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!
“Live” collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
Area‘s autumn-winter 2019 was a bold, multi-faceted line-up of looks that can be, simply speaking, called ‘occasion-wear’. But then, why not look so fabulous on the daily? And make your outfit a joyous occasion itself? There was red houndstooth print used in slit dresses and over-sized pants; tie-dye on a leather skirt that was actually an apron; a killer orange jumpsuit; a puffa vest and a mini-dress in black & white, all covered in the brand’s logo; the signature two tone lamé, that looked like some sort of magical liquid dripping down the body. The designers, Beckett Fogg and Piotrek Panszczyk, clashed Dancehall style, 80s glitz and 60s Courrèges like no one else. The collection was like a huge image, or rather, a number of visions pressed into one runway collection. But the effect wasn’t overcharged – quite the opposite. It was flawless. All the colours, themes, prints, styles, eras. That was the aim: “it’s about these dualities: how can they live not in contrast but in harmony?” Their new season offering is the perfect answer.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
Beckett Fogg and Piotrek Panszczyk dabbed their fashion at Area as ‘occasion-wear’. Evening-wear tends to be too dark and too formal. Day-to-say might fall into the ‘boring’ shelf. Meanwhile ‘occasion’ sounds like lots of joy, no? Spring-summer 2019 line-up was shiny, colourful, full of bliss and charm. Those clothes are for celebration moments, but not only. Why not make every day a reason to dress like you’re off to a dance party on a sci-fi spaceship? The designers behind Area might be asking the same question. “We started thinking: What is important for us in fashion? I think as designers, in design in general, our core value is play. Playing is something so intellectual but also so pure,” Piotrek told Vogue. Indeed, it’s a intellectual, especially when Libuše Niklová is on your mood board. Niklová was a Czech artist and inventor who created the first inflatable toys for children in the ’60s – think cats with long stretched-out bodies, funny crocodiles. How did the designers refer to that quite intriguing persona and her body of work? Inflated metal earrings; big hats; candy-coloured trunk bags made in collaboration with Italian leather heritage house Bertoni 1949. I tell you, not many would tackle an inspiration like this with such fluency and smoothness. But wait, the clothes were equally playful! Festive crystal dress; sheer prairie gown in burgundy; a sleeveless bow top in eye-popping green; metallic bodice dress in pinkish, faux leather. Area clearly says a ‘no no’ to the musty, dusty ‘cocktail dress’, since they’ve got so many brilliant alternatives to, ugh, a bondage dress or this sort of sleazy stuff. Once again, we dress for occasions, big and small – not necessarily just for the cocktails.
Collages by Edward Kanarecki.