New York Fashion Week: Proenza Schouler, Shayne Oliver

Photo-Illustration: The Cut; Photos: Cathy Horyn, Isidore Montag/Imaxtree, Jonas Gustavsson

When a designer says their show will be more like a music festival, you can assume several things. It will start late. It will be extremely loud and everyone will be standing, watching the scene – which, in Shayne Oliver’s case last night, was scaffolding with a platform winding through a semi-dark performance hall at The Shed in Hudson Yards.

Oliver hadn’t introduced a new fashion in a while. After scorching the runway with his aggressively styled brand, Hood By Air—his key years were 2012-2016—he put it on hiatus in 2017. He’s now back with the Shayne Oliver line (and with HBA taking over as a web-only company). In an interview recently, Oliver told me that for the last two years of Hood’s existence, he and his design team were strongly at odds over its future direction – with some arguing for a return to its streetwear roots and Oliver wishing to adopt haute couture. . “I was growing up as a designer,” he said. And judging by the look of past HBA shows, he prevailed. The design was significantly more ambitious, but still with a tough attitude. In fact, the creativity was so explosive that some HBA shows looked like two collections in one.

In our interview, Oliver said the mood for the debut of the eponymous new label was glamorous, even the ball gowns. Not for a minute did I believe that Shayne Oliver would make a recognizable prom dress. Her technique is to chop, remove or redesign beauty, and she follows in the tradition of designers like Martin Margiela and Rick Owens. He also told me, “I really want to find a new way to show.”

Shayne Olivier
Photo: Cathy Horyn

This might explain why he marched his models into the public, with virtually no warning. The first model appeared – in black panties with a silver sequined top and a black bubble jacket with white stiletto thigh-high boots and huge black glasses – and the crowd gradually parted. Soon the guests formed a trail through the center of the room, although some models – a few wearing a single-stemmed white rose, as if for a pagan ritual – went their own way. Or maybe they were lost.

Anyway, at the end, all the models ended the show by carefully walking along the scaffolding platform, while a singer performed in a choppy white strapless dress. She was Alexandra Drewchin, known professionally as the Eartheater. At one point, her two servants, clad in little more than flip-flops, crawled on all fours behind her – proper posture before a goddess, I suppose.

Even though I had a good perch near the impromptu track, I could only catch scraps of costumes. A beautiful low-cut black silk dress suspended from thin straps. Some irregularly cut short dresses in bright pastels that looked hand dyed. A black coat with excessively muscular glamorous shoulders, with a silver sequined hoodie and truly absurd white patent leather ankle boots with toes so long and pointy they could cut through hedges. No wonder the model took baby steps. There was even a sort of bromance nod to Oliver’s friend, designer Telfar Clemens – or rather Telfar’s ubiquitous logo tote bag, the so-called “Bushwick Birkin”. Oliver transformed the tote into a one-dimensional silver breastplate over the front of a black tank top, with cool black pants. It was a fun and sneaky move: appropriating his friend’s hot bag, then mocking it as a status symbol.

Other creators staged shows with a concert vibe, including Telfar, which even had a mosh pit. Still, the mission to “find a new way” to showcase runway fashion is laudable. Although Oliver’s comeback collection was just that – a tentative start – it projected strength in form and attitude. It would have been nice to see more clothes.

As the fall 2022 collections kicked off on Friday — the start of a month of shows — strength and individuality were the themes for Proenza Schouler and young designer Elena Velez.

Proenza Schouler
Photo: Jonas Gustavson

“It was just instinct,” said Lazaro Hernandez, of the genesis of the sultry lantern-shaped skirts and peplum tops at Proenza Schouler in the beautiful Brant Center in the East Village. “It feels like we are entering a new moment in our career, in the world.” Her partner, Jack McCollough, added, of the shapes, “They almost look like slight historical nods.”

He was talking about ultra-airy lantern skirt dresses that featured a knit top that defined the waist, creating a soft hourglass shape. What was striking about the collection was how it skilfully took ideas from the last two Proenza collections, especially simple dresses with a lot of fluidity, pointy-waisted trouser suits and fresh colors (this times, a gorgeous inky purple and a purple for a long silk shirt dress). Although the lantern dresses are a little goofy, I liked the designers’ sense of play. Far more interesting were a black knit strapless top with a peplum worn with black wide leg pants and a long off-white sequined evening quarter with a twisted racerback. These looks conveyed “the new formality” sought by designers, but with a modern ease.

It was a big day for Eartheater, whose spooky music was also performed at Proenza Schouler – by a violin quintet led by Simon Hanes.

Elena Velez
Photo: Isidore Montag/Imaxtree

Velez called his collection “Maidenhood & Its Labors”. Maybe just call it “women and the shit they put up with”. Perhaps from experience, as the daughter of a mother who pilots a ship on Lake Michigan, and perhaps from her own sensibilities, Velez has a wonderful way of involving feminine strength – in her choice of beautiful sharp-featured models, in his technical cuts with humble fabrics that can often look wild and confrontational. She works with linen, gauze, laminated military canvas and recycled parachutes. Vernacular goods. Some of her Friday night clothes were quite structured – loose flowing dresses in off-white gauze with seams reminiscent of boning, a well-constructed brown wool blazer, closed at one side and worn with dark parachute pants.

But many of its garments have a broken and hectic quality, as if the wearer were stitching up a few scraps of old fabric into a dress and going on with their day. Other pieces look like Velez may have brushed paint onto fabric and then baked in because his women do what they want. And that may be the source of the sexual sting in her clothes. But anyway, it seems to come from an honest place.

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