It was 9:00 p.m. on Valentine’s Day and I was dressed in bright pink pants, a pastel pink turtleneck, and five-inch pink pumps, as one does for the holiday. I was also at a fashion show, as one usually is in an outfit of such excessive coordination. Things were not as they should have been, however. I should have been with the person who makes me forget about fashion week—a person who once confused pinstripes with seersucker and asked me if I’d “heard of this place called Marfa." But a mere 30 minutes before the show started, I ended our relationship.
I still had three hours left to salvage my tragic Valentine’s Day, and as the saying goes: When a 24-year-old girl finds herself all dressed up with nowhere to go, she wipes her tears, forces her younger brother to bring her Indian food, cries again when he forgets the samosa, chugs a glass of wine, and then hails a taxi to New York Fashion Week, where everyone will see her.
New York Fashion Week was book-ended by heartfelt hello’s and goodbye’s this season, starting with Raf Simons’s “I Heart New York” sweaters at Men’s Week, followed by his sensuous take on Americana for his Calvin Klein debut. Sprinkled throughout were more sexed-up debuts from brands like Palomo Spain, Area, and Linder. Jeremy Scott sent a dress down the runway that read, “Sex is cute,” and Adam Selman closed his show with a model carrying a bouquet of roses on her bust. On Wednesday, the soundtrack to the no-fuss Yeezy Season 5 show was a remixed rendition of The-Dream's “Bed,” in which he swoons sensually about repaying his girl “after the week that [she’s] been through.” And finally, Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez of Proenza Schouler showed a bittersweet farewell to New York before heading to Paris next season, perhaps for even more romance.
Designers are always trying to get you to fall in love with their clothes because well, they want you to buy them. But this season, it felt like there was a more genuine sentiment in the air at New York Fashion Week. Perhaps this is because of the “love Trumps hate” moment we’re in, which lit a fire under even New York's most jaded to wear their feelings on their sleeves. Or perhaps, if we’re being sincere, designers just wanted to show clothes that would be easy to love. Either way, this season proved that fashion, despite all its superficiality, can be a means to communicate honest emotions—especially when words (and people) fail us.
No label demonstrated this more clearly than Pyer Moss, which is where I serendipitously found myself, newly single, on the night of Valentine’s Day. This year, designer Kerby Jean-Raymond showed the first part of an ongoing collection called “Stories About My Parents.” For Fall 2017, the subject was “My Father as I Remember, 1980-1999,” and the elder Jean-Raymond himself sat front row surrounded by family and friends. “I came back from Standing Rock and one of the things that struck me was their respect for elders. It was something that I felt like I needed to work on in my life,” the younger Jean-Raymond said before the show started.
On a surface level, the clothes were an homage to his father’s swagger and style as a young Haitian immigrant coming up in Flatbush, New York. The collection included tracksuits worn with gold chain necklaces and vintage Reeboks, oversized zoot suits, and ostentatious pimp coats. But the clothes also bore a direct and heartfelt message. Because Jean-Raymond and his father don’t communicate much with words—the show opened with a t-shirt bearing the phrase “Nothing to say”—Raymond chose to communicate his love and appreciation through clothing instead.
Prior to Pyer Moss, someone asked me how I endure fashion week’s long hours. I rolled my eyes and said that that good shows make it worth it, and that I hoped this would be one of them. To me, a good show is one that simultaneously breaks your heart and fills you up again, and after the show was over, I immediately sprung up to give this person a hug. There really was nothing else to say.
Of course, loving clothes and shoes and bags does not compare to the love felt for a friend, a relative, a partner, or even a city. But as New York designers demonstrated this season, one's relationship with fashion can be rich with feeling, too. For the most part, this manifested with political statements on the runway, so that in addition to the uplifting vibes throughout, we were prompted to also feel anger, passion, hope, catharsis. For me, this fashion week led to a more personal moment of clarity: I, too, communicate my love through clothing because clothing makes me feel—joy, confidence, grace; in short, clothing makes me feel most like myself, whether or not anyone else is looking.
What I liked most about Him was that my material relationship with fashion and our relationship were separate. He didn’t care about what I wore or about keeping up with the latest trends and it allowed me to be me and him to be him. But as someone who is hopelessly passionate about clothing, I still communicated my emotional state through what I wore, and hoped that he would understand.
On Valentine’s Day, I wore all-pink so that he would see and know how full I was with stupid, corny, fuzzy thoughts, that I was committed not only to a theme and a color palette, but that I was in this all-or-nothing. When he didn’t care enough to see me and my all-pink outfit, (or even say hello after three days of silence), I knew it was done. It was fine for him to not care about fashion or a Hallmark holiday, but to not care about me was another thing entirely. I like my clothes, but I love myself.
While I had a personal epiphany at Pyer Moss, the designer that filled New York with the most earnest expression of love this season was Raf Simons. As was made clear from his now-famous tearful bow after showing his first Dior collection, Simons is a designer who takes fashion personally, and he gets back just as much passion as he gives. In other words, we fall for Raf Simons year after year because he still believes in the romance and possibility of clothes.
There are many memorable Raf Simons quotes to pull from, but there's one that has stuck with me from an interview he did with The Wall Street Journal last year. “If I could tell my 20-year-old self one thing, it would be: grab and protect love when you find it,” he says. “Cherish it, focus on it, concentrate on it.”
When I find love in a person, I’ll be sure to keep that in mind. But for now, I look to the runway.
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