From Raf Simons's activist message for America's youth to Patrik Ervell's DIY techno rave, the fall/winter 17 men's shows made some serious noise.
NYFW: Men's has typically struggled to get the same attention as the women's shows. This season was a particularly rough one for the three-year-old showcase of the city's best men's designers, coming just a few days before the big fall/winter 17 women's shows kick off — and while editors are somewhat reluctant to do anything but rest up. But the designers were well worth getting out to Clarkson Square for. Or up to the Gagosian gallery for, if we're talking about the buzziest designer to debut on the CFDA calendar. And men's week's brightest stars weren't just overseas imports — though Spain's Alejandro Gómez Palomo made editors go almost as insane, just as Raf Simons did. From the KLF-soundtracked sci-fi rave thrown by Patrik Ervell to the subversive slumber party at Matthew Adams Dolan, these guys are demanding attention. As Ervell accurately explained after the music stopped blasting, "It's a good time to be a bit louder."
Like many Americans right now, Patrik Ervell was not feeling particularly optimistic this season. The designer has typically used architecture as a starting point, but this time he ventured outside, looking to the fields where kids headed for DIY raves in the mid 90s. He sees this pre-Instagram era as the last gasp of authentic subcultures. Today, he laments, everything is broadcast to the world and commodified before it can blossom. "I'm too young to have grown up on that music, but I had cool older siblings," he explained after the show. And you don't need personal memories to recognize those heavy fleece zipper jackets, candy-pink parkas, and plastic-covered blazers appropriated from an office cubicle, albeit one blasting heavy techno. Always a fan of technical and unexpected fabrics, Ervell created rave-era separates that drew from insulation foam and sci-fi futurism. "For me it's this magic moment where subculture and futurism intersect," he said. "The collection felt a bit more aggressive and a bit louder."
One of the best shows of men's week might have been more suited to women's week, if you're boring. But on the final day of NYFW:M, designer Alejandro Gómez Palomo's binary-shattering embrace of feather-trimmed maxi dresses and corset bodices was a refreshingly loud last hurrah. One of the most lavish creations was a mammoth floral brocade and bell-sleeve dress worn by Marc Domingo, boyfriend of Ryan McGinley, who sat in a crowd that included Hari Nef and YouTube star Troye Sivan. The fabrics, too, might be more expected in women's collections, but then again, "heteronormativity" hasn't always been a word. Some of the looks were a toast to flamboyant past eras that seem still more fabulous from a 2017 perspective: including the Elizabethan period and Studio 54.
New York's new president of modern menswear was also affected by the current political climate. But Raf's message was broadcast specifically to the youth in the U.S.A. "I've been coming to New York for more than 20 years so now I'm in a very different kind of environment, but coming to live here I wanted to go back to how I experienced it in the beginning and combine it with how I experience it now," he told i-D after his first show on his new home turf. "It's this kind of fresh, young attraction to the city and everything it stands for, in combination with what's happening in a reactive sort of way — the political situation." A sartorial call to arms was something he had promised in a wide-ranging interview a few days earlier, and it manifested itself in clothing that drew from New York's values and memories. Raf was largely inspired by a tourist t-shirt-clad child visiting the Statue of Liberty for the first time, and the formal coats and necklaces worn by immigrant parents. Holding the collection together, literally, were DIY belts reading "Youth Project" and "Walk With Me."
New York's other Belgium-born menswear star skipped the runway this season to present… a book. Coppens hosted an intimate gathering at a pop-up shop to celebrate his new tome Candy Lips, the corresponding collection having been shown in Florence during Pitti Uomo last month. He had that collection on view again last week but also presented a small capsule of equestrian and motocross-inspired separates featuring printed images from the book. The project was inspired by his collection's fictional stars, Tequila (who rides a white horse) and Max (who rides a dirt bike). Coppens has gone the capsule route before, following up last February's show with a small collection of graphic tees and sweats that were almost immediately made available online.
Matthew Adams Dolan
New York's (and Rihanna's) under-the-radar purveyor of oversized denim and deconstructed sportswear has previously shied away from the men's week calendar. His spring/summer 17 collection saw him travel down to Modoc, South Carolina, to street cast a troupe of kids in an accompanying zine and Harmony Korine-esque video. His official debut at NYFW:M took place in a conventional location (Skylight Clarkson) but the clothes were idiosyncratic as always. Languid models in giant khaki duvet jackets and gaping corduroy shirt sets sat on a bed that had been brought into the center of the room for the slumber party. It never looked like such a good idea to wear denim to bed.
Text Hannah Ongley