From Mexico import Sánchez-Kane to Harlem-via-London-via-Japan’s Landlord, meet the melting pot of New York brands turning heads on the men's circuit.
Sanchez-Kane by Julien Tell
NYFW Men's is officially five years old, and this year more than 50 designers came to the party — a veritable blowout compared to February's pared-back winter season. What began, in part, as a way to take some weight off the increasingly bloated women's calendar, is now attracting global attention. Buzzy London-based designer Feng Cheng Wang came back to the city where she made her VFILES debut during spring/summer 16, complementing Raf Simons's Chinatown sci-fi culture clash with a powerful statement on the meaning of Made in China. But when it comes to newer brands, it's New York's own natives, imports, and immigrants who are making the strongest mark. From Mexican engineer-turned-designer Bárbara Sánchez Kane to Harlem-via-London-via-Japan's Ryohei Kawanishi, here are five designers redefining what New York fashion means now. As i-D favorite Patrik Ervell told us after his compelling ode to counter-cultural melting pots, "There's always that sweet spot where there's a romance about the future — the future gives you goosebumps. That's a tricky thing to find." Meet the brands pulling it off with aplomb.
Bode's sleepy mid-morning presentation was the exact opposite of fashion week's usual thumping music and unflattering lights. NYC-via-Atlanta designer Emily Bode's gorgeous cast of models lay stretched atop cozy-looking beds, transforming Skylight Clarkson Square into her uncle's attic in the South of France. The fabrics, too, were straight from le Midi, literally. Emily sourced the homespun textiles from France, shipped them to New York, and reworked them into era-traversing tailored trousers and lush quilted coats. One pair of cropped pants was made from vintage cornmeal calico still boasting the fox logo and nutritional content. You'd be tempted to pair them with something comparatively unadorned, but Emily doesn't shy away from ballsy mix-and-match pattern clashes. The cornmeal pants were teamed with not one but two plaid shirts, while an embossed tapestry jacket in perfect yellow-gold looked yet more regal worn with plant-print trousers.
Two weeks ago, Bárbara Sánchez Kane showed a few looks from her brand Sanchez-Kane at New York's Urban Art Fair. The designer, who graduated with a degree in industrial engineering, might be more familiar with galleries than runways. Just last month she debuted a collaborative installation with visual artist Orly Anan during the cultural event The White Night in her hometown of Mexico. Bárbara's NYFW: Men's show was her first solo outing following her VFILES debut last September. But she's already established a distinct, confident aesthetic. ("Mexican clothing brand curated by emotional chaos," reads the "About" section on Sanchez-Kane's website.)
The full looks Bárbara showed this season wouldn't have felt out of place in an art gallery — traditional embroidery featured prominently, along with t-shirts constructed solely out of coat-hanger wire — but her artfully tailored separates speak for themselves. As did a lightweight mesh ski mask that issued a stark Spanish-language warning about gender violence. "The guy is 'sentimental macho,'" Bárbara explained backstage. "He has strength, but shows his feelings, and is without fear." She also made clever use of a carnival-style pinwheel pattern to symbolize escape from social expectations. "You're sometimes born with this life plan," she said. "I translated that into how people smuggle things through the border. Hiding your feelings is a bit like smuggling. You're hiding yourself from what you want to be, you're repressing yourself. For me the pinwheel is a bit like hope."
Japanese reggae? When Jamaican patois and offbeat rhythms began flooding out of Kingston in the late 60s, it didn't take long for a rude boy subculture to emerge in East Asia. Designer Ryohei Kawanishi has spent his adult life moving from Japan to London's Caribbean community of Dalston to uptown NYC, which might explain his familiarity with reggae. The collection he showed this season wasn't subtle about its Jamaican starting point. Looks were heavy on red, green, and yellow, sometimes emblazoned with the words "Bob" and "Jerk Chicken," and usually paired with pot-leaf gold chains. But the homage worked seamlessly with Ryohei's outstanding streetwear fluency. Standouts included Crayola nylon parkas, boxy coral-accented cargo shorts, and baggy dark patchwork jeans tethered to the hips with a belt resembling sweater sleeves. Some less obvious touches were truly ingenious — one print featured camo splashed over a Burberry-style plaid that nodded to island street markets.
At the hottest hour on the most humid day of fashion week, a select audience filled a tiny room in an 18th Street townhouse to check out one of the smallest brands on the schedule. If that sounds stuffy and elitist, it was anything but. Linder's gender-screwing, pants-eschewing, diamanté-studded parade of noughties MTV-era club kids made for one of the freshest shows this season. If you thought you wouldn't be wanting factory-faded patchwork denim and low-slung rhinestone belts 16 years after Britney and Justin attended the 2001 American Music Awards, you thought wrong. Designers Sam Linder and Kirk Millar amped that up with single earrings, customizable Matrix coats, and platform flip-flops adorned with chunky silver rings. At a time when nostalgia and gender-fluidity are practically collection prerequisites, Linder still feels radical.
Sometimes the best inspiration comes from what you're not familiar with. Raul Lopez has never had a corporate office job, and is hence enthralled by the ceremony of getting dressed to sit in a cubicle for nine hours. For his newest label LUAR, the former Hood by Air designer picked apart the codes of 9-to-5 (or in New York, 8-to-7) style in a way that took "deconstructed" next level. We're talking pinstripe suiting converted into tube tops, and a white button-down becoming a strappy dress fringed with an entire tie rack. In Lopez's Alice in Wonderland version of an upside-down office world, endearingly awkward suits were worn with oversized waist belts and giant satin sashes. What Lopez does know is how to push boundaries — earlier this year one of his binary-smashing winter #OOTDs racked up over 24,000 likes when reposted by The Shade Room. He's probably over the moon about it.
Text Hannah Ongley