats or inverted lampshades toppers and made in lots of red; happily more sinful Valentino that Chinese New Year.
Red-cheeked models with chignons, mainly of Asia origin, marching around a fab Gene Kelly musical worthy set, to spacey synth music. Nothing terrible revolutionary, but nonetheless a highly composed and coherent collection.
Victor Li Fall/Winter 2021 – Victor Li
The best thing about this co-ed collection were the great fabrics. Wonderful composite prints of Western heroes; hyper-sized Yankee dollar-bill looks; vintage postcard imagery in classy blazers; perfectly acid-dyed jeans; graphic photo-montage perforated jerkins.
Even the jagged checks used in boyfriend’s overcoats were excellent. All shown in barely two minutes. In a word, a bravura display from yet another Parson School graduate. And, a lesson that less is more in a video can be perfect for more is more materials.
Private Policy Fall/Winter 2021 – Private Policy
By any standards this was an obtuse way to make a point. The actual collection by Private Policy was made up of lots of oversized tailoring and sportswear – referencing Balenciaga shapes without any of the power and panache.
The show blurb, however, explained that this was meant to be about the “hidden history” of 1800s Chinese transcontinental railroad workers and acknowledging the xenophobic feelings of the era.
The collection was actually entitled ‘We Remember You, Tales of Ghost Mountain’. But, there was precious little of that idea in the actual video. Mainly composed of giddy models pirouetting around New York lofts and streets.
Snow Xue Gao
Moody momenta in empty studios with high-rise views of old office buildings, were an odd choice of backdrop for this rather saccharine selection of fashion, and awkwardly complicated undergraduate tailoring.
Adeam Fall/Winter 2021 – Adeam
A purist vision of romantic fashion from Adeam, by designer Hanako Maeda of Japan. From courtly dresses with leg of mutton sleeves; to artfully cut-out shirts in men’s materials. Inspired by an exhibition of six contemporary Japanese artists in the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo.
Showed in an airy space to a wonderful, big ballad soundtrack. An insouciant use of volume and primary colors worn on a cast that clearly loved the clothes. Flattering fashion and all the better for it by Maeda; truly a new star to add to the great tradition of modernist Japanese fashion.
The designer’s recollection of his family trips to enjoy bagels in Zabars in his youth – told nostalgically by Carter himself – captured the spirit of this collection of subtle tailoring, with the two key looks a micro corduroy jacket in an oversized cord and a piped gunner’s jacket. Simple, yet effective, like his touching black and white video — as much a paean to the dreams that lure youth to New York, as to fashion itself.