From men's week to the women's collections that kicked off this week, the focus in New York this season has undeniably been on Raf Simons, the city's new power player and arguably even its savior. As it turns out, though, the scene might not need as much saving as you might think: under the radar, there's also a spread of young talents based here who are breaking out just in time for Fall 2017, each provocative and unconventional in their own way, precisely the qualities that the New York shows are often accused of lacking. Take Linder, the leather-loving duo making their womenswear debut today, just as Raul Solis, formerly of Proenza Schouler, premieres his more-explicit-than ever label LRS on the official CFDA calendar. Then there's Area, whose two up and coming designers, one of whom spent time at Calvin Klein Collection, will show on Saturday what they describe as "naked dresses." All of them are shaking up the local scene, and seemingly pulling it off, so it seems in the end, the kids are doing just alright.
After making their debut at New York Fashion Week: Men's last season, Sam Linder and Kirk Millar of Linder are already ready for their next challenge: womenswear. It's a natural progression for the brand, which showed Peter Berlin-eqsue, gender-bending looks for Spring 2017, including knit short-shorts, kinky studded jeans, and "wife beaters" worn as crop tops. And the brand's rapid growth suggests that the risks paid off.
“It’s like going to a higher level in a video game," said Millar of joining the womenswear world. "A lot of people responded to our first collection because it defied gender expectations. Is it gender-fluid? Is it gender-bending? And it is, but I think we’re going into womenswear because we’re not interested in this genderless, unisex approach, or doing something where gender isn’t a part of the picture. Our menswear was actually very, very conscious of gender. So, we’re not wiping out gender at all."
"We have fun with menswear norms, and there are norms for womenswear that we can play around with, too," added Linder.
The duo first met in 2012 and went into business together with a store on Thompson Street, which carries their own line in addition to other obscure men's labels from around the world. Linder is all about the minute details and proportions, while Millar focuses more on big picture ideas. Together, they are determined to highlight the strange and unfamiliar, yet with roots both in Americana (they're country boys) and old-school New York luxury.
For Fall 2017, Linder's signature themes continue to solidify with both men's and women's wear, which they showed on Friday afternoon simultaneously at the cave-like old Serafina restaurant space in NoHo. The collection is even more lascivious than the last, with vinyl skirt suits flipped upside-down, tank tops made out of raccoon hide, and bags in the shape of leather chaps. Human skin and animal fur were something the designers wanted to explore this season, most obviously embodied in a Rick Owens-meets-Margiela shirt-dress with human hair flowing from the armpits.
“It can easily be seen as indulgent and consumed as indulgent," said Millar of the extensive use of fur and hide. "But for us, it was more us wanting to be honest. How different are we from animals, really?"
“Boobies were quite a thing this season,” said the Area co-designer Piotrek Panszczyk at his studio last week. On a rack hung a faux-fur bra with diamond trim, and behind it were photos taped to the wall of "love and obsession through the years," including the opening scene of Hiroshima Mon Amour, in which the two main characters copulate in a bed of glitter.
Since founding their brand in 2014 after meeting in school at Parsons, Piotrek Panszczyk, who is from Poland, and Beckett Fogg, who is from Kentucky, have been unapologetic about bringing back '90s glam—and bedazzling along with it. Their name comes from a former downtown New York club called Area, which went bankrupt for its extravagant sets and invitations. For the brand's first show, they event sent out a blue Xanax pill in a small concealer case, similar to how the club did it in the '80s.
“We’re playing with the boundaries between glamorous and trashy,” said Fogg, who did a brief stint at Calvin Klein Collection before going out on her own. Area's Fall 2017 collection, which will be shown on Saturday and is the brand's first time at New York Fashion Week, includes "naked dresses" with crystal chiaroscuro, diamonds in the place of nipples, and denim with sparkly heart-shaped studs. When they first started designing the collection, Panszczyk and Fogg asked their friends what they love and are obsessed with in their own closets, and the theme grew from there to include self-love and self-obsession. "Collecting Birkin bags is an obsession. So what if she is a Birkin bag?” said Beckett of an ostrich-skin-like textile that they developed, which can also give off the impression of goosebumps.
“We’re honestly and sincerely obsessed with fashion," said Panszczyk of his own passions. "We don’t really have time for anything else, so we better love it!”
“I’m working with a person we found on Instagram who’s a bondage artist,” said the designer Raul Solis in his studio-slash-apartment in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, describing what’s in store for his namesake label LRS’s debut today on the official CFDA calendar. Though the “romantic, but in my own way—like S&M romantic, not Valentino” vibe this time around is certainly making him worry about the reaction of one guest in particular—his mom—it’s a boldness that’s already characteristic of all of Solis’ designs.
Born in Mexico, Solis, 32, studied fashion for just a year before dropping out and working at 7 for All Mankind jeans for the next eight, getting so expert with denim that Proenza Schouler scooped him up to helm their denim line when he moved to New York. After four years, that gave way to more straightforward ready-to-wear under his own name, even though “literally every season, I’m like ‘Okay, I’m going to get a second job because it’s not going to happen,’” Solis said, laughing.
Clearly, though, he’s making it work: his fifth showing is definitely a step up, and not just geographically, from the dingy nightclub on the Lower East Side that served as his last venue to the CFDA-approved Copacabana in Midtown. Looking to properly illuminate his shiny silver trenches and backless dresses, Solis chose the latter for its glass-walled likeness to a greenhouse, which’ll also shed light on his thigh-skimming cheerleader skirts, ballet flats created in collaboration with Capezio, jersey jumpsuits with zippers looping around seamlessly from the hood to under the crotch, and fingerless latex mittens with miniature harnesses and plenty of complementary metal loops. It’s hardly the first time Solis has gotten sexual, but this time, it’s definitely more sophisticated—and explicit.
“It’s important to have that message of sexual empowerment, especially now—to say, ‘Hey, actually, you can do whatever you want,’” Solis said. “I don’t get too political, but obviously [this season] it’s impossible to dismiss.”
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