And just like that… FASHION is back at New York Fashion Week! For all the places Area has taken us, around the world and to outer space, a nightclub has strangely never been a stop along the way. It was maybe too obvious to Piotr Panszczyk – Area is a brand rooted in crystal trim and sexy cutouts. You get it; he doesn’t really need to spell it out. But wow, what a treat when he does. For its spring 2022 collection, Area finally delved into its showgirl roots, touching on the Deco glamour of Zizi Jeanmaire, the exuberant costumes of Brazil’s Carnaval, and the slouchy glitz of an off-duty Vegas dancer. “We are all showgirls,” Panszczyk said within Area’s new showroom that is completely silver, ceiling to floor, save for an entirely gilded bathroom. “And showgirls aren’t just about being pretty. It’s political; it’s about their bodies – and they are tough.” The Follies Area are oozing sparkle – crystal pants, obsessive beading in every color of the rainbow, A-R-E-A spelled out in crystal on their thongs – but the spirit is different. No more thoughtless spangle, no flippant sexiness. In a video, Connie Fleming, Janet Jumbo, Sophie Koella, Precious Lee, Lulu Tenney, and Mariana Pardinho move like Mugler-inspired Barbarellas – rigid, assertive, almost threatening in their beauty. The clothes are as diverse as the women who wear them: sweatsuits are trimmed with feathers; baggy jeans have cutouts on the thighs; and blazers are modeled on corset shapes, fastening with hook-and-eye closures. There’s no question: these are over-the-top pieces for a woman who knows what she wants.
When it comes to the couture elements of Area’s latest, props to Panszczyk for asking a question so demented it has surely never been asked before: what if Jean Arp were sexy and sparkly? Working with embroidery artisans in India, the designer built bulbous bodies out of padding and strict seaming, and had the artisans embroider them completely with beads, crystals, and sequins. Metal headpieces, tops, and jewelry were handmade by a German artist in Rome to evoke the tremble of feathers. The level of handwork is resplendent, and amid a NYFW of problem-solving clothes, it feels even more a delight to be in the presence of such unadulterated creativity. It’s also funny. Fashion can be too self-serious; Panszczyk has hit his stride with this collection and isn’t afraid to giggle about it.
“It’s about femininity in all its forms,” said Area’s Piotrek Panszczyk of the New York-based label’s phenomenal resort 2022 collection preview with Vogue. “From hard-core sex kitten to something daintier with pink, daisies, and crystals.” That might sound impossibly broad, but reaching out to all the hot girls, quirky chicks, and vampish women is something Area has specialized in since the brand was founded in 2013 by Panszczyk and Beckett Fogg. The collection spans racy lingerie dotted with crystal bows, chic ivory suiting dangling with crystal fringe, and kitschy denim punctuated with massive brass studs. It’s a lot of look and a lot of drama for a ready-to-wear offering – but Panszczyk affirms it sells. Party options are many this season, with Area creating its own lace from crystal patterns, drawing inspiration from medieval armor for giant studded leather bows and bustiers, and ingeniously embellishing a black minidress with bright red press-on nails for a “rhinestoned at the nail salon” bit of camp. A growing denim offering adds to the label’s ready-to-wear expansion, as do its popular platform clogs and square-toed mules, now adorned with sweet little daisy charms. With the collection landing on Area’s e-commerce site right now, it seems like only a matter of time before bombshells from Miami to Macau start trying out the brand’s manic new femininity.
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.
You really couldn’t wish for a better ending of an incredible (digital) haute couture week. Saying that this was Area‘s debut couture collection is quite a false statement, since each collection coming from New York-based Piotrek Panszczyk and Beckett Fogg is a couture-level fantasy. The designers ditched the spring-summer 2021 ready-to-wear schedule, making a bold power move not only for themselves, but for American fashion (same can be said of Schiaparelli’s Daniel Roseberry!). Area’s bold 14-look couture collection showcases their range of talent (think showgirl crystals and outlandish silhouettes combined with technically ambitious tailoring), and their lookbook, which stars Precious Lee and Yasmin Wijnaldum, is a sort of statement of intent. This is most certainly not old-world couture, with its strictly sample size casting. “Difference for us is a positive thing,” Fogg told Vogue. Lee opens the lookbook in a black smoking, featuring extravagant metalwork trimming the cuffs. The designers, who are catholic in their references, said they were looking at the coin embroideries of Berber peoples for the jacket’s embellishments, as well as for a pair of delicate and quite dreamy dresses made from thousands of individually hand-finished circles of organza. The rib cage pieces, embroidered with Swarovski crystals in India and assembled in New York, look destined for the Grammys or concert stages, once IRL events ramp back up again. Cake dresses whose tiers are fashioned from duchesse satin fully panniered in tulle do take their cues, Panszczyk said, from the couture of Emanuel Ungaro, Yves Saint Laurent and Cristobal Balenciaga, but the Area designers constructed them so they are open on one side. Wijnaldum flashes skin from her shoulders to the crystal-encrusted tops of the black leather platform clogs that Area will be selling with their third ready-to-wear drop later this year. This couture season has shown us that some of the designers are ready to challenge the system and are capable of reflecting the times we are living in. But seeing the new generation taking couture to new dimensions and redefining it is what I’m looking forward to the most!