Men’s – Forever Timeless. Bode AW21

Autumn-winter 2021 marks the first collection Bode has shown since lockdown, though it’s technically spring (arriving in stores this month) and autumn rolled together. For the occasion, Emily Bode invited New York-based editors into what appeared to be a teenage boy’s 1960s bedroom, preserved in all its clutter. Newspapers and LIFE magazines were scattered on the tables; a vintage Monopoly set was splayed on the floor; desks were pinned with comic strips and old photos; and, of course, there were clothes everywhere: spilling out of a hamper, piled on the floor, dangling from coat hooks, draped over the bed. Each item was painstakingly arranged by Bode and her team, but it was a convincing replica of her uncle Bill’s college dorm room at the University of Vermont (or at least Bode’s impression of it, based on his recollection). In 1969, he tricked his parents into thinking he was back at school when in fact he was taking a year off to explore the East Coast, race cars, and play games. Bode explained it was also the last year before Bill’s wife, Mahri, came into the picture; they met in 1970, married, and were together up until 2019, when Mahri passed away. Suddenly, 2020 was Bill’s first “year off” from the life he knew, and he found himself reminiscing about 1969 again. Bode related his story of love, loss, and reflection to our own “year off” during the pandemic. Sifting through the piles, you could find all the familiar Bode-isms: silk button-downs with prints lifted from vintage postcards and handkerchiefs; embroidered camp shirts that are the expert work of Indian artisans; patchworked merino suits, an evolution of her quilted jackets; and her most refined knits yet, from a space-dyed pullover to a stunning hand-crocheted cardigan. A few pieces nodded to Bill and Mahri, like a souvenir jacket with a pug embroidered on the back, while others seemed happily arbitrary: an intarsia’d camel sweater, a pair of shorts chain-stitched with line drawings and funny phrases, a sweater crocheted with 3-D grapes. A small group of tailored pieces trimmed with rows of real pearl buttons spoke to Bode’s particular passion for preserving crafts and techniques. She bought them in bulk from a closed-down button factory in the Midwest, and pointed out how each was individually hand-carved, hand-sanded, and one-of-a-kind. They may have been thrown away or relegated to some dusty warehouse if Bode hadn’t purchased them; the same could be said of the quilts, table cloths, and scraps of fabric piling up in her Brooklyn studio.

If it’s tempting to lump Bode in with other “sustainable” or “upcycled” brands, it’s actually more of a coincidence that some of her materials – not all – were already made. Bode cares about sustaining traditions and stories, not just reducing her carbon footprint, and she understands her role as an employer. She couldn’t have scaled her business to its current size if she hadn’t found a pragmatic, sustainable way to mass-produce certain garments with new materials, like her camp shirts and chore jackets, nor would she have been able to hire her teams of craftspeople in India, Peru, and New York (many designers canceled their orders in Garment District factories during the pandemic, but Bode made it a point to support them.) Bode’s brand-new tailoring shop, located next to her flagship in the formerly-turquoise Classic Coffee Shop, is a more apt reflection of her sustainability ethos. Her tailors will alter your brand-new Bode suit or mend an old quilted jacket. Even if you just picked up your first Bode shirt next door, there’s a comfort in knowing you don’t have to be precious about wearing it; when the time comes, someone will be there to fix it up. On the long list of things that separate Bode from her peers (and her many imitators) is that she absolutely intends for her clothes to be worn – and would rather fix the hole in your shirt than sell you a new one.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Balance. Area SS21

Area‘s Piotrek Panszczyk and Beckett Fogg play along their own rules – and it certainly works. The pair presented their second see-now-buy-now ready-to-wear offering, filled with signature glitz, twisted with a pinch of Dada, and photographed by Paul Kooiker. Unlocking the ability to offer the full Area proposition has opened up a new galaxy of creative potential for Panszczyk and Fogg. The more conceptual pieces take the idea of duality, two ideas swirling together, and represent it literally in a spiral of fabric on bosoms and blazers. Models wear full face masks and giant crystal bow headbands, their feet tucked into platform disco-inspired clogs. The surreal look-book only makes the Area proposition feel all the more appealing, highlighting the more challenging garments and elevating the easy-in-approach ones. There’s a freedom in Area’s new path forward of fusing comfort, creativity, and smart e-commerce. That’s their gold recepe for a small brand thriving in harsh times.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

The Great Beauty. Danielle Frankel AW21

The topic of bridal-wear might be a dull for some (like me!), but the moment I’ve discovered Danielle Frankel, I instantly changed my mind. Danielle Hirsch, the designer, made her mark as a bridal designer, yet her autumn-winter 2021 collection is a hybrid between a wedding gowns line-up and fabulous eveningwear. Many of her clients gravitate toward the idea of remixed bridal looks, choosing slinky slip dresses and silk separates. Moreover, Hirsch noticed that women are rewearing their pared-back, yet elegant wedding looks beyond the altar. So, the designer’s transition to ready-to-wear is a natural one, even though the body-skimming white dresses with Hirsch’s signature flourishes certainly look like they’re made for getting married in. Also in that vein is a standout column dress with sheer sleeves and exaggerated shoulders created with layered lace flowers. One of the best “ready-to-wear” pieces is a royal blue dress with a pleated waist that gives the body a severe and beautiful whittled effect. The neckline opens up to reveal a slight décolletage, and further flows into sculpted, voluminous shoulders. Hirsch will always have her bridal clients, but she definitely feels the ground in less ceremonial (and equally entrance-making) garments.

“Live” collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Lockdown-Era Avant-garde. Puppets & Puppets AW21

It’s great to see some of the most exciting New York-based labels gradually returning with their new collections. How about some lockdown-era avant-garde? There was a time not so long ago when Carly Mark’s Puppets & Puppets might have seemed more like an art project than a fashion brand. Mark is, after all, one of New York’s most well-known mixed-media artists. But over the course of this pandemic year, she has recalibrated her fashion work, turning it into a true business ( new production manager was brought on and factories in Italy were contracted, as were knitting artisans in Bolivia and Peru). Mark is charting a course in which Puppets & Puppets is just as much a clothing company as a creative expression. Her historically minded bustles, panniers, and corsetry remain as the label’s signature, only now there is boning interfaced into the garments to make them easier to put on and wear. Denim in a medium wash straight-leg style is new, and there is an expansive knitwear program that brings together artists in New York and South America over pomegranate sweaters, logo intarsias, and azure maxi-dresses. In the brand’s look book, cast by Anita Bitton, there’s Jane Moseley posing in a crinoline skirt made of sunny florals, and the stylist Patti Wilson, a longtime supporter of the label, taking a turn in card-print suiting and a patchwork dress. That’s the ultimate goal of Mark’s expansion project: to ensure that her community and collaborators can continue to be a part of her world.

“Live” collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Spice Up. Maryam Nassir Zadeh AW21

When I think of a contemporary New York girl, I see her dressed in Maryam Nassir Zadeh. And even during lockdown, she wears Zadeh’s “oddly elegant“, always authentic and never forced designs. The designer hasn’t created a runway collection since spring 2020, and the extended pause gave her the space to reset, refocus, and design closer to her own tastes, without the distractions and noise of a show. Like her recent collections, autumn-winter 2021 felt simpler and stripped back, but also sexier. The heat mostly came from a handful of miniskirts (like one in metallic leather, shown with a matching blazer) and backless, thigh-grazing party dresses. As she often does, Zadeh predicted the miniskirt comeback early on. The designer foresees her clients craving clothes that feel bolder, happier and lighter. Zadeh isn’t a moodboard-type designer, but she did make one surprise reference: Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City – the early seasons, filmed at the turn of the 2000s. Who didn’t rewatch all the episodes in the lazy quarantine days? You can glimpse SATC’s protagonist in the asymmetrical party dresses, vibrant accessories and the plucky flower pin adorning a slip. Zadeh’s interest was less in the character or TV show and more in the balance of no-frills minimalism and “spice ups,” as she put it. In our stay-home-style moment, it was easy to picture Carrie (and many of Zadeh’s customers) in the opening look: a cobalt knit set paired not with sneakers, but block-heel mules. Definitely an idea for Carrie’s 2021 wardrobe in And Just Like That…!

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.