Maryam Nassir Zadeh is the queen of contemporary New York cool – there I said it. Her clothes – recently also for men – are the perfect balance of odd and classic, and the way they are presented is beautifully inclusive and inspiring. Her spring-summer 2022 collection was presented at the brand’s newly reopened store. Surprisingly, it also marked her first show in the space; she described it as a homecoming. “It was really important for me to have the show at the store, to celebrate that it’s still alive and celebrate the community that has supported us since the beginning,” she said. That spirit was felt both in the audience and the impactful cast, including MNZ regulars like Susan Cianciolo, Paloma Elsesser, and Lili Sumner as well as Zadeh’s husband, Uday Kak, and Andre Walker. Zadeh’s impulse to go “back to her roots” via the setting was mirrored in the clothes, too. Her early collections were quite minimal, and through the years she’s experimented with bolder colors, prints, silhouettes, and styling. But as life inches towards normalcy, she’s feeling for an aesthetic reset – something cleaner, easier, purer. That doesn’t add up to our standard definition of minimalism; the way she put it was “playful, but restrained.” That odd balance is Zadeh’s signature: classic-ish button-downs and denim shorts were styled with her cult PVC wedges and glass jewelry, yoga pants were “spiced up” by leather medallion belts, filmy translucent skirts and dresses revealed bright bikinis underneath, and crisp 9-to-5 chinos flared over neon kitten heels. The unlikely pairings and delicate sensuality seemed to reflect how so many women want to dress in 2022: not trendy or overly referential, but not basic; sophisticated, but not stuffy. It’s a modern vision of “femininity” rooted in individuality and curiosity, not overt sex appeal or convention. That said, Zadeh was even more excited about her menswear offering, which grew significantly for spring. The guys in the show wore raw-edged suede shirts, color-blocked polo knits, and raw denim jorts with sharp blazers, often with bits of colored glass strung across the chest. The impression was unprecious and, like the womenswear, a bit sensual; she felt the knits in particular would bring something new to the men’s market. Still, Zadeh makes a point not to separate garments by “men’s” or “women’s” on her website. Ultimately, all of her garments – from suits to bikinis to see-through minis – will be worn by people of every gender identity.
I really loved Fendi’s autumn-winter 2020 collection. First, no sight of F logos all over the place. Second, Silvia Venturini Fendi nailed the femme fatale look making it simultaneously powerful and confident. Third, the collection’s model casting is a revolutionary moment for Milan, which is considered the most „conservative” of all four fashion capitals. Jill Kortleve and Paloma Elsesser became the first ever so-called “plus size” models to walk a Fendi runway. They looked incredible. And there were also the „veteran” models: Karen Elson (she had completely elevated her grey knit look), Liya Kebede, Carolyn Murphy and Jacquetta Wheeler. Silvia found it frustrating to always present shows whose casts were defined by the sample size. “Especially because you talk to me and I am not really a prototype of that shape. So it’s liberating for me to portray these clothes in a different way, on different sizes.” Yes, two models in a cast of 50 girls seems not much, but still. Big hopes that this isn’t just a one-season thing. Back to the clothes for a moment. Fendi mentioned liberation, and that was the spirit of a show presented on a curvy, pink upholstered runway. The spectrum of that freedom ran from the liberatedly libidinous to the glass-ceiling smashing, or “from the boudoir to the boardroom” as the show-notes put it. The pieces combined executive chic with a sexual tweak. This was a collection that embraced the double standards of male-eye categorization and short-circuited them via disassembly and disguise: dressing up for self-gratification rather than that of others. Silvia Fendi and Miuccia Prada are the only two pre-eminent female designers in Milan. This season, both of them make significant statements on women and femininity.
Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta were working through a bunch of ideas this season – colored acid-washed and “experimental” distressed denim, as they put it after their Eckhaus Latta show; boxy tailoring paired with either super-abbreviated skirts or languid, flared trousers; liquid fabric effects. As is typical for this New York-based label, the clothes were gently (rather than aggressively) challenging, with most of the novelty to be found in the occasional so-odd-its-good proportion, the unexpected finish on a garment, or the painterly quality of the garments’ surfaces (take the sweater knit with what looked like brushstrokes of bold color or jeans with a watercolor-y acid wash). Everything, even the purposefully frayed pieces, was executed with a lot of polish – and that, Latta and Eckhaus said, was the real story here. As Latta noted, they were posing “existential questions” to themselves, like, “What are we doing here?” and “Why are we making any of this?” that they answered by focusing on craft. The goal, they said, was for every piece in this collection to have a long life cycle, whether that means one wearer using a garment over many years, or several wearers enjoying the same piece. “Whatever we made,” Latta elaborated, “we wanted it to last.” Another sustainability step they took was partnering with resale site The RealReal to source footwear for the runway. Give an existing shoe a life, instead of making dozens of prototypes and samples is a great idea. But also, Mike and Zoe have always been more interested in producing clothes for varying types of people to integrate into their lives and wardrobes as they please than they have been in creating a brand uniform. Seeing all different shoes on the models highlighted the designers’ commitment to designing collections that can be interpreted in a variety of ways.
I love the first days of New York fashion week, because it’s the moment of the most daring, yet under-the-radar designers that do true wonders – without the presence of major venues, influencers, and all that stuff… Maryam Nassir Zadeh is definitely one of those designers. Although she’s beloved by her New York fandom of female professionals, she’s a designer who is far from (and, what’s most important, has no plans to be) glossy establishment. It’s a brand for women like Susan Cianciolo, Paloma Elsesser and Hailey Benton Gates – bold, diverse individuals with their own sense of style. Maryam’s clothes are, as the designer herself says, simple and intuitive. They never dress or invade you. But you’re free to experiment with them, the way you want, according to your mood. A fleece zip-up cinched with low-slung belt over a pleated skirt; beaded knit tucked in a pencil skirt; tie-dye harlequin top over a pair of cargo pants; blue leopard print coat and a delicate frock; zebra boots with a brown, leather overall. If you can’t really afford Maryam Nassir Zadeh, don’t be afraid to try the ways the designer presents the outfits. Her ‘hand-picked dressing’ is all about mixing, and spontaneity. No total looks. Bit of vintage, bit of edgy, bit of feminine: that’s the grab-and-go look of a New York woman whose wardrobe is consciously (or unconsciously) nurtured by Zadeh throughout the years.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki (featuring a Hilma Af Klint artwork).