Optimism Amid Environmental and Political Turmoil at NYFW

Prior to this NYFW season, editors from several established publications expressed their desire to see designers take a stance. “No one wants another collection that doesn’t stand for something”, wrote Vogue’s Emily Farra in early September echoing a general sentiment. Given the troublesome times we’re living in, from the increasing socio-political tension to the worrisome state of the planet’s health, it read like a legitimate expectation. These days, it's uncommon to see brands addressing core issues such as the upcoming US elections or the irreversible impact of climate change.
As anticipated, this has been a prevalent trend so far this week and a good amount designers including Pyer Moss and Collina Strada have been taking a clear stance or strongly voicing their concerns.
Many of them, however, have chosen to confront the world's current state with a more positive, colorful, and celebratory outlook. If in previous seasons issues were addressed more austerely and explicitly, say with an overabundance of ‘in your face’ printed, stitched and illustrated messaging, this time around fashion took a more uplifting route. Rather than being reminded of how thorny and alarming things are, attendees were reminded that there is plenty to appreciate and to be joyful about, and that maybe the best way to engage in meaningful change begins with recognizing what needs to be protected, not what needs to be lamented.

Jeremy Scott

Last season, Scott collaborated with contemporary artist Aleksandra Mir by selecting headlines from the New York Daily News and the Post, then boldly featuring them throughout his collection by way of large print. A commentary on where we are as a culture, the execution was loud and explicit, aiming not just at the media but mostly at the mass audience’s obsession with sensationalism. This season, rather than highlighting the “tragedy” and “chaos” that permeate our every day, Scott offered guests some welcome escapism. By way of what he qualified as a ‘neon rock opera,’ the artistry and technique that went into making the clothes might have been dead serious (the impeccable use of over thirty thousand crystals across the collection alone was impressive), but the idea here was to let go for a bit. As models walked by with pep in their stride, occasionally smiling and winking at people in the front rows, the surreal and playful array of bright color splatters, psychedelic as well as colorful zebra and tiger prints, electric tones, gleaming metallic touches (those Western boots!), and borderline hallucinogenic-like shapes were fun, a reminder to loosen up. Area For some of their pieces, Area's Beckett Fogg and Piotrek Panszczyk focused on the craftsmanship and couture of the past as echoes of Dior and Balencia could be spotted in certain pieces, namely those pouf-backed dresses. Yet, they also showcased some of the unique pieces they have been known for, highlighting both the originality and artistry of their design. Their metal cage dresses, rendered with arches glimmering in crystals, certainly stood out. As a visual cue throughout the show and included in many of the looks were nameplate necklaces of Area translated into different languages. The soundtrack of Area’s Spring 2020 show was a single infectious head nodding track featuring a woman's voice speaking on memory and the need to break through the pessimistic noise by focusing on what's uplifting. Midway, the phrase "think positive" was sampled out, sliced and looped to a heavy bassline track. A synthesis of sorts of the show as a whole, the repetition of these words – hypnotic and catchy but also motivating – symbolically encapsulated the feeling that exuded from the duo's collection. As they highlighted diversity, multiculturalism, and inclusivity through their collection and setting, a serious message was being delivered with enthusiasm: it's better to be curious about others and embrace their differences than it is to be afraid of them.


Tomo Koizumi Spring/Summer 2020 women's ready-to-wear collection. Photo courtesy of PR.

Tomo Koizumi

For his debut Spring 2020 showing, Japanese costume designer Tomo Koizumi presented a collection of intricate, voluminous, and spectacular black, white, and rainbow-colored gowns, mostly made using Japanese polyester organza. Showcased in a theatrical performance at the Marc Jacobs store on Madison Avenue, 17-year-old model Ariel Nicholson was displayed center stage, modeling all seven pieces. For the duration of the spectacle, Nicholson dramatically changed in and out of each dress while physically pairing an emotion to match each fitting; undulating and swaying around the spotlighted showroom floor. If the unique format, the incredible craftsmanship, and the all-around otherworldly energy that formed around  Nicholson wasn't enough to distract the attendees from the troubles looming outside, the colors alone – ranging from daffodil, indigo, and lemony yellow to sea-foam green – extended the opportunity to drift away from the store and New York's murkiness altogether.

Deveaux

Given the early time at which we were convened – 9am to be precise – and the manner in which shows are traditionally conducted at Spring Studios (say, for instance, as far as how models tend to walk the runway in single file, one by one), it would have been unlikely to predict that Deveaux would deliver such a feel-good-high-in-energy moment. Showcasing his Spring 2020 collection, creative director Tommy Ton opened the show with a live band playing Janet Jackson’s “Love Will Never Do,” gently luring us into his moment while reminding us of a few things, namely that “whenever there's a problem, we always work it out somehow.” As the models – representing diverse body types, ethnicities, and ages – began to walk out, however, the beat seriously picked up to the stomps of a marching band. Many in the room, including the models and even some of the venue staff, naturally engaged in the musical offering, in some cases smiling and twirling away, in others simply bopping and swaying. Interestingly, the clothes – particularly the backless and elongated dress dresses, silk pieces, and the brand’s signature loosely tailored trousers – were perfectly complimented by this atmosphere. Indeed, Ton’s revitalization of Deveaux translated into looks that for the most part felt like they would be ideal if worn to a comfortable and stylishly get down and forget about it all.

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