Words: Colin Chapman
In a recent interview in The New York Times, CFDA president Steven Kolb made a clear commitment to embrace commercialism for the city’s third menswear showcase: “Unless ultimately people want to buy and wear what you design, what’s the point?” he said. “We want it to be about selling.” This commercial approach has been evident in the schedule so far: a large proportion of the labels showcasing their work this week represent local, emerging brands or form part of the city’s ever-buoyant boutique scene, and as such, there has been emphasis on clothing brands over pure “fashion”. In addition, with some of the heftier NYC brands such as Rag & Bone, Public School and Theory choosing not to show at all this week, it fell to such stalwarts as the rightly celebrated Robert Geller, Tim Coppens and Duckie Brown to demonstrate that New York definitely possesses a more outward-looking men’s fashion community, with designers worthy of comparison with their European or Asian counterparts.
The first day of New York Fashion Week: Men’s is largely given over to showcasing new brands at Industria Superstudios, a large multi-space venue a few blocks north of the main exhibition space for NYFWM on Washington Street.
Of the designers on display during the first day, the presentation by Wood House stood out in terms of sheer colour and verve; billowy, floor-length trousers and mandarin collars, inspired by ‘20s flappers, lent an air of refined bohemianism to the collection by Korean-based designer Julian Woodhouse.
The presentation by PLAC was also a standout, easy, voluminous shapes and soft tailoring, inspired by the idiosyncrasy of Brit-in-America David Hockney complete with a candy-striped set by London’s own Thomas Petherwick.
Later, off-schedule, I visited Duckie Brown at their studio in the West Village to talk about their bold move in representing a single look for SS17. In a nod to the troubled economic and political times we’re living through, the Duckie’s felt it was “a good moment” to pause, and made an active decision not to show this season (having shown the line twice a year for the last thirteen years). The resulting one look is a triumph; a Haiku poem in khaki, navy and white. The look itself is being shared with fashion editors who would normally attend their show as an exquisitely-produced monochrome poster and in the form of a film ‘The Essential Duckie Brown.”
Duckies excepted, Day 2 presented the more fashion-minded of the city’s designers this week.
Tim Coppens opened the day’s event with a hybrid runway-show/presentation, which saw his now-familiar tailored sportswear fused with unexpected pattern: grid, gingham, pinstripe and houndstooth and even an abstracted Mount Fuji. Long judo-style belts continued this orientalist note while slogans such as “ACID” “IN MY HEART” and “ELIMINATE THE NOISE” referenced the skate and club cultures in ‘90s Belgium that continue to inspire the designer.
Robert Geller’s collection presented later that day, also referenced the designer’s European roots, this time a visual paean to the influential Berlin squat scene that gave rise to such counter-cultural innovators as Einsturzende Neubauten, known as Geniale Dilettanten. Utilitarian shapes in Geller’s recognisable earthy colours were accessorised with fur pom-poms and record bags while Polaroid images appliqued to the back of jackets referenced the DIY spirit of the times. Despite taking inspiration from such a raw youth movement, the collection was refined and elegant, with muted leopard-print, neon accents and bold stripes all underpinned by the casual chic that is Geller’s trademark.
It’s not a first for N.Hoolywood designer Daisuke Obana to be inspired by the natural world, previous collections have taken inspiration from the brightly coloured carapaces of exotic insects, but for SS17, Obana, took us under the sea with a collection inspired by aquatic creatures and life underwater. Unsurprisingly, fabrics were often waterproof, whether rainproof nylons or neoprene. Backpacks took on the form of aqua-lungs and footwear was sealed against the elements and suitable for traversing the seabed. Midway through, the looks took on a more nautical note, with naval outlines and navy-and-white colour accents bringing the life aquatic above the surface.