Area - NYFW’s Contrast Gainer

There was something elegantly impertinent – or at the very least playfully rebellious – about Area’s Fall 2019 collection. Not in the sense that it was energetically youthful or symbolically antagonistic, like an early Jeremy Scott or Chromat show might have been, but rather because it felt like the label’s designers, Beckett Fogg and Piotrek Panszczyk, had done exactly what they wanted, without paying attention to anyone or anything else.

 

Area Fall/Winter 2019 show in New York. Photo by Gio Staiano for NOWFASHION.

By choosing to override any restrictive overarching themes or aesthetic and allowing for a narrative of contrasts to take place (elegant and cozy, subtle and loud, glitzy and subdued, feminine delicacy and girl power, cheap and chic), the duo created one of their most – if not the most – versatile and diverse collection since the brand was launched years ago. Interesting to note that the contrasts weren’t limited to the clothes but also applied to more subtle elements such as the music – which wavered between melodic and abstract, calm and upbeat – and the show venue itself. Guests took their seats on wood and granite benches inside a slick and elegant Wall Street gallery, where the show was staged, but the models and the designers got ready inside an adjacent bodega.

 

The collection played on everything from femininity to silhouettes, color and texture clashes, and even eras. For instance, there were recurrent nods to the 60s throughout the show by way of oversized houndstooth patterns that had been printed on dresses and body suits, chain link crystals that had been woven into some of the models’ braids, and several references to some of Balenciaga’s 1960s space-age chic shapes.

 

Backstage at the Area Fall/Winter 2019 show in New York. Photos by Gio Staiano for NOWFASHION.

The looks were rich in disparities and variety, neither of which translated into inconsistency or disorder.  Even the opening looks, mostly monochromic or basic in color palettes (by Area standards), showcased Fogg and Panszczyk’s skills in exploring surprising combinations, namely by way of textures. Case in point, a cozy, chunky cable-knit sweater with exaggerated fringes paired with a satin, girly, rhinestone-trimmed mini skirt; an unlikely winning combination in theory but which worked perfectly in practice.

 

From there on, the show continued growing in color and in boldness as the looks progressed from various styles of red and white tie dye garments – printed using a striking Japanese manual technique called Shibori – to a one-off fluorescent orange jumpsuit, with a few dresses in deep and luscious hues of pink and purple, for good measure. There were also some low-slung pants, styled with coats and faux fur boots, not unlike those worn in the raver scene sometime during the 90s. The designers even experimented with text, printed on scarves to evoke a sentiment of protection, ‘Power Play’; and carved out shapes using CD-ROM material, made them into a dangling chain belt, and shaped into the words ‘Apocalypse Now.’

Backstage at the Area Fall/Winter 2019 show in New York. Photos by Gio Staiano for NOWFASHION.

At a moment when certain designers – even defining ones such as Tom Ford or Eckhaus Latta – are playing it safe or simply sticking to what they do best, it’s stimulating (and possibly even necessary) for others to venture into unknown waters for the fun of it, for mostly creative purposes and relatively unworried about the commercial outcome. Area’s show was unapologetic fashion at its best: sexy, vibrant, feminine, tastefully eccentric, entertaining, and overall unique bordering on strange.

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