Spikey. Area AW22

The opening look of Area‘s first ever runway collection was quite a message. A cage dress made from bands of Japanese selvedge denim and covered in jumbo spikes around the body, sleeves and neck, was an immediate plea to be left alone, but worn with flat sandals, you could almost imagine the practical implications of wearing such a garment out in the real world – perhaps to take the train by oneself late at night? If it wasn’t obvious that underneath the spikes there was a wearable sporty denim dress, then the second look, a bustier with a sweetheart necklace and a matching miniskirt also made of denim, and featuring the season’s “folded bondage bow,” as it was named it in the show notes, finished spelling it out. At Area there is constant exploration of the liminal space between aggression and rebellion and making beautiful clothes that sell. “For me it’s always been so hard to understand that there’s this separation between stuff that you sell and stuff that you dream of,” designer Piotrek Panszczyk said after the show. “And it’s really about connecting the dots and showing people how they’re related to each other, and why both are really important.” And so if you looked beyond the jumbo spikes and the folded pyramid elements and the fantastic sculptural pieces that are Area’s signature, you’d notice the sporty jersey track pants with multicolor Swarovski details down the side worn with an easy sleeveless tank with a cutout detail at the chest, or the silver velvet jeans worn with a matching bustier. You’d also spot a series of cocktail dresses that were classic in their execution, including a purple mini dress with a pleated detail at the sweetheart neckline (“Purple is this kind of religious color, there’s something very priest-like about it, so we wanted to embrace that and twist it and show it in a different way,” Panszczyk explained). Area also announced a collaboration with Sergio Rossi for this season, who did several pairs of high heeled strappy sandals as well as a pair of flats. This certainly isn’t my favourite Area collection (feels too overworked), but big thumbs up for all the experimenting.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Entrancing. Area Pre-Fall 2022

The eternal flora and fauna theme were Piotrek Panszczyk’s most obvious starting point for pre-fall 2022, taking hot pink duchesse satin and creating static floral poufs that could be sized up or down to create a crop top and mini skirt or an entrancing dress. Flowers also appear as spiked crystal tops and pasties, as sunglasses, as earrings, and as crystal pants that wind up the legs. Since Area’s last collection, its showgirl potential has become more fully realized; these experiments in fluttering crystal seem destined for Beyoncé, Olivia Rodrigo, Precious Lee, or any of the other larger-than-life women that swear by the brand’s devilishly saccharine clothes. Careful to not give it all away in a pre-collection, Panszczyk has balanced it out with sharpened tailoring in black, white, and brown houndstooth boasting crystal trim, as well as an extended section of leopard print pouf skirts and teensy bustiers. The disparate harmony of a blazers-to-pasties collection is justified by the Area books. According to Panszczyk and Area’s co-founder Beckett Fogg, the customer wants a crystal-strewn tee as much as she wants a Vegas-worthy headpiece. For seasons, Area has been reckoning with these two poles, daily use versus drama, but it seems the brand is on its way to a single more unified vision of something “dainty, natural, sultry, and thorny.” Per Panszczyk, “sexiness is just a byproduct of wearing Area.”

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
Don’t forget to follow Design & Culture by Ed on Instagram!

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We Are All Showgirls. Area SS22

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.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.