A trio of consecutive shows Saturday evening underlined the renaissance of American fashion, from veteran Anna Sui’s intimate gathering, to Heron Preston’s street chic display to Sergio Hudson’s bravura 90s glamour. New York Fashion Week suddenly seems hyper relevant again.
Anna Sui: Peppermint twist, racy renaissance
The pandemic has done wonders for Anna Sui’s creative juices. She made some of the best collection videos of the lockdown. This weekend she staged a great show in a wee East Village bar before barely 80 people and very much was Sui at her best – bright, joyful hipster clothes capturing the insouciance of youth.
Her inspiration came from photos of Baby Jane Holzer, Andy Warhol’s superstar, dancing in the Peppermint Lounge, the midtown club that gave birth to the Twist dance craze in the 60s.
Sui’s cast entered by dancing on a small stage before touring the bar in great metallic hued faux leather negligee dresses, camis, skirts and nightclub trenches – all paired with sequined knit tights and matching booties.
Faux fur boleros; chenille wool jackets; clover windowpane coats and jumpers; or camouflage parkas all had wit and kick. Made in a Pop Art palette of bubble gum, hot pink, rose, cornflower and, of course, plenty of peppermint. Think Coco Chanel’s granddaughter escaping France to hang out after-hours in the Lower East Side.
Just 26 looks, and a tiny cast where several models made three costume changes. Climaxed by appearances from veteran catwalk stars Sasha Pivovarova and Jessica Stam in two sensational cocktails. Pivovarova smouldering in a snakeskin sequined dress with lace inserts worn with matching tights; and Stam owning the club in a rose sequined sheath with exterior lace bra.
“I wanted little dresses to dance in,” said Sui, who recalled in her program note the teenage joy of wearing her mom’s black lace slip with a faux leopard coat in order to capture the mood of Elizabeth Taylor when she won her first Oscar in Butterfield 8.
The result was a memorable fashion moment, entitled Heaven Can Wait, blessed by a great soundtrack, courtesy of niece Isabelle Sui – a mashup of tracks by the likes of Patty & The Emblems, The Cramps and The Ramones.
Packed with a score of relatives and pals like Marc Jacobs, Sofia Coppola, Michelle Hicks and Karen Elson the place went into an uproar when Anna took her bow. Great to see Sui back to doing what she does best – creating rock star glamour with a cool offhand twist.
Heron Preston: Street sustainability rules
In a season marked by inclusivity nothing marked the range of talent blooming among black designers more than two evening shows, first by Heron Preston, following down the block by Sergio Hudson.
Originally a photographer and DJ, Preston has grown into an important creator, whose sense of the current zeitgeist, embrace of his community and commitment to sustainability can only be admired.
Four workmen in gilets oranges opened the show by marching around the raw space drawing street markings with tiny paint rollers. Lines which the models then followed precisely. Before a blond Amazon marched out in a tied up chiffon body stocking.
But Heron’s greatest skill is blending athletic gear with clubwear – like his asymmetrical bias cut dress topped by runner vests and worn with elbow length leather gloves.
His best looks for gals were a great combo of skewed skirt, big, ribbed puffer bolero, and shaggy high heeled boots. Along with very cool graphic technical mesh dresses in comic book graphics of his logo; smeared print puffers; or upcycled patchwork denim bra tops.
For guys, white baseball jackets with black leather arms, their backs emblazoned with comic devils; crisp white shirts with arrow graphics; or artfully decayed fireman’s coats with big buckles.
Preston also walks the walk when it comes to the environment. His invites were scraps of cardboard collected from garbage in Chinatown and Brooklyn. His big inspiration was the city itself, as chain mail elements suggested construction site fences.
“I wanted to incorporate found objects into the collection. While I wanted to keep this space as minimal as possible, so the utility lines were directions for the runway,” explained Preston, who covered ankles, wrists and necks in faux black barbed wire to help create a mood that was kicky, clever, clubby, creative and pretty commercial.
Asked to define his DNA, he responded backstage: “A couple of layers, understanding colors and textures; understanding of community and connecting to it; bridging different worlds.”
After showing in Paris, the San Francisco-born designer’s first show returning to New York was staged inside a sanitation department. Recycling and sustainability remains key for Preston.
“We have an e-ray program looking at materials and the whole life cycle of a garment and its supply chain and vetting factories. Our sneakers are made of cellular film (a type of polyurethane) allowing them to be completely recycled. No glue and no stitches. So, when you want a new pair of shoes you can break it down and make a whole new sneaker,” he stressed.
For his show video, the designer wanted to include the perspective from the runway, so he had a video camera wandering around on the catwalk the whole time. Giving an agitprop feel to an impressive show and collection.
Sergio Hudson: Natty and new nineties
Few designers anywhere do sexy glamour better than Sergio Hudson, especially with a nineties nuance like this season.
This weekend, his Fall/Winter 2023 collection contained multiple references to Versace, though always given a Sergio slant. To those of us lucky enough to have attended Gianni’s epic couture shows in the swimming pool of the Ritz, Hudson’s impeccably cut suits, snappy mini boleros, flared pants and pencil skirts all recalled the Italian master. As did the color palette – lime, orange, kissing pink and canary yellow – the bundled up Barbarella hairdos and even the soundtrack.
In none of the four great fashion capitals is music as important as New York. Highlighted in this show, with dance track by the likes of CeCe Peniston, Inner City and Robin S.
“It’s always a nineties moment in my house,” joked Hudson backstage, after being embraced by his delighted cast.
Four pocket coat dresses; saucy Eisenhower jackets and barely there mesh layered cocktails all had great pizzazz. His cast, including veteran supe Veronica Webb, clearly loved their looks, sashaying and strutting down the runway inside Spring Studios in Tribeca, the main location of the season.
With major buyers sitting front row, happily snapping the collection on their iPhones, Hudson sent out plenty of commercial winners especially in denim – from pleated shirt dresses to snappy suits.
The actual catwalk was composed of a great graffiti image by the celebrated painter Jason Naylor, designs used in skilfully embroidered and embellished Naylor prints seen in mini skirts and dresses.
“Everyone is predicting hard times, so I wanted joy and happiness. Let’s celebrate, let’s be happy, we’re still living!” said the bearded Hudson, who took his bow in his own imperial Roman purple wool bouclé coat.
Hudson’s path to fashion stardom in New York didn’t come easy. “Church raised” in South Carolina, he discovered fashion through magazines before studying the metier in Bauder College. Going on to dress both Michelle Obama and Kamala Harris at the 2021 presidential inauguration.
To its shame, fashion has lagged behind other creative industries like music and film when it came to empowering people of color. That is finally beginning to change.
It’s also been a weekend when TV and media have been dominated by preparation for the first Superbowl to witness two opposing black quarter backs. So, witnessing these two dynamic performances by widely disparate black designers made this seem a very important moment.
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