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Monthly Archives: July 2017


Even Kim Kardashian West and Kris Jenner were stuck on the concrete outside, balanced on their teetering heels. Everyone was waiting for a bus to arrive.

When it finally did, an hour later than scheduled, and more than two hours after it had set off (the bus made two “surprise” stops in Manhattan beforehand, much to the confusion of unsuspecting pedestrians), it disgorged Kaia Gerber, newly minted supermodel, daughter of Cindy Crawford, who strut her way down the road in a tiny white tank dress — and into a warehouse.

A host of her peers in cropped chain mail tops, distressed and bedazzled denim, zips and corsets and revisionist suiting (shorts, backward shirts, oversize jackets) followed. There was a bouncy house in the back and a live rock concert inside.

The clothes themselves were the kind of club gear for the 1 percent at which Mr. Wang, when he is focused, excels, but the party entirely eclipsed the product. And the idea that it is somehow cool for designers to drag their audience to the back of beyond is an old one (John Galliano and Alexander McQueen had been there, done that, years before), as is the obvious suggestion that the street is the runway.

 Not to mention the fact that the pretense of a “guerrilla” fashion action is itself kind of a joke when the whole thing is Instagrammed by Bella Hadid, among others, and Kardashians are involved.

How to make fashion relevant is the conundrum of the moment, and adding a hashtag is not the answer. There’s so much else going on — so much trauma and chaos, natural or man-made — that current events have a way of overshadowing clothes.

Sitting in the sun in a faux English garden recreated by Tory Burch in the courtyard of the Cooper Hewitt design museum, watching a parade of perfect-for-the-beach-club looks while a natural disaster of epic proportions bears down on the Florida Peninsula is an eerily unsettling experience. It’s hard to keep your mind on David Hicks-inspired scarf separates, breezily chic though they may be.

When even Jeremy Scott, erstwhile joker of fashion, chooses not to celebrate his 20th anniversary with an all-out blast of crazy spray streamers, but rather simply wink at his past with camo and cartoons, silver sweats that will go to the ball, and rock-chick dresses made out of exactly that (strategically placed encrustations of big crystal rock), it’s an acknowledgment of the complexity of the situation.

In this context, Mr. Wang’s doodle seemed a fairly hollow response, less Weimar than Wikipedia. But there were others.

There was, for example, Monse’s stars-and-stripes ode to twisted collegiate dressing, all ripped denim and off-center windowpane suiting, football-laced leathers and varsity cardigans pulled atop and sliced at the shoulder. (There’s a lot going on in these clothes; they often doth deconstruct too much.)

Backstage Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim, the designers, billed it as a celebration of America and statement of optimism, but it was the “rotting” ends of a shredded black knit dress, the fraying at the hem of a sequined basketball jersey over slouchy pants, that were the most intriguing parts of the collection.

There was Brandon Maxwell’s ode to “the women who have opened doors for others” in the form of soft-focus rosy day dresses and neatly tailored denim; crisp tailcoat shirting and generous, swishing ball gowns, all haloed in the air of high society yet free of any accompanying elitism.

With this collection, shown at Doubles, the supper club in the Sherry-Netherland, Mr. Maxwell has effectively seized the uptown ground once owned by Jason Wu, who seems to have entirely lost direction, detouring between striped cotton suiting here, haute bohemia there and a selection of Martha Graham-meets-Madame Grès dance dresses.

And there was the safe option; the one that did not insist too much. Victoria Beckham, for example, who said she had consciously decided to avoid showpieces in favor of “clothes I want to wear now,” which meant a combination of the strong (broad-shouldered Holmesian plaid shirting) and the soft (sheer organzas layered atop striped sheaths in minty shades).

Which is what made another show in Bushwick, Eckhaus Latta, worth seeing. Held, coincidentally, in a site across the street from the Wang Fest, a “space for engaging conversations and collaborations across creative disciplines,” according to the program (which is also a pretty good description of the six-year-old label designed by Zoe Latta and Mike Eckhaus), it felt worlds away.

Not because it was escapist, but because it wasn’t. Because the clothes, which are a kind of petri dish of associative splicing, grapple honestly with what is on the designers’ minds: questions of gender and difference and the details of fallible beauty framed in low-slung trousers and shirts cropped and tailored to the navel, knit slip dresses trailing streamers from seams; and a stretch cardigan unbuttoned to expose a very pregnant belly

Gucci design

This time around, Gucci will supply him with all those Gs he once had to pirate.

This relationship follows a high-summer contretemps that saw accusations of appropriation and fair usage fly, albeit with an unusual chicken-and-egg twist. First Dapper Dan copied Gucci. Then Gucci copied Dapper Dan.

In May, at a cruise collection show in Florence, Italy, Alessandro Michele, the creative director of Gucci, sent out a mink jacket that was, in essence, a stitch-by-stitch remake of one Mr. Day had designed for (and in collaboration with) the Olympian Diane Dixon in 1989. The most significant change was that the Louis Vuitton-logo puff sleeves of the original had been converted into Gucci Gs.

“I was very surprised,” he said in an interview at his Harlem brownstone. “Everyone was. It was a wild moment.” The jacket and his original were “very similar — unmistakably similar.”

Ms. Dixon put up a post on her Instagram comparing the two and demanding credit for Mr. Day. Twitter was quickly engulfed in fury of recriminations. An op-ed in Teen Vogue saw the move, its headline announced, as an example of “how the fashion industry fails black people.”

Vice accused the clothing label of “ruining culture.” Gucci quickly said that the piece was a riff on Mr. Day’s, and few of the critics were placated. Where Gucci claimed homage, others saw appropriation.

“For me, we can talk about appropriation a lot,” said Mr. Michele this week. “I didn’t put a caption on it because it was so clear. I wanted people to recognize Dapper on the catwalk. It wasn’t appropriation, it was a homage, to me.”

Mr. Michele did not label his homage to Dapper Dan, he said — just as he did not label his homages to Botticelli or Bronzino. Mr. Michele is an avid student of history, but also a gleeful and heretical mixologist of its disparate elements.

He considers, he said, Dapper Dan to be no different than any other artist in history. Nobody was surprised in the Renaissance, he pointed out, when Botticelli painted in the style of Ghirlandaio.

“I understand that I am putting my hands in a kind of very delicate playground, the black community,” Mr. Michele said. “But I love the black community. I think they have a big voice in terms of fashion.”

For his part, Mr. Day remained mostly silent on the issue. In a profile in The New York Times in June, he acknowledged that, after the fact, Gucci had made contact with him; they were “at the table,” he said. Now, after a trip that brought the entire Gucci design team to Harlem — “They sat on that very couch you’re sitting on,” Mr. Day said — a new partnership will begin.

Since the closure of his shop in 1992, Mr. Day had been, in his words, “underground,” occasionally designing for private customers including Floyd Mayweather Jr. (His memoir, due out in 2018, will shed more light on these years.)

But by the end of this year, he will open a second-generation Dapper Dan’s as a by-appointment studio for custom commissions, staffed, he hopes, with some of the original tailors, and sponsored (“powered,” in the company’s preferred term) by Gucci, which will now supply the raw materials.

What’s more, the two will collaborate on a capsule collection that will be produced and sold in Gucci stores worldwide next spring. Mr. Day himself is the model in Gucci’s new tailoring ad campaign, shot on the streets of Harlem, where he met Mr. Michele at last.

“The thing that’s amazing is, what’s being celebrated today was shut down,” said Stephen Stoute, the founder and chief executive of the marketing and branding firm Translation, who helped to facilitate the partnership between Dapper Dan and Gucci. “The couture guys were sitting in Italy, in Paris, deciding to shut it down, rather than embrace it. Now we look up in 2017, and Dan is the feature in their global advertising campaign. They’re releasing a collection that’s going to be in all locations around the world. We’re bringing Gucci to Harlem.”

Speaking now, Mr. Day acknowledged the controversy that had ensued.

“People were excited in a different way than I was,” he said. “I was just excited about it being there. The part about appropriation, Alessandro and I are part of two parallel universes. The magic that took place as a result of what he did was bringing these two parallel universes together. That opened a dialogue between us when we finally got in touch with each other. I found out how similar our experiences were, the way he grew up and the way I grew up, and how he was influenced by me. I was never apprehensive about what took place. The public was more up in arms than me.”

Mr. Day said he considered the Gucci jacket a homage. He never sought acceptance from the establishment fashion world, though he is also not without pique at those who have borrowed from his signature look, most often without credit, over the years.

“I’m trying to be very conservative about it,” he said. “I just don’t want to call it out. I promised my son I wouldn’t go ballistic.” That son is Jelani Day, who oversees his father’s business and publicity and maintains his archive as his brand manager.

“You have to understand, I was prepared to be copied from the time my store was first opened,” Mr. Day said. “My store first opened, and I couldn’t even get designer garments in there, nobody would sell to me. I’m talking 1982. This is 2017. That’s already behind me. The fact that it has to be two different worlds, I had already accepted that. I was just content with satisfying the people in my community.

The Best Dresses

Rihanna took her fashion line Fenty x Puma, only in its second season, to Paris — perhaps in search of some design legitimacy; perhaps because Puma is owned by Kering, which is based in the city; or perhaps because she’s Rihanna, and she can.

Whatever the reason, she had a surprisingly successful run (surprising because when her fellow musician-cum-designer Kanye West did the same, it did not go so well; France has a healthy skepticism of the celebrity style arriviste), and on Sunday night she rode that success back into New York. Literally, thanks to three freestyle motocross racers who somersaulted their way over giant mounds of sparkly pink sand to start her show. Which was … a celebration of extreme sports clothes! Vroom.

Also scuba suits, bike shorts, track pants, moto leathers and body-baring maillots combined in a nylon, neon and navy blue mash-up of strut-your-stuff sports and attitude. Did her Paris sojourn make a difference in her clothes? Nah. Rihanna changes the city; the city does not change Rihanna. Among all the examples of that strange contemporary phenomenon known as the celebrity designer — and their numbers are growing — she is something of a law unto herself.

Unlike Kanye, she did not equate herself with the geniuses of silhouette, and drown her clothing in bombast. Unlike Victoria Beckham and unlike Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen of The Row, she did not humble herself before the experts and work diligently to gain their respect, giving up her other career to toil away in the atelier. Indeed, she seems to be acquiring more careers practically every month (as of last week: beauty mogul). And yet she doesn’t seem to be dialing it in. She’s having fun. She certainly looked like it, anyway, riding around the runway on the back of a dirt bike and blowing kisses for her bow.

Diane Von Furstenberg seemed to be having a good time, too, for example, at the presentation of the latest collection for her brand from its creative director, Jonathan Saunders. That’s what happens, apparently, when you finally manage to pass the reins to someone you trust, and can concentrate on other stuff.

She was hanging out at the side of the runway with the guests, watching the show, which had been inspired by the Warhol Factory girl Jane Forth, who was also Ms. Von Furstenberg’s first model. The silhouette was flowy and handkerchief-hemmed, the colors ’70s bright. There were a lot of stripes and shine (sometimes shiny stripes).

“I’ve seen bits and pieces over the last week,” Ms. Von Furstenberg said, “but this is the first time I’m seeing it all.” A model in a cropped khaki jacket and long sunshine-yellow skirt chevroned in two layers of dramatic fringe with a slash of sheer inbetween walked by, and Ms. Von Furstenberg gasped. “That’s a killer!” she said happily. She was into the fringe.

It’s also, of course, part of the subtext of everything Rihanna does, and has become the focus of Prabal Gurung, expressed largely via diversity of size and sexuality on the runway. That’s a good thing, as were the slinky ribbed knit dresses with a buttoned-in waist that could be unbuttoned at will to expose various bits of flesh. Less so the “technical crepe” jackets, shorts and trench coats with corsetry boned into the body, which were heavy handed.

And it was the partly the theme of the dance performance that Opening Ceremony offered in lieu of a traditional show.

Entitled “Changers” and held in La MaMa, the East Village experimental theater, the performance was written and directed by Spike Jonze (of “Her” fame), choreographed by Ryan Heffington (of Sia’s “Chandelier” fame) and starred Mia Wasikowska (“Alice in Wonderland”) and Lakeith Stanfield (“Atlanta”), as well as a number of pieces from the Opening Ceremony collection.

The clothes worked with the story line, which had to do with a happy couple who become less happy when she starts to spread her wings, explore her sexuality and change her outfits — no more cutesy little plaid dresses and red peacoats! Striped body-con knits and cold-shoulder devoré velvets instead!

They grow apart and boogie with others, and finally a new balance of power is found. Woman ascendant.

Indie Designers

At least that was the thinking Elizabeth Solomeina applied when she was struggling to find a way to show and sell the jewelry she designs without spending huge amounts of money on rent or outsourcing her work to various boutiques.

“I needed a place to sell my stuff, I needed a customer base,” Ms. Solomeina said. “When stylists wanted to come over to my studio, I would tell them it’s in Brooklyn, and they would be like, ‘Never mind.’”

“I wasn’t alone,” she said. “I had friends like this, too.”

So in the summer of 2016, she gathered 34 of them and together they pitched in funds to open a boutique called Flying Solo on Mulberry Street in NoLIta. Within three months, the group had expanded to 45 designers. In June of this year, it grew again, adding more than 20 to the roster and moving to a two-floor shop on West Broadway, on the same block as Missoni, Aesop and DKNY.

Last Friday, during New York Fashion Week, the group of 68 held a two-hour-long presentation and runway show in the store, displaying more than 350 looks. During the presentation, models in neutral colors showed off jewelry and accessories, rotating every few minutes.

As techno beats and songs by Little Dragon, Migos and Sango pounded through the speakers, models strutted by in metallic and brightly colored pants and jackets (from Daniel Silverstain, who has designed for Solange and Lady Gaga); long coats with “Proud Immigrant” written across the back (from Ricardo Seco, a Mexican designer); tweed suits and knit dresses (from Kathrin Henon, who works with Dennis Basso); and much more.

Between each section of the show, models in silver pants and Flying Solo T-shirts created by the designers walked by with signs denoting the next designer’s Instagram handle.

Flying Solo operates somewhat like a grocery or building co-op, with members paying a membership fee that goes toward rent, production and marketing costs for events like the fashion week show. Each member is required to work eight hours every week, opening and closing the store, cleaning and helping customers on the floor.

When the team members opened their first store on Mulberry Street, they put together as much of the interior themselves as they could. “We designed the racks, the shelving,” Ms. Solomeina said. “Our designers were sketching, running to Home Depot, assembling racks.” They were ready for customers in three days. On West Broadway, it took all of four.