This is a long post, as we’ve got four brands on one catwalk. Yes, really! But seeing designer solidarity in New York makes sense: the schedule got tighter, the locations seem to be worlds apart, the costs for show venues are rising (unless you’re showing on a street, which becomes more and more popular this season) and catching everybody’s attention IRL and on social media is an art in its own rights today. Section 8, Creatures of The Wind, CDLM (which is actually by Creatures of The Wind designers) and Vaquera, all in one place, under one roof.
Lets start with Section 8, which I’ve discovered just now. The label first appeared as an anonymous collective back in 2017, staging its debut at a tiny gallery in Chinatown. Since then, stylist Akeem Smith has stepped out of the shadows as the label’s designer and has slowly been edging the brand into the spotlight. For his spring-summer 2020, models came down the runway with second-skin fishnet body stockings layered under body-hugging crop tops and butterfly-shaped bras that were cut from the body. Smith isn’t afraid to mine complicated sociopolitical subject matter for inspiration (the brand takes its name from the U.S. government’s low-income housing voucher system, by the way). As part of his research the designer visited the Jim Crow Museum, whose archive of racial propaganda is now being used as an educative tool to promote social justice. To wit, the bustled silhouette of the midi- and maxi-length skirts were a nod to the turn of the last century, when segregation laws were first enforced. Though the historical references were anything but literal, they resonated on a deeper level in the context of an all-black cast.
Creatures of The Wind and CDLM are two labels that show together, even in the same looks, without distinguishing who’s who. About a year ago, Chris Peters of Creatures of the Wind launched CDLM, with a plan to work in a more sustainable manner, focusing on upcycling and repurposing, picking washed and worn tie-dyed tees with sun-bleached vintage cotton nightdresses. Now Shane Gabier, Peters’s design- and life partner whom he cofounded Creatures of The Wind with, is also working with him on CDLM, and each label is operating with the same eco-minded concept. For spring-summer 2020, the designers offer striped rugby shirts stitched together to form long dresses, slouchy, XXL shoulder bags worked up out of deadstock croc-stamped leather and jackets made out of vintage denim patches. The way they style their looks is as inspiring as the sustainability aspect behind the garments. There are no specific references or inspirations behind the clothes. But they look really cool, and I’m fine with that.
Vaquera’s line-up was the most charismatic and bold of all the four brands, but by that I don’t mean it was the best. Patric DiCaprio, Claire Sullivan and Bryn Taubensee were inspired by life and its downs, and knowing their always-exaggerated way of doing things, they played with different archetypes and cliches that affiliate with daily life in the Big Apple. “It’s mostly about being let down in different ways: on Valentine’s Day, by the fashion industry—by New York,” DiCaprio said before the show. Taubensee continued: “We’ve learned it’s empowering to be frustrated and disheartened. In this new collection, you’ll see more of the old Vaquera, where we’re just like, ‘Fuck it, let’s just do it.’” Pin-stripe suits were cut and shaped into bustiers and big head-pieces (bye, corporate life!); over-sized slip-dresses and the bride’s dress in black were all about romance, messed up by dark humor; the big heart ‘dress’ looked like the previously mentioned take on Valentine’s Day and the moment you really l ove(or hate) that cheesy, heart-shaped box of chocolates. Vaquera likes being literal, loud and sometimes even ridiculous. That’s why I adore this brand: it doesn’t take fashion too serious. It actually mocks it.
Four collections on one runway might feel like too much. But seeing Section 8, Creatures of The Wind, CDLM and Vaquera together shows that the young and niche designers in New York have a viewpoint, a stance and do what they really want to (especially breaking the industry’s rules).
All collages by Edward Kanarecki.