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.

Lockdown-Era Avant-garde. Puppets & Puppets AW21

It’s great to see some of the most exciting New York-based labels gradually returning with their new collections. How about some lockdown-era avant-garde? There was a time not so long ago when Carly Mark’s Puppets & Puppets might have seemed more like an art project than a fashion brand. Mark is, after all, one of New York’s most well-known mixed-media artists. But over the course of this pandemic year, she has recalibrated her fashion work, turning it into a true business ( new production manager was brought on and factories in Italy were contracted, as were knitting artisans in Bolivia and Peru). Mark is charting a course in which Puppets & Puppets is just as much a clothing company as a creative expression. Her historically minded bustles, panniers, and corsetry remain as the label’s signature, only now there is boning interfaced into the garments to make them easier to put on and wear. Denim in a medium wash straight-leg style is new, and there is an expansive knitwear program that brings together artists in New York and South America over pomegranate sweaters, logo intarsias, and azure maxi-dresses. In the brand’s look book, cast by Anita Bitton, there’s Jane Moseley posing in a crinoline skirt made of sunny florals, and the stylist Patti Wilson, a longtime supporter of the label, taking a turn in card-print suiting and a patchwork dress. That’s the ultimate goal of Mark’s expansion project: to ensure that her community and collaborators can continue to be a part of her world.

“Live” collage by Edward Kanarecki.