What Eckhaus Latta sent out this season was one of their most concise and quintessential collections ever. “It’s about feeling more free,” said Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta. “Really feeling yourself, coming out of the past year-and-a-half and wanting to feel sexy and confident and free.” Garments were filmy, thin dust-colored layers of nylon layered together, ivory cotton dresses and bodysuits with oval cutouts and hundreds of snaps, and airy shirts in lime and faux leather jackets in cinnamon left open. Pieces were named after transient, erotic words: vapor turtleneck, undone jumpsuit, wisp dress. The torsos were out, the nipples were out, and in a statement of intent: models wore black thongs instead of the industry-standard beige. This collection felt like a Helmut Lang tribute, even if this wasn’t the intention. Back to the designers – both Latta and Eckhaus had a reckoning with their own bodies this past year; she became a first-time mother, he had a breakup and then the requisite hot boy summer. “We’re going through different things, but we both have a desire to just be fucking real,” said Latta.
Like many people during this period, Zoe Latta and Mike Eckhaus had a mood rollercoaster. As the duo explained on a Zoom call with Vogue that bummed-out vibe provided a creative spark, suggesting that their focus ought to be on comforting shapes and textures and a somber palette. The Eckhaus Latta duo went on to report that, thankfully, they are feeling more optimistic now – and that they are eager to get back to fashion business as usual, with live events and people around, but in the meantime, like the rest of us, they’re making do. Perhaps accidentally, it’s that sentiment that served as the red thread through their autumn-winter 2021 outing. The most arresting idea the designers explored this time out was the deconstruction of familiar silhouettes in ways that created artful voids in the clothes or that made them adaptable into different forms. It was a poetic expression of our current state, a year into the pandemic. Eckhaus and Latta also played with optical patterns, like trippy rib knits and a black-and-white jacquard, and with ways of giving a sense of hand to synthetic fabrics. The collection was small, but thorough; every look was wholly considered, from form to detail. Perhaps the collection’s most admirable quality, though, was its grit – though we often look to fashion for fantasies of the future, that kind of grounded approach is necessary. This Eckhaus Latta line-up not only captured the general mood, but somehow it made it look… cool.
I loved Eckhaus Latta‘s spring-summer 2021 collection for its honesty and rawness. Walking became, thanks to COVID, pretty much everyone’s primary outdoor activity these days. As a parallel to that, the show celebrated this fact. It was staged outdoors, underneath a section of New York’s FDR Drive where a long, straight jogging path provided a runway, and with a bare minimum of fuss: hair au naturel, model-applied makeup, no soundtrack, just an abbreviated collection and the train rumbling by now and then. “We wanted it to feel, like, no spectacle,” Mike Eckhaus explained after the show. “Like the models could just be going out for a walk with their friends.” The clothes matched that easygoing manner. There were stylish sweats, of course, but also baggy jeans and knit suiting and gingham tops with the airiness of wind-borne kites. The most fitted looks were knit and the most tailored were done of featherweight nylon, the material often patchworked together in tonal color blocks. These were casual items, but every garment seemed to have been hand-worked, and that gave this collection a bit of emotional undertow; in a socially distanced era, it felt as though Eckhaus and Zoe Latta were communicating touch through their clothes. That was true of the collection’s ornate crochets, but it was also true of the hand-dyed jeans and the burnout florals. Smart, authentic, durable clothes for the new reality.
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.
Eckhaus Latta, the brand that pioneered showing in Brooklyn, made non-models castings a norm and intrigued with its rawness and quirkiness, presented one of its simplest and probably most commerce-wise collections to date. Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta’s long-time friends, like Camille de Terre, Hari Nef and Paloma Elsesser, walked in loosely-fitted pantsuits, lightweight knits and sequinned tank-tops and dresses in electrifying blue and orange. Each look is made to be worn (with or without the stomper clogs). It seems that the designers are aware that this wasn’t their most spotlight-stealing line-up, but then, they don’t really care for mainstream attention. Eckhaus Latta customers, at different ages and sizes, will be happy wearing one of those hand-knitted, soft, body-clinging dresses next spring.