Area’s Piotrek Panszczyk and Beckett Fogg continue to push the envelope with their made-to-wear glamour. Since launching the brand in 2013, the designers have done so much introspection and recalibration that it’s hard to know if it’s the go-to brand for haute space bitches, haunting Dadaist ghouls, pop star glamazons, or former first ladies. Ask Panszczyk and he’ll answer that the label has always been for everyone but the clothes didn’t always show it, seasonally skewing in favor of one audience while cutting out the rest. Panszczyk and Fogg took 2020 to recenter themselves and their brand, choosing to show in season and to make salability and creativity equal parts of their process. Not either/or but both. As Panszczyk explained over a Zoom call, their shoppers have just as much desire for a couture-grade crystal pantie as they do a pair of crystal-studded jeans. To meet their needs, Area presented its own kind of solution dressing this season, injecting glamour into normcore and normalcy into high-gloss glamorama. Jeans enter the picture in a medium-wash straight-leg style adorned with crystals and paired with a bitchy little bustier. Tweed suiting is cropped and shrunken, with rhinestone fringe falling from hems. A classic LBD comes in vinyl, and the brand’s famous pale pink lamé returns in the form of iridescent minidresses, corsets, and skirts. Knitwear is growing too, with pink and lime pieces dotted with tiny crystal bows. This new Area wardrobe captures the vixenish nature of the label without compromising on wearability; exactly the branding exercise a company needs to push it from emerging to established. But Panszczyk and Fogg are smart to not let their good business sense totally overshadow the weirdness that makes Area special. During the pandemic they connected with Chinese designer Dingyun Zhang, whose enormous puffer jackets have also caught the eye of Kanye West and his Yeezy team. After a couple DMs, the trio decided to collaborate, cropping Zhang’s puffers into cloudlike vests, bralettes, and skirts, and then tamping them down with Area’s crystal harnesses. The results are delightfully kooky, heavenly, and sensual all at once. Area’s year of questioning has yielded some good answers.
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!
Finally, somebody brought life back to the sleepy first days of New York fashion week. You can always count on Area’s Beckett Fogg and Piotrek Panszczyk to deliver something unexpected, fun and bold. And intelligent. The duo’s The autumn-winter 2020 line-up was one of their most intensive yet, exploring fabrics, history, new technologies, collaboration, and cultural impact through garments that truly do not look like anything else on the market. Fogg and Panszczyk began their research this season with their venue, The Africa Center. The nonprofit cultural hub and museum was moved to the Upper East Side’s Museum Mile almost 10 years ago, but development stalled when funding fell out. The brand has inked a partnership with the center in the hopes of spotlighting African culture and craft in the USA. Weaving techniques native to Africa helped inform the show’s opening looks, too, but an Area collection is never just about one thing. There was plenty of other references: Japanese tropical postcards, the pleating and draping of Madame Grès, leather costumes by Eiko Ishioka for Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula, interior design by the New York–based duo Myreality (the chair bags!) and Romeo Gigli’s heart motifs. Most important is the idea of boundary-free globalism. As designers, the pair pull inspiration from wherever they please, but what makes their clothing so interesting is the way they melt these ideas together in a spectacular alchemy. It’s reflective of the way they see the world, and how they see New York in particular: a borderless community of free spirits. Clothes-wise, those are garments for the daring ones who love being extra 24/7, that’s for sure. But then, some of the pieces put separate – like knitwear, tailoring and coats, all pimped up with rhinestones – are great for everyday style. I wish some big musician finally discovered Area and wore their extraordinary garments on tours and the red carpet.
Area for spring-summer 2020 is… a lot. Beckett Fogg and Piotrek Panszczyk’s brand that’s all about “occasion-wear” continues to deliver the most bold, party-ready clothes in New York. Whether it’s an over-sized white jacket covered in gold chains, trompe l’oeil crotchet tops made out of colourful rhinestones, arty crop-tops made out of tubes (each finished with a crystal, of course) or a red-carpet-perfect, draped gown in peach, one thing’s sure: you will be noticed in Area wherever you go.