Rarely do I enforce video viewing but in order for me to even coherently explain what New York label Eckhaus Latta is all about, I feel like pressing play is somewhat compulsory in this instant. Director Alexa Karolinski filmed these Chinese ladies in New York's Colmbus Park doing their tai chi - all uniformly wearing Eckhaus Latta clothing whilst reminiscing about their exercising uniforms of yesteryear. Of course merely being able to understand these Cantonese-speaking ladies adds an extra layer of poignancy for me but I think everyone can understand the warmth, hilarity and genuine strangeness of seeing Chinese ladies enthusiastically wearing avant garde garb and practising their facial and aerobics-type lok tung kuen exercises.
That's the sort of strange juxtaposition that tickles Zoe Latta and Mike Eckhaus, a duo who both studied textile design and sculpture at Rhode Island School of Design . They combined their experiences of creating textiles and working for the likes of Opening Ceremony, Ohne Titel and threeASFOUR and decided to instinctively set up Eckhaus Latta, debuting their A/W 12-3 collection at NYFW back in February. I didn't see the show myself but it's seeing it in situ at Opening Ceremony one of their primary stockists, that really piqued my interest in who created these odd yet strangely appealing plastic and mohair knits in shades of faded moss and fuzzy peach.
There are no succinct nutshells to sum up this collection nor is there a discernible theme. It's the beginning of a conversation that Latta and Eckhaus would like to engage with, reacting and tugging away at the American fashion industry, bucking up our perceptions of New York fashion neat-n-tidy aesthetics. For a start, the collection was born out of a cottage industry of Brooklyn knitters and samplers that manage to put this collection together, often using materials sourced locally. Each texture in the collection feels like a happy accident, which occurred through to-and-fro-ing experimentation. Latta and Eckhaus were after surfaces that had depth, be it a plastic and wool loose knit, a plastic mesh paired with fish skin edging or using trompe l'oeil print of rabbit fur on silk. The collection is staunchly unisex but not in that ambiguous way where there's a one-size-fits-all approach with the clothes. Somehow skirts, tunics, crop tops and leggings on the guys in Eckhaus Latta's world are convincing propositions. I put it down to the conviction behind their casting and look book concept. Granted, this is a collection that will go over people's heads as this round-up of collection feedback attest (their post, not mine) but frankly there aren't enough collections in New York that really divide opinion. A few rabid staunch supporters (stockists that include Opening Ceremony and Maryam Nassir Zadeh after just one season ain't shabby at all…) is perhaps better than an army of mutely nodding heads.
If you squint your eyes hard enough, you can just about make out Michael Kors popping up as Eckhaus Latta's browser tab icon on their website. Don't question the presence of Mr Kors. Just embrace it. Afterall, he is sporting an expression that is the potent combination of being both cheerful and pensive. How can you not be impressed with someone who can pull off holding his chin in this way?
They've just set up an installation that can be seen in Opening Ceremony's New York store, which includes a screening of their film as well an assembly of their collection for your touching pleasure.