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.

Femininity Spectrum. Area Resort 2022

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.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Glamour-To-Wear. Area AW21

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.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Balance. Area SS21

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.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.