Ricardo Seco Spring 2022

When you think of a typical show at New York Fashion Week (NYFW), you imagine a runway with people sitting in the audience on both sides. Ricardo Seco’s spring 2022 show “Reborn: Immigrants Brighten Up NY” was very different from that.

The scene was set as soon as you entered the Chelsea location of Cinepolis. Before going into the theater, where the runway show would later take place, you were offered popcorn and drinks. The ambiance was set; with your popcorn and soda one was prepared to enjoy a movie in a lush movie theater, but what we got was better.

And yes, there was a little video played before the models came out that explained Seco’s inspiration, but what was not expected was the fact that the models walked between the rows of seats in the theater. This way everyone was able to see the pieces up close. It resulted in a much more intimate experience.

“I never thought I would use this word to name one of my collections. Nevertheless, all of my collections are a reflection of my feelings and what I am living, and “Reborn” is what best describes this new chapter after the pandemic,” says Seco.

As it is the designer’s 10th year anniversary in New York, this collection perfectly encapsulates what Seco is all about.  With every collection, he is inspired by mixing the influences of the US with his Mexican and Latin American cultures and how they are assimilated by immigrants in the country.

Seco takes this multicultural inspiration and translates it into bright, bold pieces that are sure to be noticed on the streets of Mexico and New York. The clothes seen in this collection are comprised of separates in bright metallics and shiny textures that are made in an array of fabrics such as cashmere, silk, cotton, leather, and denim. Colors used in the collection include hues of blue, pink, jacaranda (purple) and orange. Each of the colors in the collection have a meaning that ties back to the significance of “Reborn.”

There are many pieces that standout within the collection; however, there are some pieces that shouldn’t be missed. The first piece that is a standout is a jacket that is done in orange, pink, and blue metallic leather that is color-blocked diagonally. The bright and colorful jacket is paired with a metallic blue swimsuit bottom.

Images courtesy of Ricardo Seco

Another look that stands out includes a jean jacket embellished with pearl-like beads on the seams and a “Hecho in Mexico” graphic on the back that can also be found on other pieces in the collection, as well as light pink metallic leather wide leg pants that include a jean waistband that peeks out of the top of the pants. The last standout look that should be noted is the two-toned leather jacket in orange and purple with studded sleeves that is accompanied by a pair of metallic orange shorts that match.

This spring 2022 collection should not be missed. So, get those ducats ready!!

—Phoebe Howard

Chuks Collins and TASOU Spring 2022

There are several designers who create multiple collections a year, but only a few fashion designers create multiple collections per season. For spring 2022, Nigerian-born, Bronx-based designer Chuks Collins created a collection for not only his signature line, but also for his new venture TASOU – The Athletic Side Of Us.

For his namesake brand, Chuks Collins’ spring 2022 collection is entitled “Resurrection”, as it “draws upon human abilities and our desire to create infinite possibilities.” Collins goes on to say “I was in a place where I was thinking of how we can attain all that we desire through the abilities within us. I became obsessed with the word resurrection; what can feel like nothing even though everything is there. It took me on a journey towards a personal search for that which can be found within myself. The changes were in me, I just needed to look closer.”

As you closely analyze the collection, you see the symbolic resurrection of Mother Nature highlighted within. There is a sleeveless, floor-length ombre dress that mimics the horizon at sunrise. There is also its counterpart, a one-shoulder, floor length ombre gown that resembles the horizon at moonrise. The moonrise gown is accompanied by a men’s suit that evokes the same.

Aside from the references to the sun and moon, Collins looked to other aspects of nature for inspiration. He took photos of cocoons and studied the resurrection process of butterflies. He researched the elements of strength and structure within the human muscular system as another way of looking within oneself.

This reverence of renewal and resurrection is demonstrated by the balance of soft, flowy fabrics with structured silhouettes, strategic pleating and ruching, emphasized by jewel tones of yellows, royal blues, wine reds, browns, and African prints inspired by cocoons.

For the debut of his more daywear/lifestyle collection, The Athletic Side Of Us (TASOU), Collins looked to the ancient kingdom of Benin for design inspiration. Visually, the collection is based in blues, oranges, neutrals, and prints, but conceptually, the line is just as conscious as Collins’ namesake brand.

Collins explains that “the two philosophies of “Art Self” and “Act Self” act as the foundation of this collection: expressions of the soul acting in congruence with expressions of the mind and body. Looks are meant to be functional, fluid and forward, that work for both men and women to fit the human experience.”

That goal is achieved with how easily the looks are able to be broken down than mixed and matched with other pieces. The garments are also sporty enough to be worn as regular day pieces, but comfortable enough to be utilized as activewear. For women, there are sports bras, bodysuits, and athletic halters that can be coupled with anything from gym shorts and joggers to stretch pants and palazzos. There are also full evening looks including minidresses.

For the men, the looks run the gamut from gym wear to loungewear to dinner wear. You have the options of short sets, denim, suits, and overcoats. Collins did his due diligence in making this collection cover a wide swath of sartorial needs for both men and women, and that is no easy feat.

Images courtesy of VERY New York

Whether your need is a basic wardrobe staple, workout attire, or something with panache for a night on the town, Collins can supply it from either of his brands.

—Carl Ayers

Whensmokeclears Spring 2022

Whensmokeclears is a NYC-based brand that rose from the ashes after a fire in the designers’ apartment nearly destroyed their first collection. The fire ignited founders Gil “Thermal” Taveras’ and Kyle “K$ace” Nelson’s desires to transition from sneakers and accessories for music videos to a blazing international presence. Whensmokeclears’ World Boss Leather Pants, pearl crosses and radiant heart necklaces have complemented the presence of many celebrities from Lil Yachty, Bella Thorne, and Trippie Redd to Christian Combs, Coi Leray, Quavo, and Swae Lee. The brand is synonymous with luxury and confidence which allows designs to translate across international boundaries.

As the smoke cleared in their NYC apartment, Thermal and K$ace saw a hazy vision of a pounding heart that had just been set alight in the center of the room. Their signature “Radiant Heart” has since been at the center of their designs as it “epitomizes the fire, confidence, and love we all hold within ourselves.” Whensmokeclears’ pieces are sentimental as they tell stories of the heart, inspire love, and tie emotions and fashion together with pearl chains and jewel encrusted hearts.

As their vision has become clearer, the pair have been able to conceptualize full collections and tell their story through fashion. Whensmokeclears’ debuted their first runway presentation with a showroom collection during NYFW. The collection, entitled “UNDERWORLD,” is chronicled by Taveras and Nelson as a “search for existence that leads back to us. The collection shifts the direction of our ascension from vertical to horizontal. [We are] channeling natural silhouettes of who we are into what we want to become at the hand of our Radiant Heart fellowship. While most aim to escape, we choose to embrace this true-to-life mindset.”

Improvement in the present and into the future is at the heart of the collection with several looks mixing regal styling with casual pieces and patterns that define the brand through intricate textile design. The color story of the collection is vibrant and warm with pink, red, and yellow accenting many of the looks. The collection guides us to “pop the trunk” and “go heart searching” in a showroom filled with distressed stacked white trunks detailed with radiant heart locks in the shape of arches and pyramids. At some points in the presentation, models looked like they were completing the most successful milk crate challenge ever which Fashion Reverie surmises to be representative of the brand opting to remain in the realities of the horizontal plane after stepping down from a vertical ascension.

Images courtesy of Whensmokeclears

One of the most gorgeous looks is a yellow caftan layered over a pink long sleeve top with white Roman lettering down the sleeves. The look is styled with a pink headscarf and the model is holding the gold radiant heart charm rosary as his hands are clasped in prayer. This spiritually eclectic look anchors the collection in such a way that every other piece feels in reference to it. Graphic lettering and tees with messages of love palpate to bring the looks to life; “LOVE WILL SAVE,” “EVERYTHING IS ALIVE,” and “ALL LOVE EVERYTHING” are written sentiments that pulse across the model’s chests. Collection details include Radiant Heart prints and hardware, bucket hats, and stereos and headphones that seem to reference the brand’s origins. The closing look features Radiant Heart patterned leather shorts with a black leather jacket lined in a multi-color watch print alluding to the “future of reality” that the brand seeks to visualize.

—Tessa Swantek

House of Aama Spring 2022

Touchstone Pictures “The Inkwell,” Lawrence Otis Graham’s Our Kind of People and HBO’s “Lovecraft Country” all share the setting of affluent Black communities that were respites from segregation, discrimination, and Jim Crow laws. Mother-daughter design duo Rebecca Henry and Akua Shabaka of the boutique lifestyle brand House of Aama are the latest creatives to utilize these places of history and culture as reference points for their own creations.

For the brands spring 2022 collection, Henry and Shabaka designed a collection entitled “SALT WATER.” They describe this line as “inspired by the seafaring legacy and Black resort communities that flourished in the US in the early 1900’s.” House of Aama’s spring 2022 collection highlights Camp Aama, a fictionalized Black resort community, Black sailors and the [Yoruba] water spirits of Yemaya, Olokun and Agwe that have served as spiritual anchors of African traditions in the diaspora. “Salt Water” as a term is an ode to the Africans who crossed the Atlantic Ocean and survived the middle passage to the Americas.”

To make sure the story strikes home, House of Aama presented both menswear and womenswear, ranging in items from matching short sets and high-waisted sailor pants for guys to swimwear and tea-party frock for the ladies; all of which have the appropriate vintage aesthetic for the 1900s married with the contemporary cuts and silhouettes of today.

The menswear has a color scheme of mainly shades blue, but there is also the appearance of sand, olive, and burgundy on a number of items. The looks that immediately catch the eye are the sailors uniform consisting of nylon pants and jacket, a cream colored wide-legged, low-cut overalls, and the variety of short shorts.

On the womenswear side, House of Aama provides a full gamut of options bedrocked in an assortment of pastel hues that will carry you from the beach, to cocktail hour, to a night on the town. The bikinis and swim short sets are sexy, accented by cut-outs and side-string details. The cocktail dresses are made Sunday brunch or Tuesday high tea with debutantes. But the jumpsuit and woven maxi dress are the perfect any day outfits for walking around town with style and flair.

Images courtesy of House of Aama

Aside for the wonderful silhouettes, the head turning standouts are the prints. From skin- tight shirts and bodysuits, to scarves and a top loading duffle bag, Henry and Shabaka use prints of Yoruba water spirits to continue to tie the collection to African heritage. For their scarf, used as a flag, skirt, and recut as a shirt, the pair utilized a colorful silk print that pays homage to the African ancestors.

The spring 2022 collection by The House of Aama is not merely an assortment of new clothes. It is the amalgamation of history, accomplishment, and beauty found within the lexicon of African American culture.

 

—Carl Ayers

 

Cult of Individuality Spring 2022

When a fashion brand looks to music and youth culture as sources of inspiration, one of the difficult challenges is keeping that brand fresh, current, and accessible. Cult of Individuality consistently accomplishes that goal. And its current collection demonstrates how adept Creative Director Ron Poisson is at injecting a special kind of joie de vivre into his collections.

“Authenticity has always been a part of the brand DNA of CULT,” says Poisson. “We never want our collection to seem forced, or mass produced. We work vigilantly to make sure every CULT of Individuality garment looks like it was broken in overtime and got its character by being worn countless times.”

Cult of Individuality’s spring 2022 collection did not spry too far away from the brand’s signature aesthetic which is a comfortable exploration in the many ways you can combine denim looks and fuse those looks into a palatable assemblage that appeals to the modern consumer. The trick is to keep this signature look fresh and correct without looking as though the brand is pandering to consumers or making gimmicky clothes. That is where Ron Poisson’s intelligence comes into play.

Thought this collection is heavily infused with hip hop references and projects toward mostly an 18 to 28-year old demographic, there are looks that can appeal to a very wide demographic be they Gen X, Gen Y, Gen Z or a hip baby boomer. And that inclusivity is front and forward because Poisson taps into a wealth of musical genres and cultures, from grunge to rock n’ roll to hip hop and skateboard slacker culture.

Staying on the trend, the brand’s logo was emblazoned on jackets, tee shirts, sweatshirts, and jeans; however, unlike some similar brands that place a huge emphasis on braggadocio logo placement, Cult of Individuality keeps its focus on design and fashion-forward sensibility. And like many brands Cult of Individuality has incorporated collaborations to expand their audience. For this collection, the brand collaborated with the glam-groove band Pantera.

“We don’t give a $&*# about what is going on in the traditional fashion marketplace. We start each season with a clean slate, a new beginning,” says Ron Poisson. “Our team then looks to music. We find inspiration in all sorts of music in all genres and from that we start designing. Our foundation is always denim. From there, we add in silhouettes, colors, washes, graphics and a bunch of details from traditional Japanese and American work wear and we always end up a collection we are obsessed with!”

Images courtesy of VERY New York

Well said, Ron. And we are obsessed with Cult of Individuality!!

—William S. Gooch

APOTTS Fall 2021

Aaron Potts embodies the word “inclusion.” With his eponymous brand APOTTS, he aims to create clothes that are unisex, versatile, modern, and trans-seasonal for all genders, sizes, and ages. Potts states that real style is about spirit, not about physical differences, or trends, yet he smartly picks up on his pre-fall 2020 trends and carries it over to his fall 2021 collection.

For fall 2021, APOTTS presents a tightly edited, cohesive collection meant to effortlessly weave into your existing wardrobe. Nothing stands out as gaudy or intimidating, but rather warm, inviting, and familiar, but new. The video of this collection, cast with Alvin Ailey dancers, is a wonderful dance of shape and silhouette, from voluminous dresses with billowing sleeves and oversized coats, to wide leg pants and shapeshifting tunics. For this collection, proportions are a key element. Most of the designs keep you well covered, without being swallowed in fabric. Here, volume is both comfort and freedom.

Every wardrobe starts with black, but there is nothing basic about it in this collection. The all-black looks will carry you throughout the season. The floor-length black crinoline skirt is fun and light enough for warm weather but can give volume under a long dress when the temps dip. The oversized tunic and pants let you layer up underneath, if need be, but make a form-filling, but not boxy silhouette on their own.

Potts proves that grey does not have to be somber, but can be fun. You can feel snug at home in the grey cocoon jumpsuit or hit the streets in a grey checked coat. There is a loose-fitting top and calf-length skirt in the same checkered pattern. If you gravitate toward oversized silhouettes, there’s a wonderful almost duster-length grey coat with an exaggerated collar.

The infusion of yellow in this collection can brighten any mood. In creating this collection, Potts described a need for optimism and creativity. He stated, “The light at the end of the tunnel isn’t cliché. It’s necessary.” The yellow plaid mohair coat is almost a hybrid between a Chesterfield and a peacoat. The bold pattern with subdued vibrancy makes this, alongside the similarly patterned pant, the stand out of the collection. If you want to be adventurous with this pattern, there is also a seemingly twelve-foot long matching scarf with detachable panels.

The most luminescent garments are the lemon-yellow items—the zip-ripped sweater, pants, and overcoat. The leather pant and coat with silver lining should make an appearance in a young pop stars music video.

Images courtesy of 360runway.com

The range of this collection demonstrates that Potts had a varied consumer base in mind. There are items that are more creative, and items that are more reserved. No matter what purchases you make, the collection will grow with you through the years furthering the brands aim to create quality, fresh, thoughtful, and effortless dressing options.

—Carl Ayers

Libertine Fall 2021

Johnson Hartig, Libertine’s creative director, is a man known for sequins, sparkle, and maximalism. Even a global pandemic and decreased customer spending couldn’t rain on his bedazzled, embellished, and appliquéd parade as the brand looks to celebrate its 30th anniversary. Rather than skew to more minimalist or athleisure creations, like many of his colleagues have this season, Hartig went over-the-top in full force.

Inspired by the baroque era, made evident by the backdrop used in this virtual presentation, Johnson Hartig implements a modern distillation on baroque by borrowing and updating embellishments and gold leaf often found in baroque art and architecture. This point of view is risky and could look like a tacky costume flashback, not so in this collection. Johnson Hartig ingeniously approached the baroque aesthetic with a modern point of view that made this collection both vintage and innovative at the same time.

Libertine’s opening look for their virtual runway show, shown via the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s (CFDA) Runway360 online platform, featured a giant bow made up of layers of tulle and adorned with crystals. It was quite the way to tell someone “heads up, lots of ostentatious fashion coming through.” This was followed by a mixed-media pattern dress paired with a mixed-media patterned, oversized floppy hat and a multi-patterned black dress.

Libertine continues to be that brand that encourages us to wear pattern on pattern, because the strength of power clashing should never be underestimated. A classic green and red plaid shirt was the underlayer for a literally gold-leafed black blazer look for your less than classic tailored suiting. It was perhaps the most high fashion the wooded farm boy aesthetic is ever going to get. Leave it up to Hartig to not only go beyond the grain, but potentially reinvent it.

Images courtesy of runway360.com

While Hartig is known for tons of colors, patterns, and embellishments, something about this season was a bit different. This time, the approach felt more like a symbol of positivity, that, even in one of humanity’s darkest and difficult hours, fashion and creation give us something to look forward to. When all hope is lost, live out loud, even with your fashion choices, for tomorrow will hopefully bring bluer skiers and even bolder outfits. Hartig dared us to dream again, and as we attempt to emerge from a pandemic world, dreams will hopefully come true.

—Kristopher Fraser

Frere Spring 2021

Strong and sophisticated. Pointed and effortless. Formal and casual. The presentation of the Frère spring 2021 collection was full of duality. Not only did Haitian-American designer Davidson Petit-Frère show both womenswear and menswear in a number of glamorous still images, but he accompanied them with a ten-minute trailer of an upcoming movie which he also wrote.

The collection is simply luxurious. Known for creating incredible suits, Frère is teaching a master class with his latest collection. Applying the skills from his previous made-to-measure business, Frère has created a line of suits and outerwear that rivals the best Parisian ateliers. There are sculpted, monochromatic suits in natural hues of chocolate, mint, rose, cranberry, and pumpkin.

Eye-catching prints of marbled blue and gray, brush strokes of gray and sand, and paint splashes of white on black make you do a double-take. For a more relaxed aesthetic, there are logo-branded and tribal-print bombers. Whether your style is uptown or downtown, there is indeed something here for you.

As this New York Fashion Week (NYFW) is mostly without live runway shows, Petit-Frère took a more cinematic route to show his collection—he incorporated his fashion into his to-be-released film “Destined.” The trailer evokes an opulent playboy lifestyle reminiscent of the character Bruce Wayne. It begins with aerial shots of New York City followed by a quick cutaway where we see lead actor Michael K. Williams (“The Wire,” “Boardwalk Empire,” and “Lovecraft Country”) rise from the bed of a luxe hotel suite. He is then chauffeured via Rolls Royce to the five-star Baccarat Hotel, where he is joined by co-star Ron J. Rock (“Den of Thieves,” and “Games People Play”).

Amidst all of the scenes, we see the characters fully dressed, and their closets fully stocked, in Frère creations. The outfits are accented by Audemars Piguet timepieces, and the scenery is never void of by Armand de Brignac champagne. To further bring forth the Gotham City vibe, the soundtrack is underscored by Jay-Z, Snoh Aalegra, and The Weekend. If the Dark Knight had an even darker version, this may be it.

Images courtesy of Frère

Davidson Petit-Frère has mastered the art of leaving us wanting more. Whether we are looking to set an appointment for his bespoke suit service, or awaiting the release of his movie, he certainly has our attention.

—Carl Ayers

Imitation of Christ Spring 2021

Imitation of Christ (IOC) was founded in 2000 by Tara Subkoff and Matt Damhave. The pair quickly scored Chloë Sevigny as its first creative director. The label made a huge splash beginning as an art collective and evolving into a fashion line, IOC was called the original upcycler creating pieces entirely from recycled pieces of clothing. Soon Mary-Kate Olsen, Scarlett Johansson, and Maya Rudolph counted among fans.

But the early aughts were a tumultuous time for many fashion houses. IOC’s output was sporadic at best, before ceasing production in 2013. Now two decades after being founded, IOC is rising again with Subkoff handing design reins over to three young designers she mentored.

“These are supercharged creative young artists who had something to say and needed a platform during an incredibly challenging time on the planet,” Subkoff said in a statement. IOC has a new business model and an iron-fist commitment to sustainability.  Upcycling or “resurrecting” existing pieces is the central tenet of Imitation of Christ, and it means that every piece is unique. With the theme of athleticism, Subkoff describes the clothes as “glamorous activewear,”. Subkoff said she was inspired by seeing young women practicing tricks at a skatepark after watching them fall, get back up, and try again until they nailed the trick.  Creative directors Lola Valenti Roberts, Tessa Crockett, and Violet Baudin Lackey created the line mixing glamour with wearability and sustainability.

Only eight looks were shown on a video that featured models skateboarding in the outfits. The clothes were hand sewn from upcycled items. This does lead to some unevenness in terms of color stories and textures, but the general theme of glamour and comfort remain. Some of the combinations were solid.

A stunning brown velvet dress combined with satin sport jersey is a glamorous easy to wear juxtaposition. However, a strapless-tiered prom dress not only looked hopelessly dated, but seemed to undermine the message of the video as the model seen in still shots skateboarding with ease but struggled to move in the voluminous dress. 

Still the patchwork color blocking—so on-trend right now—mixed with Asian touches was done with a deft touch making the separates fun, wearable, and easily incorporated into existing wardrobes. Presenting a video is becoming more common in the age of COVID-19, but another huge difference with IOC is marketing. Typically, most NYFW samples are never mass produced for market and die a slow death in the bottom of storage trunks—aside from a lucky few that are plucked directly from the runway by eagle-eyed stylists.

Images courtesy of Imitation of Christ

But with IOC’s focus on sustainability, they are trying something new. All eight outfits presented in the video will be for sale on The Real Real, a favorite website of Subkoff’s for finding sustainable designer items, with proceeds from the sales going to Black Lives Matter, COVID Relief, and Fridays For Future, Greta Thunberg’s organization.

It will be interesting to see how the public will respond. While the clothes themselves and online bidding will certainly appeal to the youthful consumers that IOC is aiming for, the price point establishes IOC as a luxury brand well beyond the means of most millennials. That said; with a limited amount of stock, even if only a few thousand people are regular buyers with a global reach, that could be more than enough to keep the brand afloat. 

—Cameron Grey Rose

MAXHOSA Spring 2021

Celebrating its 10th anniversary, South African-based brand MAXHOSA presented their spring 2021 collection “INGUMANGALISO IMISEBENZI KA THIXO” or “God’s Work is Miraculous.” Designer Laduma Ngxokolo notes that the collection takes its name from a song composed by his grandfather Mike Ngxokolo, a renowned jazz artist, choral music composer, visual artist, actor, and radio presenter. Laduma further explains that the collection is the most colorful and exotic collection he has designed to date and represents a new dawn and excitement about the upcoming South Africa summer season. Laduma states “We have to be hopeful about reaching the light at the end of the tunnel because we have realized that happiness is a new luxury.”

The collection is resplendent with virtually every color of the rainbow. The clothes stay true to the company’s Xhosa roots by incorporating Xhosa beadwork patterns, symbolism, and colors into modern knitwear in zigzag and graphic prints. The spring 2021 collection exemplifies the duality of cultural reverence and contemporary relevance by offering a wide range of clothing from knitted full-length dresses and wrap skirts to shirts and cardigans. The collection also seems to pay homage to other regions of the African diaspora by coupling modern-print designs with traditional Shweshwe prints from South Africa, Aso-oke striped patterns from western Nigeria, and Bogolan mud cloth of Mali.

There is nothing conservative about this collection—everything is lively and full of character. The least daring pieces are dresses and skirts with multicolored horizontal stripes accented by strategically placed MAXHOSA nametapes at the waist, collar, and hemlines. For the more adventurous, there are dresses, short sets, and suits in amazing prints and, of course, more vibrant colors. If you want to make a statement, but don’t want to be too bold, there are a number of options in black and white print that are just as eye-catching as the rest of the line.

MAXHOSA creates not only stunning ready-to-wear pieces, but also makes accessories— hats, hosiery, neckpieces, and scarves, as well as home décor. MAXHOSA AFRICA aims to become Africa’s leading luxury, premium, and mass heritage lifestyle brand. Worn by stars such as Beyonce, Alicia Keys, Swizz Beats, and Raphael Sadiq, Laduma Ngxokolo is well on his way to cementing his brand as a global cultural rally point.

Images courtesy of Arthur Dlamini for MAXHOSA

The collection will be available for purchase at the end of November on MaxHosa.Africa. 

—Carl Ayers

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