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

LANDEROS NEW YORK Fall 2020

The gender fluidity revolution is expanding. From international fashion brands such as Palomo Spain, Rick Owens, and Hakan Akkaya to more homegrown brands like The Blonds, Kenneth Nicholson, Olivia Oblanc, and Official Rebrand, the gender fluidity movement is fashion is breaking new ground and give space to redefine gender.

Launched in 2013, NYC-based fashion brand LANDEROS New York, as the name implies, fuses a New York City street aesthetic with a design perspective that arises out of creative director Andre Landeros Michel’s love for music from a variety of musical genres—punk, goth, new wave, industrial—seen through the lens of gender neutral dressing. This design aesthetic is expressed through exaggerated silhouettes and nonconventional materials.

From LANDEROS New York’s fall 2020 collection, Andre Landeros Michel demonstrated his acuity with outerwear and nonconventional fabrics. And though this collection did not possess a lot of bold color, Michel made up for that lack with fabrications that glistened and sparkled. The color palette ranged from plums and oxblood to charcoal and silver.

Entitled “Night Transmissions” this collection is for that urban warrior is not afraid to be noticed as they traverse from glamorous speakeasys to other nightlife hotspots. Interestingly, the entire collection is made from sustainable materials.

What stood up most in this fall 2020 collection was the gender neutrality of the garments. That said, the gender fluidity of the collection in no way minimized the glamor and fabulousness of the collection. This collection is not for the mild-mannered consumer. Michel designs for that consumer who expresses their love of individuality through their clothes.

“I have friends in the LGBTQ community and Cis and Non-binary friends that segregation didn’t make sense for us to do a collection that served specifically for men or women. LANDEROS New York goes on record to say that we do one collection. If you want to call it genderless, if you want to call it non-binary, we welcome all those terms, but we do one collection and we open it to everyone,” said Michel.

Images courtesy of LANDEROS New York

And LANDEROS NEW YORK open-door policy works best for that consumer who is not afraid to put it out there; in whatever way they define themselves. After all, gender expression is an individual definition. Why not celebrate the range of that realization?

—William S. Gooch

SEVENCRASH Fall 2020

SEVENCRASH’s fall 2020 collection looked at the dystopian world from the perspective of three alternative possibilities. As unsettling as this point of view might seem for a fashion collection, it was a timely compendium of where we may be heading.

SEVENCRASH has established itself as a disruptive fashion brand that aptly combines technology and fashion as a sustainable endeavor. “As a disruptive brand, we believe in progress and staying ahead of the curve, in the current climate, sustainability needs to be and will be every brand’s number one priority. Every season we have been devoting more and more of our resources to researching and developing sustainable textiles and increasing the role they play in our design process. This is our mandate and an integral part of our corporate culture,” explains Brand CEO Jason Yao.

In this collection SEVENCRASH looks at the planet in 2065, forty years later, where technology has led to an overexploited earth, and artificial intelligence has brought on an existential crisis. In that state of dystopia, SEVENCRASH explores their design aesthetic through three series, prosperity to decay and, finally, to nirvana.

The Prosperity Series examines how artificial intelligence, technology and science has advance the human process, enabling people to live lives of more comfort and convenience. This series is made evident in exaggerated large-scale silhouettes and futuristic biotechnology green, demonstrating how mankind is thriving.

In the Decay Series mankind is surrounding by chaos and destruction. SEVENCRASH makes this evident in “destructive” spray washing/finishing process and carbon pollution color digital printing to express the atmosphere of earth’s imminent destruction. The ingenious use of orderly interlaced weaves of filled plume, with tangled tassels running through and under them, mapped out the future of technology and how its development will likely take human civilization to an incalculable plane.

The last series, the Nirvana series, demonstrates that mankind has achieved a balance between ecology and technology; a kind a phoenix rising out of destruction and chaos. Garment silhouettes were disproportionately combined to form explosive stacks and kits, forming a harmonious new silhouette born of conflict. The same amalgamation applies to the fabric and decoration.

Image courtesy of Jane Kim/SEVENCRASH

These three distinctive futuristic expressions are funneled their SEVENCRASH’s design acuity with outerwear, and bubble coats and parkas. This fall 2020 outing gives voice to mankind’s ability to survive almost anything, even in a dystopian world. And that survival will express itself in what we wear. It always does!!

William S. Gooch

ARTISTIX Fall 2020

Is ARTISTIX campaigning to be the brand of choice for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. If so, they have an early start and their fall 2020 collection should put them in the running.

With ARTISTIX’s “Adventure” collection, founder Greg Polisseni and creative director Andy Hilfiger looked to winter slopes and skiwear for inspiration. This 2020 fall collection was an “Adventure” into winter wonderland seen through the lens of luxury streetwear.

I’m so proud of the collection that we premiered for F/W 2020,” said Polisseni. “The pieces incorporate the print of my painting Stars & Stripes which makes this collection that much more important to me. Stars & Stripes was created as a symbol of unity which is portrayed through the styles. I want to especially thank Klarna and Style360 for partnering with us for this show, we couldn’t have asked for a more prepared team!”

Since 2016, with Andy Hilfiger manning the creative helm of ARTISTIX, the brand has been making inroads in combining American streetwear with a rock n’ roll sensibility. Interestingly, this combined design aesthetic is rarely, if at all, associated with skiwear. However, for this fall 2020 collection Andy Hilfiger found an ingenious way for ARTISTIX’s design aesthetic to work on wintry slopes.

This collection is also infused with inspiration from Greg Polisseni’s well-known  painting Stars and Stripes. The shades of red and blue of Stars and Stripes was incorporated into ARTISTIX’s signature camo pattern. All tying in the brand’s aesthetic of art, soul, and rock n’ roll.

Images courtesy of ARTISTIX

“We’re like a band and the audience are our fans. We’re all about the music, art, and fashion” said Andy Hilfiger after the presentation. “We brought the Artistix lifestyle to everyone that came to the presentation and now they can bring the vibe with them to the ski slopes.”

—William S. Gooch

Just in XX Fall 2020

Though the show notes from Just in XX detail that Taiwanese streetwear designer Justin Yu-Ying Chou was inspired by Taiwanese modern and contemporary artist, Tsong Pu, and his use of continuous square matrices, at closer examination, perhaps Justin Yu-Ying Chou was inspired the Lubavitch sect of the Hasid. Known for his unique pairing of East Asian design aesthetic and Western references, Yu-Ying Chou in this fall 2020 collection melded the two seeming disparate cultures seamlessly.

While some industry professionals may not have noticed the similarity between Yu-Ying Chou’s garments and faith-based attire of the ultra-conservative Lubavitch Hasid, most observant New Yorkers and industry professionals of a certain age recognize this reference. And particularly if you are familiar with Jean-Paul Gaultier’s fall 1993 “Chic Rabbis” collection, you will observe that Yu-Ying Chou’s fall 2020 collection reflects a similar reference point. The distinguishing difference being Yu-Ying Chou’s collection is heavily based in urban streetwear.

Which is the genius of this collection. Yu-Ying Chou has demonstrated for several seasons that his quite adept at melding references and inspirations from disparate sources. However, this season Yu-Ying Chou struck gold with this blending of different cultures. And interestingly many of the looks in the collection had an undeniable 80s vibe, particularly when combined with Lubavitch Hasid-like hats. This look was all the range in the late 80s in NYC. (Think Amy Irving in “Delancey Street.”) To that point looks of chic urbanites in late 80s New York City flaunted the oversized outerwear that was so predominant in this collection.

That said; what stood out most in this collection was Yu-Ying Chou’s outerwear. Many of Yu-Ying Chou’s layered outwear combinations that came in a range of bold colors and with embellished with geometrical shapes, reflecting Tsong Pu’s art aesthetic of line and shape, added an exciting combination of modern art and streetwear swag. In some instances, this collection was wearable art while still being accessible and viable to modern consumers.

Images courtesy of Agentry PR

Yu-Ying Chou in this collection also brilliantly mastered the art of cultural appropriation without stigmatizing or off-putting any of the cultural references he drew inspiration from. In an era where some designers don’t understand how to appropriately give homage to sources of inspiration, Yu-Ying Chou seamlessly combined different cultural sources in respectful celebration.

William S. Gooch

Hakan Akkaya Fall 2020

Every season, fashion industry professional anxiously anticipate the next great fashion designer/brand. In fact, many can recall when the first encountered Alexander Wang or became familiar with Marc Jacobs’ design aesthetic. Many industry professionals boast that in spite of Christian Siriano’s turn on “Project Runway,” they knew that he had all the goods. Or some contend they were the first in the States to discover the gender fluid phenomena Palomo Spain.

Unfortunately, New York Fashion Week: The Shows (NYFWS) doesn’t give industry professional many opportunities these days to witness extraordinary talent. However, when a new talent comes on the NYFWS scene, everyone stands up and takes notice.

Though not exactly new on the scene—this is Hakan Akkaya’s third season showing at NYFWS—everyone is taking notice of Turkish designer, Hakan Akkaya. To an overpacked house at Pier 59, Hakan Akkaya demonstrated that he is becoming a fashion force to be reckoned with and that he possesses the skill set and design aesthetic necessary to create a huge fashion career.

Hakan Akkaya’s fall 2020 “Justice” collection was heavy on gender fluidity, punk subculture, and hardware. Interestingly, all of these points of view have been seen before and in lots of incarnations; still, like all brilliant designers, Akkaya understands that the genius of a collection is not necessarily in the innovation but in how all the parts come together. Additionally, combining gender neutrality—particularly when it comes to menswear—with a hardcore punk aesthetic with sadomasochistic overtones is not an easy thing to do. However, Akkaya pulled it off with stylish charm and imagination.

This fall 2020 collection had almost everything that a brand could wish for. It was sexy when it needed to be while not descended into the va va voom category. It was fashion forward while staying accessible. It has charm, wit and humor without being kitschy. And lastly, it was powerful with great force without being oppressive and overbearing.

If there was drawback to this collection, it would be Hakan Akkaya’s penchant for making everything is neutral colors. A splash of bold color would have elevated this fall 2020 collection out of the realm of urban warrior gear, ready to battle the urban terrain with all its dangerous adventures.  There are stylish souls who don’t reside in urban jungles. And those stylish creatures might feel a little intimidated by this collection. Then again, powerful fashion statements are not for the mild mannered.

Interestingly, this could be the ideal collection for that stylish warrior that’s ready to revolt against a repressive political regime, gearing up for the revolution. A revolution against oppressive ideals, making your statement about gender equality, freedom of expression, and sexual diversity.

Images courtesy of The Bromley Group

There were many great standouts in this “Amish meets Punk” collection. The most noteworthy were the many man skirts, Akkaya’s white Amish blouse with black pencil skirt with side ruffled embellishments, black long-sleeved fit-and-flare gown with bobby pin embellishments, Amish black slacks with patent-leather lapel vest, white Amish blouse with patent-leather skirt and embellished bustier, and black patent-leather top with matching shorts underneath diaphanous black gown.

—William S. Gooch

Kenneth Nicholson Fall 2020

One thing that emerging designers need to understand and acknowledge when presenting collection on a big international fashion stage: nothing should distract from your collection. Whether any theatrics, voiceovers, even over exuberant models. The most important element of any fashion show are the garments. Without the garments or garments as the focus of the fashion show or presentation, a fashion show is just another theatrical presentation/art installation or Instagram moment.

Unfortunately, Kenneth Nicholson constructed his fall 2020 show with the focus on the theatrics of his presentation which was far removed from his actual collection. Themed around his grandmother’s couch—referencing special moments shared with his grandmother—Nicholson’s fall 2020 show opened with two pugilists’ bodies painted in gold and sparkly black, simulating boxing moves in the middle of the runway. That is where the pugilists began and that is also where they stayed throughout the run of the show with models walking around them.

Nicholson also employed liturgical voiceovers of Reverend Barber of the Poor People’s Campaign mixed in with music from “The Wiz,” and a collage of iconic R&B and church music. Perhaps, all these influences gave voice to Nicholson’s homage to his grandmother, but for the audience it was a huge distraction.

The collection, though incohesive and disjointed, did have some eye-catching elements; particularly, Nicholson’s kelly green trench and some of the men’s wide-legged trousers. Nicholson is talented and his approach could be funneled into an interesting perspective on gender fluidity. However, he has yet to learn how to put a show together for a sophisticated New York audience. (And better models would’ve have been an additional plus.)

Images courtesy of The Hinton Group

Nicholson should let his design aesthetic and point of view speak for itself minus the over-the-top Instagram moments. The potential is clear, and that inchoate talent should be his focus, not fleeting social media moments.

—William S. Gooch

Grungy Gentleman Fall 2020

New York Fashion Week: Mens (NYFWM) is now a sad reflection of what it aspired to be. Originally, it was launched to lure back well-known menswear brands—John Varvatos, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, Y3, and others—back to the US fashion week market. Initially, it was successful, but it didn’t take long for NYFWM to lose steam and now it is just a shadow of what it could have been, but never was.

Though NYFWM is a shadow of what it was, there are some menswear brands that continue to present during NYFWM. Grungy Gentleman—in its 12th season—is one such brand.

Grungy Gentleman’s creative director Jace Epstein continues to soldier on, making NYFWM one of the highlights of its season. Very little has changed with the brand since its inception. Always catering to sports-centered male consumers, Epstein, season after season attempts some unique design aesthetic into what is mostly jogging suits, hoodies and workout gear.

This season Epstein combined his sportwear aesthetic with leopard print and geometric shapes. Grungy Gentleman’s signature athletic stripes were front and center in this collection, ingeniously placed on sleeves, trouser legs, and jacket exteriors.

Images courtesy of Karyzma Agency

Though Epstein came up with some interesting fabric combinations and patterns this season, which helped elevate the collection beyond typical men’s athleisure wear, the collection as a whole is mostly athletic wear in very familiar silhouettes. But, athleisure wear for the very stylish male.

—William S. Gooch

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