Forget clickbait clothing the first big story to emerge out of New York Fashion Week, which began on Friday, is something so straightforward it might sound nuts: designers are making clothes for the real world.
That might sound silly—aren’t clothes what this business is all about?—but their blazers, knit dresses, and sequin knits at Proenza Schouler’s Saturday morning show felt like a joyous relief in an era saturated with pieces that seem more like clickbait than strong, wearable, intelligent clothes. The show opened with longtime Proenza pal Chloë Sevigny, wearing a black blazer cinched at the waist with a thin leather belt with a silver oval at the back, over a boxy leather wrap skirt. Then came more great clothes: a black suit with a very fluid carrot leg; a v-neck black dress with a sliced skirt revealing strands of bonking white pom poms; a couple perfect double-breasted camel and blonde coats; sequin knits twisted beneath the arm to give a gentle shape to the waist.
Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, who are entering their second decade in business, said backstage that they didn’t do anything too wild to shake things up this season, though they did start in a different place, with headshots of women they admire, like Sevigny and Olympia Scarry, instead of sketching full looks. They thought about how those women dress. They designed in pieces— making “just clothes,” as McCollough put it—and then, working with their longtime stylist Camilla Nickerson, worked through how the women they admire would wear them.
So they made a wardrobe? “Definitely,” said Hernandez. “Reality. We’re tired of all this fantasy and Instagram clothes.”
It was, in the words of Sienna Miller’s nine-year-old daughter, who sat front row next to her mother, watching the show behind a pair of almond-eye sunglasses, “Just fabulous.”
A viral runway or red carpet moment can be a blast. But lately, when I’m thinking about what I want to present to the world and how I want clothing to get me there, I’m exhausted by freaky one offs that feel designed for maximum online impact. I want a great coat. A good pair of trousers. Stuff that may not even telegraph in a selfie.
I don’t think I’m alone in that—there’s a reason that brands like Toteme, The Row, Tove, and Maria McManus, who focus on beautifully cut jackets and trousers with a bit of sophisticated spunk, all have little cults forming around them—and frankly, it’s about time designers treat that woman as a bit more of a heroine. The soundtrack to the Proenza show was a fictional series of diary entries penned by Ottessa Moshfegh, imagining a few days in of the Proenza woman; Sevigny read the words, about trekking in and out of art galleries and complaining about friends with hot European names and offering light gossip, and the musician Arca set them over skittering, vibey sounds. I really do love this New York woman.
PROENZA SCHOULER FALL 2023
I got the same dopamine rush—or maybe more like an ooze—at. The awesomely perverte Eckhaus Latta show later that evening. And not only because Jon Gries, the actor who played Tanya’s nefarious husband Greg on White Lotus, was walking. In the show in a webby knit and stomper boots looking like a zen-zaddy. This was a fabulously sophisticate collection, with sharp and concise and erotic lines and lots of black. (Remember in the ’90s when romantic comedies always had jokes about how New Yorkers. Wore all black to show we were neurotic-sexy-brainy-no-nonsense geniuses? Let’s bring that back!) Its concise sexuality, as in a faux-fur pelt vest over a black pencil skirt that zipped. All the way up the front and back, or a translucent-ish gray halter-neck apron dress, reminded. Me of Helmut Lang’s premise that straightforward, utilitarian clothes are the hottest clothes. Zoe Latta and Mike Eckhaus spoke backstage about the wearability of the pieces. Especially in the “refinement,” as Latta put it, of their treatment of nudity or revealing silhouettes, and “thinking about,”. Eckhaus added, “what does our customer want? And how do we make that forward-thinking?” A skirt that can be both sexy and demure. A powerful coat with exposed seams, a freaky little knit to wear over a long white shirt. Or nothing at all—this is the work of designers who take their customer and their world seriously.
ECKHAUS LATTA FALL 2023
It seems silly to say that the wardrobe is radical. In some way; isn’t this what all designers do, after all? But when done well, it really is an act of creative dignity. I had that thought stopping by another Chelsea space third collection by Fforme, a brand started in 2022. By former Louis Vuitton men’s designer Paul Helbers (he was there in the Marc Jacobs era), Nina Khosla, and Laura Vazquez. I watched Helbers wrap a cape, just one big piece of melton wool cut in a sculpted C-shape in a color he called “vivid blue,” around a model in a black coat, and could only say: “Wow.” Helbers also made a rounded leather jacket out of bonded leather, so it looks like a glorious seamless orb of black—wow wow wow wow—and used a fabric that’s starchy black wool on the outside and purple silky-silk inside for a dress, offering a subtle ooh-la-la when you happen to spy the interior of its cape-sleeve. Taking in this collection, which is so ground and yet so technically ambitious, I had that instant clobber over the head of internet-brain approval: “it me.” But what feels super special about it is that the ole internet-brain cannot capture the magic of such clothes. You need to be seate across from their glorious wearer to appreciate them—or better yet, discerningly cocooned inside.
FFORME COLLECTION THREE
It’s notable that these notions about wearable, sophisticate, “wardrobe”-oriente clothes are coming from designers. Who are often aligne with the art world (Fforme’s Chelsea space help cultivate that connection too). We usually assume designers beloved by artists are experimenters, not empaths. But the affinity is less about making clothes that are like art and more about. Creating something that is intellectually and emotionally generous. In Saturday afternoon, high on the Proenza supply, I stopped in Greene Naftali. To see a show by sculptor Gedi Sibony, a native New Yorker who makes his pieces out of salvaged materials. Like discarded empty frames, or a scuffed up stage under an enormous. Swath of gloppy-gray butcher paper—things you might say are “just stuff.” I thought again about Hernandez saying he’s sick of Instagram clothes, and realized how much. More pleasurable it is to look at something that rewards lingering—a plant stand turned upside down so that. It looks like a tutu, or a nice suit that demands a more sophisticated gaze—instead of hyper-binging images, ideas, fashion. “Just clothes,” it turns out, offer so much more to the eye.