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A NYFW Prelude

Written by Laila Musleh

April 10, 2023

Fashion Week is the biannual holy grail of the fashion industry. Buyers, editors, and all industry insiders and enthusiasts collectively flood the great fashion capitals of the world. Last Feburary, it once again hit the streets of New York City. New York Fashion Week (NYFW) is set against the historical backdrop of the New York Public Library and the Guggenheim Museum. Rodarte, Tia Adeola, Heron Preston, and Elena Velez are a few of the many remarkable names and houses that graced the floors of fashion week this season. The Autumn/ Winter 23 collections were a marriage of the wearable and whimsical. While designers like LaQuan Smith presented straight-to-the-closet pieces, Rodarte wove in drama and storytelling into their designs. Overall, this season introduced new norms and expectations in the fashion industry, foreshadowing the future of fashion.

Rodarte transformed the chaos of New York City into a gothic wonderland brimming with suspense and mystery. Spectators of the show were seated at silverized tables with candelabras and sparkling fruits, leaving them in a dark and distorted fantasy. Models ambled down the runway in dark-colored gowns, with arresting winged eyeliner and black lipstick. Simple silhouettes were made complex through the structure and puffiness of their sleeves. Some models were veiled in black, purple, or blue bonnets and scarves, and carried bouquets of yellow tulips. Ironically, yellow tulips symbolize joy and hope, establishing a juxtaposition with the eeriness of the show.

After presenting her SS23 collection in her hometown of Lagos, Nigeria, Tia Adeola returned to New York to present her AW23 collection. Adeola employed nudity and modesty in her designs by incorporating cuts and sheerness creatively throughout her work. While aiming for fashion mystery and subtleness in the pieces, their sexual boldness was undeniable to the eye. One model walked down in a solid white dress that covered the chest; the front of this piece emphasized modesty, while the back was sheer lace exposing the model’s defined back. Adeola’s designs push spectators to appreciate the artistry in the clothing, rather than focus on the body sitting underneath.

Inspired by the culture of the city, Heron Preston culminated a collection that is familiar to the local New Yorker. Similar to Rodarte, Preston employed performance art to nurture a unique show atmosphere. The ‘decor’ was a collection of industrial cardboard, an empty soap bottle, and other items deemed as trash Preston collected himself. The accompanying collection included sweatpants paired with heels. Utility vests were worn over hoodies and bralettes and mini skirts were layered over catsuits. Long silk skirts were dressed down with moto jerseys and corsets peeking from under long faux fur jackets. All were accessorized with balaclavas and carabine-ornamented handbags. Preston’s objective was to connect with the polarizing go-with-the-flow patterns of younger generations. This collection redefined what it means to be high-end and amplified young voices in the industry.

Elena Velez delivered a multisensory show, with live industrial music orchestrating models embodying ‘female rage’. The collection was rooted in contemporary American fashion, specifically inspired by blue-collar workwear. The inclusion of corset dresses, sheerness, bagginess, imperfect cuts, and latex and paint finishes brought urgency, functionality, and practicality onto the runway. Through this aesthetic exploration, she highlighted unconventional femininity. The stoic appearance and zombified attitude of the models challenged the gender norms and stereotypes often found in workspaces and beyond. Each design reclaimed the patriarchal power placed onto said workwear, transmuting it into matriarchal power. A link between femininity and dominance was established, redefining society’s perception of gender norms.

To some, fashion is considered frivolous. It’s imagined to be an expensive space with pretty dresses on pretty bodies, strutting down runways lined with pretty people. However, if they delved deeper into the shows and presentations, if they looked closer at the singular pieces, and if they interacted with the creatives behind the artistry, they would see what modern fashion really spotlights. It's evident that the start of NYFW marks the death of old trends and attitudes, and the end of NYFW marks a new dawn on the horizon. New criticisms and sentiments beacon the future of fashion.

The theme of this year’s NYFW was focused on the conversations of our time. Fashion can no longer depend on looking into the past and holding onto traditional sensitivities. High-end luxury. Designer. These terms, which allude to prestige and wealth, are being redefined. Collections similar to Heron Preston’s and Elena Velez’s are challenging the time-honored standard of high fashion. Once centered around elitist definitions of ‘exclusivity’ and ‘perfection’,  these concepts have now been replaced with the imperfection, functionality, and gender fluidity found in the everyday world. Ten years ago, a collection featuring sweatpants on a runway would have been panned. Today, it’s an unquestioned reality. With that, the common citizen is centered in this season’s designs; the trends and modes of the outside world are guiding the industry into its future.

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