Blame it on watching Wolf of Wall Street right before I left for New York. Or reading this Moby article on the Guardian. “New York is exclusively about success,” says Moby in his article about why he moved to L.A. “It’s success that has been fed steroids and vitamin B. There’s a sense that New Yorkers never fail, but if they do, they’re exorcised from memory.” So now I roam the streets and shows in New York, thinking only about these finite lines of success and failure. Trouble is, success in fashion in this city doesn’t necessarily marry up with the best talent that’s out there. You’re struck by not just the sheer volume of shows, but the sheer amount of dross that is out there – lauded, applauded and doing commercially well it would seem. It’s dross not because they’re badly made clothes – but largely because it’s all polish and no personality. Whilst it’s not right to criticise designers and their position of privilege, when you find much of these soulless collections are funded by personal connections and wealth, you wonder where the meritocracy is. Would these collections stand a chance on-schedule in Milan or Paris, hell, even London?
The good guys out there have been making a stand though. Made Fashion Week are constantly scouting and supporting young talent and have built up a strong roster of names. If they’re not quite ready for a full blown show at Milk Studios, then a smaller presentation at nearby Standard hotel is a good platform and that’s exactly what Eckhaus Latta did. It takes a level of adjustment when looking at Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta’s homespun pieces, made out of deadstock fabrics. There are imperfections – both deliberate and accidental. But there’s much to be read in the strangely sensual ensembles made out of surplus blankets, faux suede and upholstery velvet, amped up by their hand-loomed knits. “Looking at the person next to you, laying my coat down on the seat next to me. We and we alone,” reads the accompanying press notes. The collection’s tactile textures move you. “You were almost naked seen by the light of the refrigerator. You were wrapping towel around your waist holding your breath.” And so on and so forth. The awkwardness and oddness is endearing. When they send out a boy covered in a light layer of green paint and knitted underpants or an older woman (she looked swell in pink velvet) or girls wearing specially created metal retainers in their mouth, it’s not diversity for diversity’s sake. It’s a strange narrative that is kinda, sorta, beautiful.
Also on the fringes is Lindsay Degen. She once worked for London knit duo Cooperative Designs and that connection can be seen in her awesomely uplifting, childish scrawly knitwear. Degen’s collections aren’t her main schtick but rather her collaborations have funded her work, such as her collaboration with Victoria’s Secret, where she created smiley-faced, LOL/OMG-emblazoned knitwear for the show last year. Her presentations are therefore a calling card for further collaborations. This season, Degen was inspired by a plastic yarn knit that in the making felt like magic. So the process of knitting is brought to life with a Stomp-style performance of knitters at their machines, swiping back and forth, in time with the soundtrack. Rainbows, magic eyes and that raved up aesthetic, which Degen specialises in all come together in euphoric harmony. I’ll happily take personality over polish any day. Those achieving both at NYFW are sadly few and far between.