Daimorf, Lou Dallas, Gauntlett Cheng, Women’s History Museum, and Gogo Graham forecast their visions of the future.
There’s something optimistic about fashion week showing spring-summer looks in September right as the weather starts to cool off. The future-oriented affair might be positioned for buyers but a side-effect is that the week precipitates a collective visualization exercise, SS17 repeating like a mantra for willing imagined worlds into existence. Especially for young designers, some of whom have no aims of putting their clothes into production, the theatre of fashion week becomes a space for staging collaborative visions of the future and otherworldly communal experiences in the present.
While their aesthetic impulses differ, there’s a loose scene of young brands all helmed by women designers that share this visionary spirit, as well as a community. Familiar faces came out show after show for Daimorf, Lou Dallas, Gauntlett Cheng, Women’s History Museum, and Gogo Graham. Many times, the designers themselves were there to support one another’s work. Maya Monès, Sylvia Gutierrez, and Candice Williams all modeled in multiple presentations while Georgia Ford walked in one show and produced another. Here’s a recap of the week:
The first official day of fashion week felt hot and sticky. As guests arrived to the Chinatown art gallery where the presentation was set to take place, they were supplied with moistened sponges to dab their brows, the Daimorf logo printed on one side and the collection’s title on the other: What is it that looking good hides? With that wry question hanging in the air along with the humidity, the models set off down the runway dressed in tubular grunge eleganza, frantically fanning themselves as they paced up and down the bright white space. With shiny orange plastic coats and sculptural denim tops resembling coral reef formations, alongside more understated elements with pajamaesque drapes and knits, Daimorf forecast a languid and louche future, both alien and self-assured.
Season after season, Daimorf designs are centered around a wide-legged non-binary silhouette. This collection offered variations on the theme with drawstring ties and high waists, black-and-white stripes and wine-colored velvets. There were trousers with patterned brushstrokes, denim polka dots, and straps both hanging and tied. Recalling shower curtain rings as much as hoop earrings, the hem of a pair of cream-colored gaucho pants were adorned with silver eyelets and metal Os. The cheekiest piece by far, however, were assless chaps made of multi-colored green shag, a collaboration between Daimorf designer Olivia Galov and artist Sarah Zapata.
Show Credits: clothing made by Olivia Galov with knitwear in collaboration with Sarah Zapata; production assistance by Christian Velasquez; brand direction by Aimee Bowen; hair by Seairra Miller; makeup by Knox Sloop and Jaimie Criel; music by ABBY.
Romance was in the air Sunday, the romance of a doomed empire. Flowers were scattered around the Ukrainian East Village Restaurant’s banquet hall, its wood-paneled walls and moulded ceilings casting a claustrophobic elegance on the parade of Rococo ruffles and belly-button baring gowns. Anointed Plutonium Tears, the spring-summer collection from Lou Dallas sparkled with schizophrenic bedazzling, its adorned green, brown, and pink stripes shining under the spotlights. A handmade quality granted the pieces a haphazard opulence. I thought of Scarlett O’Hara’s dress made out of curtains.
Designer Raffaella Hanley’s line Lou Dallas is named for her fictional muse, who seems a capricious character judging from the high femme heights of Plutonium Tears just days after a pre-fashion week presentation of decidedly boyish patchwork pants and newspaper hats, a collaboration with artist Andrew Lee Gonzalez. However different Hanley’s designs for Lou, they’re all knit together by the sense of a storybook imaginary world. And Sunday’s show illustrated a fairytale princess playing dress up in the face of calamity, her tears shining like radioactive jewels.
Show Credits: clothing by Raffaella Hanley; show produced by Georgia Ford; jewelry by Anna Pierce; styled by Haley Wollens; lighting by Chemistry Creative; music by Donald Cumming; set dress by Emma McMillan (who also modeled); make-up by Alie Smith; make-up sponsorship from Make up Forever; hair by Sanae for Mark Garrison Salon.
Monday’s show relocated the downtown crowd to a Gramercy Park marina overlooking the East River. Just as the sky started to change color, on the top deck of a docked boat, Gauntlett Cheng staged their SS17 collection You Gonna Cowboy Up or Just Lay There and Die? Underwear was everywhere. Fine knits hugged stockinged models in lucite shoes with the same sleazy naiveté as bikini tops layered over too-big suit jackets. Even the colors were delicately undone. The good taste of the grey, golds, burgundys, and blues tactfully compromised by the addition of a cloying baby pink—which just so happened to match the evening’s sunset haze creeping up from the horizon.
This nautical presentation marks the fifth collection for Gauntlett Cheng, formerly Moses Gauntlett Cheng, and the first under their new name, reflecting a shift from three designers to two, Esther Gauntlett and Jenny Cheng. With their latest, the two women have continued to build on a sensual approach to building garments out of textures you want to touch, mixing and matching pieces pregnant with a teenage yearning to be sexy.
Show Credits: clothing by Esther Gauntlett and Jenny Cheng; styling by Akeem Smith; casting by Joseph Geagan; music by Georgia Martin; hair by Foster Glorioso; nails by Nails by Bea; T-shirts by Jason Matthew Lee x GC.
The Women’s History Museum SS17 show Frauveldt saw a return to the Ukrainian East Village Restaurant, but this time around there was a party vibe. The brand opted to advertise the show publicly on Instagram and the banquet hall was packed with bodies squeezing into booths and sitting cross-legged in front of occupied rows of chairs. Like the red-headed stepchild of Susan Cianciolo’s line Run, Women’s History Museum takes the deconstructionist ethic to the extreme. Doing the most with the least, designers Rivkah Barringer and Amanda McGowan loosely assembled scraps of fabric into pagan Ren-fair rave attire.
Sequined stretch skirt with jagged hem. Blue faux fur hooded cloak. DIY thong. Everything was a hilarious celebration. Barringer and McGowan’s special attention to footwear and handbags felt like a gift. The models were strutting and skulking, a mix of Naomi Campbell and Gollum. In one particularly ecstatic moment, Garrison Partusch got to the end of the catwalk and threw off her hood to the audience’s hoops and hollers. At the end, everyone danced.
Show Credits: clothing by Rivkah Barringer and Amanda McGowan.
On the final day of fashion week, a line snaking down the block announced the site of Gogo Graham’s spring-summer presentation. In the intimate space behind a jewelry shop in Soho, the air crackled with a conspiratorial energy, like there’d been a spell cast. No doubt, these girls were magic, each glowing from inside a circle made of salt. The audience was permitted in the backyard a handful of people at a time, for a few minutes per group. The models writhed and swayed or stood still as statues in Grecian gowns and denim creations accented with snarling curls of metal wire shape into necklaces and bras. Walking amongst them, the lace and gauze tailored to their bodies shimmered in the night. A few sculptural tops recalled wing-like abstractions. Sometimes looking at the details of the garments meant breaking eye contact with the women wearing them. In these moments, more than ever, I felt the weight of my gaze.
Graham is a trans designer who custom-makes clothes for each of the trans and gender-non-conforming individuals modeling. Her eponymous line, which has been heralded as the first true trans fashion label, feels urgent. While Graham implicitly demands cis audience members at her shows to reckon with their own participation in systems of exploitation and violence, the project feels first and foremost for the trans community. She staged a powerful congregation on Thursday, galvanizing girls like her and forecasting a future of continual becoming.
Show Credits: Clothing by Gogo Graham; produced by Holyrad Studio; set by Ser Serpas (who also modeled); sounds by Via App and Quay Dash (who also modeled); choreography and creative direction by Nico Fuentes and Jahmal Golden; hair by Sonny Molina; makeup by Tayler Smith.
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