New York. Khaite SS22

Khaite’s spring-summer 2022 show was incompatible with Instagram, from the intentional lack of photographers to the (also intentional) dim, hazy lighting. This was Cate Holstein‘s intention. Set in the bowels of a Lower East Side apartment building, there were wild green vines climbing up the walls, tumbling from the rafters, and snaking across the floor, as if we’d descended into an overgrown, long-forgotten basement. It was something of a metaphor for New York’s resilience and regeneration, and echoed a collection designed for the equally resilient New York woman. Much of Holstein’s focus this season was on the touch and feel of the clothes – and not just in the materials but how a garment might alternately embrace or liberate the wearer. Gigi Hadid’s opening look was a luminous ivory satin coat lightly filled with down, “like your duvet cover, but more elevated,” said Holstein at a preview. “I think it’s still important to be gentle to ourselves,” she added. A crinkled organza bubble dress would be almost weightless on the body, while a new hand-stitched satin harness might feel satisfyingly snug over a T-shirt. A chrome sequined mini was deliberately heavy, she noted, “to ground you.” These are details that can’t be captured in two dimensions, but make all the difference IRL. “I think we’ve really established the brand’s character, so now it’s about pushing our materials and construction techniques,” said the designer. Holstein pointed out a ruched sequined dress in glittering pale gold, styled here with an oversized chocolate bomber. The effect was of a woman heading to a glitzy party – maybe her first since lockdown – and on her way out the door, she throws on her everyday jacket, not a fancy evening coat. Why fuss when you can be comfortable? Now more than ever, she’s less inclined toward prescriptive full looks and deeply curious to see how each customer puts their own unique spin on a Khaite piece.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Club, Dance, Party, Club. Tom Ford SS22

Tom Ford really delivered this season! The collection was phenomenal – I would even say it’s one of the best outings of this New York Fashion Week. For spring-summer 2022, Ford is ready for the good times to start rolling again. Though there were laidback, athleisure-y shapes, these were not clothes for staying home, or going unnoticed. Quite the opposite: racer back tanks and basketball shorts or track pants were stitched all over in neon sequins: fuchsia and orange or acid green and pool blue. To finish the look: an oversize satin blazer in another bright color and accessories in the form of a crystal studded choker and barrettes, and a towering pair of satin heels. In his thoughtful show notes, Ford observed that LA has changed him, and that Instagram has changed everybody. “Photogenic clothes today by their very nature mean that they are not at all timid… My clothes this season are simple in cut but not in impact.” Then he went on to quote the imminently quotable Diana Vreeland: “I know it’s a lot but is it enough?” No to gowns and tuxedos, but a resounding yes to sparkle, the more the better. In addition to the sequins and satin, there were jean jackets encrusted with gilt chains, leopard spot lamé tailoring, and masses of gold necklaces worn over shirts unbuttoned down to there and knotted at the navel, and lots and lots of metallic ribbed knits. “Mostly,” Ford wrote, “I think that this is a hopeful collection and at a moment when we all need hope. We need that now more than ever.” Envisioning the light at the end of the tunnel, he just amped up the glam factor.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Rituals. Vaquera SS22

Vaquera is growing up, but it keeps on being true to its core identity of one of New York’s most daring and intriguing brands. Where the label had once used real trash bags and duct tape as textile stand-ins, it is now using specially developed fabrics. And spring-summer 2022 saw the first Vaquera handbags – shaped like classical instrument cases including shrunken carriers for a violin, snare drum and flute. “It’s changed everything, as we headed into the pandemic we probably wouldn’t have been able to keep this business open without them. We owe everything to them – it’s been an incredible partnership,” Bryn Taubensee said of Dover Street Market Paris’ September 2020 pledge to help the brand’s development. “I think this brand started with a DIY spirit and now we have this structure with Comme and have come so far with sales,” Patric DiCaprio added. The designers, which recently saw their third counterpart Claire Sullivan depart to work on personal projects, said their overall mood was swayed by notions of “luck and superstition and trying to take control of a situation that’s out of control – the rituals you can do to make yourself feel powerful”. Between the lace tights, leggings with a heart cutout perfectly aligned over the buttocks and ballooning gowns tiered in the formation of a New York City sidewalk trash heap, Vaquera delivers its underground quintessence in a less amateur manner.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Subverted Reality. Puppets & Puppets SS22

Carly Mark‘s spring-summer 2022 collection for Puppets & Puppets indulged in a surreal spookiness – to a level-headed extent. Why were there saucers on the butt of a toile skirt? Why was a gymnastics leotard layered with a button-down? And why did that model have cheese on her head? But things aren’t as madly subverted as in the past collections of the label. Part of this season’s success has to do with Mark’s growing business awareness. She hired a production team and every piece on the runway was production ready; no more one-offs or art projects. Fruit printed denim, trompe l’oeil nude knits, and printed midi-skirts felt like her most salable items ever – even the hoop skirts had a new wearability. Then there were Mark’s kooky accessories. Her first to-market collection of chocolate chip cookie bags and Ferrero Rocher heels sold out on Ssense in few days. This season she’s offering shoppers a choice of Swiss cheese wedges, black-and-white cookie bags, and a cruller purse.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Once Upon A Time. Thom Browne SS22

No one in New York does opera-level drama like Thom Browne. At his spring 2022 presentation, which was an artistic performance and a fashion spectacle at the same time, the audience could be carried off in awe in so many directions: pegasuses rode penny-farthings, a couple of bachelors haunted a raw wood house, models turned from shrubs into statues… just wow. The presentation began with a voice-over about a couple of bachelors stuck indoors, looking out over an aging garden. Classic statuary, the tradition of carving a marble block into a contrapposto David, charted the show’s three parts: part one, twenty Platonic suiting ideals; part two, the pure marble slab as tunic and maxi, fastened with a hook-and-eye up the back; part three, a trick of the eye, a flex of artistry, full force in tulle. At the end, the show’s two bachelors chained their gates, unzipped each other’s gray wool dresses, and orbited each other, never quite touching hands. Passion thrives in the littlest gestures; Browne’s show was full of beauty to pluck your heartstrings and stoke your sartorial flame. And oh, the details! Those rainbow-color tulle dresses that made up the finale, with trompe l’oeil drapery and abs (the exact Greek statues Browne visited were in The Met), were not painted, but dozens of layers of tulle built up like a topography of the human form. Teddy Quinlivan’s long sheath had an arm sewn to the torso, and the models who walked in the show’s first passage were layered in at least four Browne tailoring separates. This show was not only awesome for its theatricality but for its scale; other designers would struggle to make a single garment to Browne’s standard. Browne made about 200. Each of those 200 shirts, pants, skirts, suits, jackets, bags, shoes, and hand-made gray flowers was, in not-so-coded language, a love letter to American fashion. Browne moved his show back to New York for one season only in support of his partner Andrew Bolton’s exhibition “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion” opening at The Met this week. 

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.