A Look Back at NYFW AW23
by Patrick Boyle & Thore Damwerth
Amidst the spectacle of fast-paced fashion weeks across the globe, it’s important to pause, take a breath, and reflect on sartorial moments that have rightly caught our attention. New York Fashion Week, characterised as a birthing ground for young innovative designers, produced a memorable showing free from the heritage and traditions of its European counterparts.
Sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy presented their fall 2023 collection for Rodarte in a magical setting that felt like a dreamy fairy tale. Fairies, or rather ‘gothic fairies’, were one of the most prominent inspirations in the pair’s creative process for this collection. A silver banquet, which served as the show’s aesthetic setting, contained romantic elements such as chandeliers, lighted candles and an abundance of small treasures. In keeping with the setting, majestic feather and ruffled chiffon trims featured in the collection. Siouxsie Sioux-inspired eye makeup and black lipstick contrasted the romantic feel of the designs, giving the models an edgy look. Simultaneously, glamorous evening dresses and clean silhouettes were ubiquitous throughout the collection. Also notable was the use of materials and patterns, ranging from smooth velvet with floral appliqués to bulbous shapes made entirely of metallic fringe.
One of the highlights of this season was undoubtedly Dion Lee’s sexy and precise fall 23 collection. Known for his unique take on luxury rave wear, particularly in New York’s party circles, Lee took inspiration from skin-shedding reptiles – the snake, the serpent. A spectacle of seductive dresses, second-skin tank tops, miniskirts and crop tops were presented in the form of innovative designs, cuts, and materials. These looks acted as the base for translucent inflatable outerwear, fishnet scale bodywear and seamless bonded corsetry. Details included snake eyelet belting and interlocking hardware embellishment. Looks were crafted in fine materials such as ripped reptilian denim, snake dyed shibori and distressed peeling leather. The iconic Patti Wilson styled Lee’s captivating runway collection, at which guests such as Julia Fox and Icespice adorned the front row. To celebrate the designer’s NYFW success, a legendary afterparty took place at the Boom Boom Room with skyline views of New York City and performances from rapper Azealia Banks and techno DJ Schacke until the early morning hours.
The show titled ‘YOU’ saw Sukeina’s NYFW debut take on a gentle elegance with spirited details contrasting a muted pallet. The label, not governed by trend but rather by mood, presented a collection of opaque wool suiting detailed with alluring gold zip hardware. Dual faux fur trims in fern, burgundy, navy and black, garnished sleeves and skirts, bringing a playfulness to Omar Salam’s tailored designs. Coco Rocha closed the show with a performative walk dressed in a vast, black, sequin sleeved gown, exposing flurries of hot pink through a sequence of contemporary twirls as she weaved down the catwalk.
Area, one of the most highly anticipated shows on the NYFW schedule, explored the beauty and symbolism of fruits in their S/S23 collection. A soundtrack of flies buzzing preluded the show accompanied by thousands of plastic imitations decorating columns throughout the venue. Creative director Panszczyk took inspiration through popular culture, with nods to Andy Warhol’s iconic The Velvet Underground album cover, Josephine Baker and The Guerilla Girls. Fruit, historically symbolic of sex, desire and temptation going back to the story of Adam and Eve, felt fitting for a brand known for intrigue and desire. A 3D watermelon dress sliced in two, crafted in black satin with pink crystallised flesh and gold seeding, was sculptural in form, giving a couture feel. Grapes, a symbol of abundance, fertility and indulgence were explored as vivid collars, earring and vine harnesses. The collection also saw a variety of mini-skirts and bralettes adorned in crystallised decaying fruits, paired with feathered heels from the brand’s 20-piece collaboration with Italian designer Sergio Rossi. The use of feathers continued in a series of looks featuring black feathered discs decorating sheer catsuits and masks. Full of life, the black feathers mimicked swarms of flies encircling models as they paced up and down the lengthy runway, backdropped by the Hudson River. The highlight of the collection came in the form of a pyramid shaped gown of black velvet bananas, embellished with golden tips cascading down multiple tiers from neck to floor.
For her fall 2023 collection, designer Hanako Maeda focused on the music cultures of her youth – rock and punk. Taking inspiration from bands such as Blink 182 and Green Day, the show featured a live performance by Japanese musician Samurai Guitarist. Maeda’s designs took on a darker vibe than previous collections with the distinct use of black leather harnessing and leather skirts. Versatility came into play with sweeter elements of lace and pleated tulle accents, while colourful tartans cut into fitted skirts and dresses styled under silk blouses and sleeve sets. The designs were characterized by practicality, such as removable sleeves, as well as tailored cuts and pleasant materials such as double-faced wool and silk. A highlight of the Adeam collection is Maeda’s more affordable ICHI line. The fully unisex range had its runway debut at the end of the show with a grunge and edgy aesthetic dominated by oversized, distressed pieces.
Inspired by chaos and classicism, Cucculelli Shaheen presented their F/W 2023 collection at New York City’s iconic Webster Hall to the soundtrack of a live performance by musician Breanna Barbara. Lush embroidery and effortless silhouettes took centre stage in a colour palette of black, gunmetal, silver, red, champagne and gold, embodying the passage of the sun in the sky from night to day. Drop-waist corsets, low-slung trousers, skirts, and cut-out details accentuated the hips while detachable sleeves and beaded leggings transformed looks. A whirlwind of sheer slip dresses inscribed with smoky glass crystals appeared graceful, yet effortlessly powerful as they made their way down the runway. The impact of the designers’ perennial muse, New York City, was clear throughout the collection. Rounding out the show this season was an appearance on the runway by winner of Season 12 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Jaida Essence Hall.
Designer Prisca Vera presented a particularly sensual and elegant fall 23 collection. With a focus on the roots of the brand, the designs were shaped by complex tailoring and a minimalistic aesthetic. Prisca aspired to design a versatile collection for the PRISCAVera woman, focussing on feminine and wearable designs that can be worn to the office, a night out or for day to day living. The collection was simultaneously assertive and carefree, with a modular approach making most pieces interchangeable through personal styling. This versatility resulted in looks that expressed elements from bossy gothic and office attire to unquestionable sex appeal. Outstanding designs ranged from white contrast stitch suits, black-and-white skirts and corsets, to evening looks of coppery metallic, luminous pink silks, metallic silver lurex and velvet burnout. More casual, off-work attire was shown in the shape of velvet rugby shirts and tailored cotton with lace up details to match boxer shorts and trousers. Logo prints and the brand’s first jacquard pattern embellished looks throughout. Semi-transparent liquid tops, slip dresses, and shirts with ultra-feminine shapes completed a memorable collection.
Elena Velez presented her unconventional and provoking fall 23 collection to the sound of pounding techno echoing through an industrial hall. The designer emphasized that fashion is no longer just a beautiful thing and focused on the fact that the design process is just as important as the end product. Velez took inspiration from things considered unglamorous in cosmopolitan culture, like trucker culture and lizards, but translated them into a modern and progressive aesthetic. With her collection and runway show, the designer created an explosive and aggressive atmosphere that was intensified by fast and zombified walks by the models portraying the “female rage.” A critique of the industry was pervasive throughout Velez’s collection and its presentation, evident in a model that recklessly clutched the designer’s CFDA award, representing a push for the industry to improve its values and standards. Garment materials ranged from canvas, which looked almost home-spun, to latex and paint which formed elements of wearable designs such as twisted shirt dresses.
Typical of the American designer’s shows, Thom Brown presented his latest collection in a theatrical manner, telling a story of loneliness, loss, determination, and exploration. Based on Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s 1943 novella, The Little Prince, the now chairman of the Council of Fashion designers America sought to take guests on a fantastical journey. A dramatic set of sand making up a clock face was centred by a crashed plane. Illuminated by an abundance of suspended planets and stars, the scene had an air of cosmic magic. The front row was clad with a wide ensemble of celebrities, from actors David Harbour, Penn Badgley and Jesse Williams to Queen Letifa, Erykah Badu, Lil Nas X and Whoopi Goldberg. The performative show opened with a disorientated pilot looking whimsically around her crashed airplane sporting an exaggerated white jumpsuit detailed with the brand’s iconic red and blue stripes, green tulle neckline and helmet shaped bag. Shortly a second model joined dressed in grey flannel tweed tailoring over a dress embroidered with gold bullion. A procession of models styled with exaggerated white buns and elaborate headpieces soon followed. The sci-fi looking characters, dressed in white organza dresses, represented the various planets that surrounded the “two lost travellers”. What followed was a parade of unique embroidered tweed dresses under deconstructed pinstripe suits, buckled platform astronaut boots and exquisite gold bullion headpieces. The horological theme was furthered with clock face details on briefcases and chunky heeled shoes combined with paisley jacquard corsets under oversized tweed tailoring. The show concluded with the models re-emerging in pairs hand in hand. The finale was an act of unity, triumphantly sound tracked by “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.
Luis De Javier
For his fall/winter 23 collection, the Spanish provocateur was inspired by New York characters who follow their dreams from the city’s underbelly to the heights of fame and success. De Javier reflected on his Spanish roots and the vivid queer and club culture of the country. For the runway show and collection the designer created a provocative contrast: while he presented in a former synagogue – the iconic Angel Orensanz Foundation where Alexander McQueen also had his New York debut – the atmosphere was wrapped in dark techno sounds and featured satanic symbols such as devil horns. Additionally, the show was hosted by Pornhub, emphasizing De Javier’s provocative designs that embody the artist’s and Pornhub’s shared values of freedom of sexual expression and diversity, leading to a long-term collaboration where De Javier will be the official designer for the upcoming Pornhub Awards. The star-studded runway was walked by Julia Fox, Alton Mason, Lourdes Leon and many more, who wore De Javier’s controversial succubus-chic aesthetic of, mostly, latex and leather, styled by Patti Wilson. Sharp shoulders, corsetry and trains with copious exaggerated hemlines in a colour palette of plum, metallic silver, blood red and deep black characterized his designs. Eye catching accessories included spiked masks and fully embellished headwear, layered chains and his signature eyewear giving a futuristic warrior tone.
Head of State
Head of State presented a collection of vibrant colours, paying homage to Logasian culture at NYFW. Taofeek Abijako told a personal story of his father’s attempt to migrate from Lagos to Spain on foot. Gentle orange sandy tones represented the desert while pastel blues were a clear reference to the ocean that would see the final leg of his father’s journey. A series of rich red looks featured an asymmetrical-lapelled suit jacket, sliced knits and a cape-like dress worn by a male model over nylon trousers in the same tone. Other notable looks included a textured-peach two-piece ensemble featuring elongated sleeves, and a strapless emerald gown shrouded in a lengthy vale. Evan Mock walked for the Nigerian designer after donning the label at the Met Gala. A dusty-blue, corseted, cropped suit jacket was a fresh iteration of what Mock had worn at the prestigious event and is quickly becoming a signature look for the brand.
Avant-garde designer Jackson Wiederhoeft once again produced a performative show for his fall 23 collection. Inspired by elements from the Opera, he focused on “post-gender retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice in which Eurydice chooses the underworld” as his creative reference. Wiederhoeft associated this with situations where words cannot be erased and things cannot be undone, such as the tattoo imagery found throughout his collection’s designs. The materials Wiederhoeft chose made his designs sculptural, exemplified by the opening dress that floated away from the model’s body to reveal layers of white tulle underneath. The designer’s quintessential bridal aesthetic was ubiquitous throughout, including a beautifully tailored strapless midi-length gown with draped bodice and all-over metallic sequin embroidery reminiscent of liquid gold. One difference from Wiederhoeft’s earlier collections was his emphasis on casual attire, which included wide-leg satin pants, denim galore, hoodies, and of course his signature corsets.