Although it’s officially London Fashion Week, some brands from New York are showing just now. Cate Holstein‘s Khaite for autumn-winter 2021 was meant to be a love letter to long-gone, gritty New York of the 1970s – think Taxi Driver and Klute as a visual reference. The open-back dresses were clear nods to Jane Fonda’s character’s wardrobe in the latter. The collection was unveiled “phygitally”: last night, with the Manhattan skyline in the background, Holstein brought a small group of editors, buyers, and friends to Skyline Drive-In for what was likely their only “real” event of the season. Seated in intage cars, the projector rolled cheeky ’80s “advertisements” for Khaite products, a faux black-and-white movie trailer, and finally, the main event: a short film starring Paloma Elsesser, Soo Joo Park, Akon Adichol, Lulu Tenney, Tess McMillan, and several other models. The production might have stumbled on an actual plot (some of the most memorable scenes: Elsesser opening a Khaite tote full of graffiti bottles; others are stuffing cash into their thigh-high boots; a few girls smoke outside a bodega), and although it was visually satisfying, I just couldn’t find the balance between the film part and the clothes part (the hard-to-achieve golden ratio for any ‘fashion-film’). The clothes hardly related to the mood of the film, while the uncharismatic look-book made them go even more plain. According to Holstein, the clothes borrowed less from the ’70s and ’80s and more from the 1920s: lace negligees, narrow jersey columns, giant faux fur chubbies. “I’ve always loved that Café Society moment in New York, but I was thinking more about how the ’20s were a response to the 1918 flu,” Holstein told Vogue. Holstein isn’t the only designer predicting a similar shift this year. “It wasn’t just about being comfortable, but about feeling comforted,” she added. “I think we will still want to be treated gently.” This was not a literal ‘roaring ’20s collection’ – it was rather reverential to Khaite itself. Holstein doesn’t do mood boards or themes; she insists every collection is simply a reflection of what she’s craving. Maybe keeping it that way, image-wise, would work better for the collection in overall? The “cravings list” includes plush cashmere knits, boxy leather jackets, sharp tailoring, and romantic cotton dresses. Newness comes in the items she’s personally missing, like the down puffers, which were the collection’s big surprise. She bought her first puffer last year and likely saw an opportunity for a better, ultra-luxe version. Her glossy red and black coats were extra-stuffed and coated in lacquered leather; a cropped camel version came in 100% cashmere. In other words: definitely not coats for graffitiing or smashing windows, but for chic, socially-distanced walks.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.