New York Fashion Week Was All about Individuality, Not Fashion

There two ways to react to an almost post-apocalyptic reality: to address it or to ignore it altogether while diving in frenzied escapism. For most New York Fashion Week designers, the idea of setting trends appeared less and less enticing-instead they opted to celebrate individuality and self-acceptance. A good cause, indeed. From luxury pajamas to re-invented classics, this stripping back to fashion basics had a lot to do with manifestos-but nothing with design.

Optimism aside, New York Fashion Week has been having a serious identity crisis even before the pandemic. This season, one with no buyers and no influencers, street style stars or international press, most of America’s big names saved power for later. The Row, Proenza Schouler, Ralph Lauren were absent while the typically flamboyant Tom Ford show was replaced by a series of images showcasing the designer’s offering for the season. Ten new names made their debut but did very little to overturn the feeling that there was something seriously lacking-be it emotion, inspiration, or simply, design.

In fact, all the best moments were those that fashion innovation gave way to fierce manifestos on individuality and uniqueness. For the resurrected Imitation of Christ, Tara Subkoff enlisted a group of LA-based teenage female skateboarders to create a film showcasing their bad-ass confidence and skils. Initially, a “political art project disguised as a ‘fashion house’”  the brand’s team staged a show in L.A. and one in New York where they screened the collection video unexpectedly accompanied by opera hits. It was nothing new but was refreshing, full of youthful energy, and fitting for a brand that started off with tremendous success 20 years ago.

Maisie Schloss, who launched her brand, Maisie Wilen, last year, had her own statement to make. Schloss started as a designer at Yeezy and knows one thing or two about unexpected materials and on-trend design. For her collection, she focused on creative ‘weirdness’ and the idea of seeing clothes through screens.The designer didnt shy away from the back her work is almost made to be Instagrammed, in fact, she embraced its two-dimensional qualities by using strong trompe l’oeil techniques.

Yet, it was Private Policy’s collection that summarized the New York season. The genderless streetwear label used CFDA’s new digital platform Runway 360, to present their Spring 2021 collection called “Searching for Aphrodite.” For designers Haoran Li and Siying Qu, Aphrodite is a notion of beauty that goes far beyond the stereotypical approaches, a call for inclusion and representation that is characteristic to the brand since its birth. Their many Afrodites included vitiligo Calvin Klein star Yvesmark Chery, amputee musician Marsha Elle and Dominique Castelano, who dedicated her inclusion to “all the hot queer Asians,”. As in most New York Fashion Week cases, the message was indeed powerful, the clothes came second best. Or as Tom Ford best-summarized it “the last thing I want to see is serious clothes”. Well, you got it.