Pas­sion­ate, in­clu­sive and po­lit­i­cally en­gaged

Sin­cer­ity has un­ex­pect­edly formed a theme at New York Fash­ion Week: Men’s

The Hamilton Spectator - - STYLE - GUY TREBAY

NEW YORK — Top­ping off the clear liq­uid in his plas­tic drink­ing cup, Michael Kors sig­nalled it was time to get started. “I’ve re­filled my vodka, so I’m ready to roll,” the de­signer said.

It was at 11 a.m. on a Tues­day and Kors was jok­ing. I think.

From that point on, he was all busi­ness, pre­sent­ing a fine spring menswear col­lec­tion.

To ob­serve the in­ten­sity of Kors’ fo­cus as he de­scribes, say, per­fectly pro­por­tioned wide-legged cham­bray denim trousers or a khaki coloured tis­sue-poplin wind­breaker/ blazer de­signed for some imag­i­nary monied young man on the go is to gain in­sight into a qual­ity he con­sis­tently projects, whether on “Project Run­way,” at an in­vestor con­fer­ence or in depart­ment store trunk shows: sin­cer­ity.

And sin­cer­ity has un­ex­pect­edly formed a the­matic at New York Fash­ion Week: Men’s, still fledg­ling in its third sea­son yet de­fy­ing naysay­ers by show­ing plenty of cause for its con­tin­ued ex­is­tence.

Right out of the gate, an un­known 26-year-old U.S. de­signer ap­peared with a col­lec­tion tak­ing in­spi­ra­tion from the wrapped gar­ments of South Korea. That is where, as it hap­pens, the de­signer — Ju­lian Wood­house, a gay African-Amer­i­can man — is sta­tioned as a first lieu­tenant in the U.S. army.

Wood­house hoarded leave time to come to New York Fash­ion Week: Men’s and used his mil­i­tary pay to fund the Wood House show. Pas­sion like that can­not be coun­ter­feit.

The pace of fash­ion week is of­ten so in­tense, the de­signer pile-on so fre­netic, it is easy to miss that the more cru­cial mes­sage be­ing trans­mit­ting has lit­tle to do with run­way trends.

On a pri­vate visit to the Vat­i­can Gallery of Tapestries, the Brook­lyn-based de­sign­ers Raul Arevalo and Brad Sch­midt got the no­tion of build­ing a show of shorts-suits with deep elas­ti­cized waist­lines and tu­ni­clike shirts with ei­ther zip­pered or pinned shoul­der clo­sures on the garb of Ro­man cen­tu­ri­ons.

“I thought, let’s play with that, but not be so lit­eral,” Arevalo said be­fore the Cadet show.

The Latin phrases printed on some of the clothes also came about as a re­sult of that Euro­pean out­ing. Show notes ren­dered some of them in English for the un­e­d­u­cated among us. And if it hap­pened that the de­sign­ers mis­spelled the best known, Amor Vincit Om­nia, they still got points for try­ing and, more­over, for pro­duc­ing a sweat­shirt whose phi­los­o­phy, FAC For­tia et Patere, has a pointed rel­e­vance at this mo­ment in U.S. his­tory.

It is no stretch to ally the motto “Do Brave Deeds and En­dure” with the hash­tags of the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment, some of whose mem­bers staged a small but ef­fec­tive silent protest out­side the Sky­light Clark­son Sq space in Lower Man­hat­tan, where the ma­jor­ity of the New York Fash­ion Week: Men’s events were held.

With raised fists and hands, and wear­ing black T-shirts printed with the names of San­dra Bland or Wal­ter Scott and the chill­ing slo­gan “Stop Killing Us,” the pro­test­ers stood all day out­side fash­ion week head­quar­ters, flank­ing a curb­side gaunt­let where the style pea­cocks — the writer Holly Brubach got it right when she termed them “hot no­bod­ies” — strut for the cam­eras.

Some stopped to stare at the pro­test­ers or to snap pic­tures. Oth­ers, like a young black woman dressed in a Yeezy bomber with a con­found­ing Con­fed­er­ate flag patch on one sleeve, saun­tered by with an air of un­con­cern.

“This in­dus­try ben­e­fits from black peo­ple, from black stylists and black mod­els and black pro­fes­sion­als of ev­ery kind,” said Han­nah Stoudemire, a style blog­ger who works in sales at Lan­vin and who con­ceived of the demon­stra­tion. “But it re­fuses to ac­knowl­edge the im­por­tance of black lives.”

If in the morn­ing Stoudemire ex­pressed frus­tra­tion with the Coun­cil of Fash­ion De­sign­ers of Amer­ica, which or­ga­nized New York Fash­ion Week: Men’s, and the in­dus­try over­all, by late in the day, when the protest broke up, she had judged the ac­tion a suc­cess.

“I talked to Steven Kolb,” Stoudemire said, re­fer­ring to the CFDA pres­i­dent, “and I told him I was heart­bro­ken that the in­dus­try I loved didn’t love me back, that it didn’t love or rec­og­nize black lives, and he lis­tened. He posted our pic­ture to the CFDA ac­count on In­sta­gram, which was huge.”

What­ever its short­com­ings, the New York fash­ion in­dus­try de­serves credit for en­gag­ing with po­lit­i­cally sen­si­tive is­sues that its col­leagues across the ocean refuse to rec­og­nize, let alone touch.

Over the last five weeks, de­sign­ers in Europe con­sis­tently sidestepped or ig­nored ter­ror­ism, gun vi­o­lence and the vast hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis caused by waves of dis­placed peo­ple flood­ing the con­ti­nent.

They blithely showed col­lec­tions with “mil­i­tary” in­spi­ra­tions or or­ga­nized around themes of “glamp­ing” and vagabond life. A few staged shows that used white mod­els ex­clu­sively. They cast un­der­age kids.

While New York Fash­ion Week: Men’s has not ex­actly stormed the ram­parts, it has shown a brac­ing aware­ness of a wider world.

This can be seen in a beau­ti­ful chro­matic dis­per­sion both on and off the run­ways, shows cast us­ing mod­els of ev­ery eth­nic­ity — like Ce­sar Ernesto, a cof­fee-com­plex­ioned 20-year-old beauty scouted on the street in SoHo, the tat­tooed Brazil­ian Jonathan Bellini, and the hand­some shaven-headed Korean Sung Jin Park — and at­tended by a pop­u­la­tion sim­i­larly di­verse.

It can be seen in the Black Lives Mat­ter protest and the swift re­ac­tion to it by an im­por­tant CFDA of­fi­cial and also in the leather bracelets worn by many front-row types.

The bracelets were cre­ated by Donna Karan and Lise Evans as part of an Ur­ban Zen ini­tia­tive to protest gun vi­o­lence. Fab­ri­cated in Haiti, they are sold to ben­e­fit Every­town for Gun Safety.

Each is stamped with three words that have be­come a ral­ly­ing cry in the move­ment to re­form gun con­trol laws: “Not One More.”

PHO­TOS BY NEW YORK TIMES

A pre­sen­ta­tion from Wood House at New York Fash­ion Week: Men’s. The la­bel is de­signed by Ju­lian Wood­house, a 26-year-old U.S. ser­vice­man sta­tioned in South Korea.

Michael Kors Col­lec­tion, spring 2017, at New York Fash­ion Week.

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