It's taken me all of three years to FINALLY get round to doing a post on Creatures of the Wind, currently riding a positive wave so high that you'll rebuke me for taking this long to get round to writing about them. That said, due to this, that, or the other, I only got the opportunity to meet Chris Peters and Shane Gabier in February earlier this year, just after their rambunctious and breakout A/W 12-3 show at New York Fashion Week. A loooooong appointment at their showroom revealed far more than merely flicking through an aesthetically appealing lookbook.
I'm presently and FINALLY windswept under Peters and Gabier's refreshing position as an American (Chicago-ite to be specific...) label that is doing much much more than hitting commercial spots and fulfilling linesheets. One look at the A/W 12-3 collection, which was based on their fascination with the 17th century clergyman Robert Kirk's The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies (already a pertinent indication of the never-norm world of Creatures of the Wind) and it's clear that COTW are NOT part of the contemporary and wearable, nice-but-not-exciting league of clothing that makes up the majority of NYFW's offerings. They deviate so far from that remit that I literally jumped for joy when I saw the clothes backstage and later on at the appointment up close. I got giddy in the cab ride back to my hotel from the appointment, looking at my pictures and marvelling at the haphazardness of it all. Yay! No perfect white trousers or minimal shift dresses in sight! Let me embrace each and every single one of these elements!
There is ultimate sense to this myriad patchworking of fabrics, textures, genres and vibes though. This collection deals with opposing forces and in a way, sums up what COTW are about by never delivering the pre-conceived ideals of taste. Bubble gum pink leather, itself a contradiction gets paired with mohair and tweed in a caped dress. French painted lace is delicately laid over a checked shirt. Punkish striped mohair jumpers with slogan patches sit alongside tiered chiffon gowns. Youthful embroidery punctuates the collection with urgency. Neat pleated kilts and strict biker jacket detailing stand alongside prarie-ish Gunne Saxe-esque skirts. I could go on and on really but then I'd just be flatly giving you tireless descriptions. The bottom of it all is that Peters and Gabier have a sensibility that is uniquely their own. A shawl made up of a vintage patchwork quilt and embroidered with words from the Peter S. Beagle book The Last Unicorn is clearly a one-off piece that won't make it to production but its integrity to the narrative of the collection, sums up why COTW are taking the risk of befuddling certain onlookers and retailers. The right people get it though. Dover Street Market and 10 Corso Como are key stockists and they're also up for this year's CFDA Swarovski Womenswear Award.
Another element which thoroughly impressed me was Peters and Gabier's attention to where things are sourced and their collaborative elements. "Homespun" is a word that often crops up with Peters and Gabier talk about their work but that doesn't necessarily mean it's about doing craft for craft's sake. They worked with the esteemed embroidery company Hand & Lock for instance because they're supreme in their field (they do Alexander McQueen's embroidery). They created mohair bowler hats with Optimo, based in Chicago to shine a light on this tradition-steeped hatmaker that one might not associate with the windy city. Their knitwear hails from Antwerp because Gabier used to work there doing knitting samples and got to know the work of Els Arnols. Their highly covetable flat tasselled shoes were created by Tabitha Simmons through a chance introduction. Their stylist Emma Wyman is American but is based in London as Dazed & Confused's fashion editor. The lace is French, the wool is English and so on and so forth. These well-travelled collaborations are conducted through a lot of Skype video calls and emails that result in this equally storied collection, full of tales to tell. I look forward to seeing more stories emerge from COTW as they continue this upward rise that will surely see more of the world getting thoroughly windswept.
P.S. Their S/S 12 collection video by Randy Sterling Hunter is dreamscaping fodder.... press play, screencap and Tumblr to your heart's content.
**EDIT** Shane Gabier's name has now been corrected.