Into The Groove. CDLM SS22

New York Fashion Week is on! And it’s real. What a joy to see the young designers back on the runway. CDLM‘s spring-summer 2022 line-up is a good start. Held at the James Fuentes Gallery on the Lower East Side, the label’s designer, Chris Peters, delivered a post-lockdown vision of a night-out wardrobe. Romantic, frayed, messy, and intoxicating vision of what can go right and, what the hell, what sometimes goes a bit wrong, but in the end, what makes something a beautiful reminder of all the possibilities of life between dusk and dawn. And the emphasis here is on hands: Peters made most of these clothes himself, using whatever was around, or out of pieces of things he has lovingly collected, then given a second life. Take, for instance, the poetically dulled gleam from a top made up of patching together pieces of a 19th century Indian tapestry, worn with black satin evening trousers whose perfection of cut pursued an idea of anti-fit; a little off, a lot cool. “A trouser which feels quite sexy, which has attitude,” is how he put it. Another case in point: The deadstock floral fabric radically transformed when used for a pair of low slung jeans. Elsewhere, that adorned top and minimal-glam trouser combo came in the form of a draped tank made from unused tulle from the ’50s, its athletic shape blown apart by the swoosh of an ostrich feather, a recurring motif, partnered with straight-cut anyone-can-wear-’em pants. Other times, the shirt was the focus: a white cotton tux version over a second-skin tubular dress, or a deconstructed style in a washed, faded black, wrapped and draped and twisted around the body. But sometimes the eye would be wrested away from the clothes, and look at the adornments: the crochet garland scarfs, or the entanglement of delicate chain necklaces. For Peters, the question, he said, was where does the clothing stop and the ornamentation start? As he remarked, “You can wear one of the garlands with your t-shirt. That’s your gown.” What he is doing is opening up the conversation to create things that don’t just exist in a vacuum, but can be in conversation with what you already own, and wear, and love to death. Pieces which can, in other words, do the thing we’re learning to do again: socialize.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Wasteless Fashion Is Not A Myth. Duran Lantink AW21

They say that fashion will never be 100% sustainable. A brand can do its best to keep things eco-friendly, but in the end, clothes are still being produced. But Duran Lantink‘s method proves the industry that there’s a revolutionary (and very witty) way of making fashion as wasteless as possible. His upcycling methods – repurposing unsold designer-label clothes in his pioneering, cheeky way – date back to 2013, but only now seem to fully resonate with a wider audience. Autumn-winter 2021 season is the designer’s first (of course digital) fashion show collection. “Basically, during lockdown, I had time to work with my assistant, Thibault, on all the materials I had left over from collaborations with stores and brands, and to come up with this, our first runway collection.” Thibault is in the show, wearing, in one of his exits, a swishing lemon yellow dress that is reconstructed from another dress which had been left over from Lantink’s collaboration with Ellery last year. The point was to give him free rein to recycle and give new life to their unsold inventory. Lantink pointed out to Vogue how he’s unpicked, restyled, and refashioned multiple piles of clothes lying around his studio which “used to be” garments by Balmain, Balenciaga, Prada, Proenza Schouler, Vetements, Marine Serre, and many more. “In the beginning, we started with stores to see how we could work with their deadstock to see how we could stop their clothes going into landfill. And that was the beginning of thinking how we could create a completely new form of business.” The collection is like an aethetical 2000s-style remix of sexy revealing, sparkle and sharp minimalism. There’s a zigzaggy sparkly dress – one breast out – remade from something unsold from Balmain, and naked illusion half-dresses sewn onto stretchy body pieces. A flash of a diamanté thong (made from recycled materials) is homage to Tom Ford’s Gucci 1997 moment, but with a Duran Lantink logo planted in the crucial place. Yet Lantink has also now come up with an ingenious plan for extending the buzzy fashion “moment” so that it can morph into potentially infinite new shapes for his followers. He announced the launch of a service on his new direct-to-wearer website. “When you’re fed up with something, you can click on two tabs. One, where you can resell. On the other, we will work with you to remake what you have to become whatever you like. So a coat can become a dress. A dress can become a shirt. A shirt can be trousers. Whatever you want!” People who are up for engaging with Lantink’s process are destined to be the happy recipients of fully documented online records of where their clothes originated, and how they’ve been altered over time: a personalized archive. That redefinition of being able to love and re-love clothes in a never-ending cycle restyled by a designer is something truly, truly innovative.

“Live” collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Core. Marine Serre AW21

Digital Paris Fashion Week started today, and it hit off with Marine Serre‘s “Core” collections. We’ve got used to Serre’s dystopian visions, which appeared to be ironically precise (she pioneered face masks on the runway seasons ago…). However, her autumn-winter 2021 line-up is all about optymism and hope. The collection wasn’t heralded by a shallow short movie,  but by a website, http://www.marineserrecore.com, which went live at her regular spot on the Paris schedule. The website is a chronicle of all that goes into her designs, and ergo her view of the world, as much as it is a reveal of her new offering and a joyful, life-affirming celebration of family, friends, and community. “Core means the core of the brand, in much the same way as the idea of the core of a computer,” Serre said during a preview. “It’s all of the memory; how everything connects. Pragmatically,” she went on to say, “it’s been three years since we began. We’ve been doing a lot, being an extremely creative brand; we felt the urge to talk, ring the bell, raise the alarm, and reflect that in what we’ve created. This is maybe another moment. An opportunity to look at the interesting processes we’ve put in place; to really think about the garments and the materials we make them from – the transformation of those is really part of our creativity.” The collection is essentially a blueprint of all that Serre has accomplished since she launched the label, filled with her signatures. It’s also a pretty breathtaking and brilliant statement of what can be achieved in the space of three short years; what can emerge when you harness talent with a clear sense of purpose and convictions about what constitutes your values.

There are plenty of Serre’s upcycled silk scarves, draped around sinuous black dresses, which have been accessorized with talismanic metal belts and petite chain-strap bags, while other scarves have been worked into tunics and tees. Deadstock leather in shades of black, tan, and brown is graphically patched, with an anthropomorphic feel into blazers with squared-off shoulders, biker pants, and jeans-style jackets, sometimes layered up with short dresses created out of antique tablecloths. And the now iconic crescent-moon-motif-embellished bodysuits and regenerated denim or else was mixed with more hybridity in the form of sweaters and dresses collaged out of upcycled knits. All of this was shot on a terrific cross-generational cast of characters, kids included. “It was interesting to revise what we’d already done,” said Serre. “Basically the goal was to bring more real life to our design process, to bring garments into daily life.” Her solution was to ask the team to try things on, give their feedback, then modify to make everything more relatable. The website also houses a charming series of depictions of those within the extended Serre label family, wearing a few of the pieces, and engaged with their routines. “Cooking, spending time with your mother, in the garden, playing with your dog…pleasures which are simple,” said Serre, describing the scenes. “Fashion has always been about a dream, and I don’t like that. Here, fashion is the last thing you see. What you see first are the people.” Serre’s thinking about the site is akin to the way she thinks about her designs. Visit, spend time, come back, visit again, get to know what something means and what it stands for. Nothing should ever be fleeting, or disposable, gone in the blink of an eye.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Surf and Quilt. Stan AW21

While New York Fashion Week feels very sleepy this season (due to quite understandable reasons), that state of slowness has has its advantages: there’s more time to discover the newcomers. Well, in case of Tristan Detwiler, he is new to the fashion insiders, but on TikTok, he has a following of over 133,000 users who watch him cut up antique blankets and quilts, some dating back to the 1800s, and transform them into chore jackets, Baja hoodies, board shorts, and cocoon coats. The videos offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the process and reaffirm Detwiler’s skills as a maker; when he wasn’t competing on University of Southern California’s surf team, he was taking fashion design classes and customizing his own clothes. Upcycled quilted jackets are Tristan’s brand Stan signature, with boxy, unisex fits that accommodate a multitude of sizes, genders, and ages. To hear him tell it, he made his first one in college to replace the quilts he draped over his shoulders for chilly mornings on the beach, but fell in love with the story behind old textiles, quilts in particular. In 2018, he joined the Bumann Quilters of Olivenhain, a group of ladies who have been quilting for decades. In addition to sharing the stories of their quilts and teaching Detwiler their techniques, they’ve gifted him with textiles and heirlooms to use in his collection. The opening jacket in his autumn-winter 2021 collection was made from one of those gifted quilts, a 1920s ‘one patch’ style in a checkerboard motif. It was large enough to make a matching pair of pants too. The second outfit’s ivory coat, chore jacket, and pants were all cut from the same 20th-century ‘wedding quilt,’ while other looks had a more haphazard mix. A jewel-toned jacket made from an 1890 Amish quilt was paired with trousers cut from a 1980s screen-printed potato sack. It’s worth mentioning that these items are already available to buy on Detwiler’s website; since they’re one-of-a-kind, fashion’s usual production time-table doesn’t apply (similar way of doing things at Imitation of Christ!). Detwiler describes himself as a storyteller and a curator, not necessarily a designer. He doesn’t aspire to be the next American mega-brand. But joining the New York Fashion Week calendar places him in the context of the mainstream fashion conversation, and inevitably draws comparisons to his peers experimenting with quilts and upcycling. Emily Bode comes to mind of course, though it isn’t really worth comparing their work; Bode’s is polished and fully “designed,” while Detwiler’s has the messier, intentionally rumpled attitude of California surf culture. Whether it’s a one-time fling or a serious venture into fashion, the vision of a sun-drenched surfer in his DIY quilted jacket and crotchet knit is compelling, especially in the COVID era.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Act Compassionately & Sustainably. Imitation of Christ AW21

Imitation of Christ isn’t a regular fashion brand. Every single piece made (“produced” just doesn’t fit here) is one-of-a-kind. No pre-collections and no traditional business models, but rather spontainety and a sense of inspiring care-freeness is what prevails at Tara Subkoff‘s brand. And of course it’s one of the most ingeniously sustainable labels that exists. Second season in a row, Imitation of Christ’s upcycled collection is available and sold on The Real Real – and half the profits will go to Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future. Also, there’s no coincidence that the autumn-winter 2021 collection was presented on Valentine’s Day. It’s a reaction, said the designer on a call with Vogue, against “a Hallmark holiday or some consumer driven idea of romance.” Instead, the designer highlighted, the line-up (and the accompanying video) offers something “true.” The collection video, made in collaboration with Daphne Muller and Adam Teninbaum, is not for the squeamish. Though it features six hip Californians, a few of some renown, the piece is dominated by “a real 3D animated heart,” that is, admits Subkoff, “really shocking. We have this very strange idea of what a heart is, which is… really a cartoon version that we give to each other. We all have a heart pumping blood in our bodies and it pumps for a finite amount of time, then it’s over. And I think the more we understand that, maybe the more compassionate and kind we can be towards one another.” A similar feeling of compassion is present in the off-kilter garments. Subkoff  has always had a penchant for beaded dresses from the 1920s, and these were back and looking fresh. Deco beading was applied to pieces for men and women, and this incongruity was perhaps best exemplified by the pairing of a gray utility suit with shimmering white bead work (there’s a well-considered Martin Margiela method in these de- and reconstructed pieces). Subkoff believes that what good you do in the world becomes an ever growing legacy. She’s been serious about sustainability for decades and hopes, through her actions and messaging, to inspire others to design and act sustainably (“Please, other companies or other people – copy this, do this,” the designer offered).

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.