eckhaus latta took over a deserted midtown department store for fall/winter 17

The downtown duo’s “Everything Must Go!” fire-sale spoke to the climate of change all of us are feeling these days.

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Feb 14 2017, 4:00pm

"It's been given to us by really great people, the Caerus Group," Zoe Latta said, at first cryptically, of the unconventional space she and Mike Eckhaus elected to show their fall/winter 17 collection in last night. Located on East 34th Street in an extra-unfamiliar section of Midtown, Yelp sleuthing revealed it to be a former Bolton's discount department store.

Caerus, a real estate investment company, owns the building, which "opened in the 1900s, but was designed like this as a women's clothing store in 1988," Latta elaborated. That much was evident by its wall-to-wall mirrors, buzzing fluorescent lights, and delightfully dated glamour shots plastered on the walls above faux-Ionic columns painted a peachy orange. (Colin Self composed the show's evocative score behind its wood-paneled checkout counter.)

In September, the duo presented an excellent spring/summer 17 collection at Hester Street Park, across the road from their Chinatown studio. Last night's venue lacked the same sense of familiarity, of stability, of belonging, and of life — which was the point. "It's just one of those New York buildings that's about to get knocked down and built a lot higher. We're in a retail tomb right now, a dead store," said Latta.

Recalling clearing-house sloganeering like "Special!" and "Everything Must Go!", the duo joked it was their "Going Out of Business" collection. Doubtful. Their label's eternally enviable knitwear was on show, this season patchworked with Leonard Cohen lyrics, and modeled by Collier Schorr, Julian Klincewicz, and India Menuez. Eckhaus and Latta also revealed beautifully tailored suiting elements, like an oversized persimmon blazer, and navy pleated pants.

No, such fire-sale sentiments aren't to be taken literally. Think of it as forced adaptability. "It's about figuring out how to say goodbye, and say hello to something else," Eckhaus added, now speaking of the world outside Bolton's doors, too. "This idea of change that we're having a hard time understanding. How do you cope with that — not feel really sad and somber, and not want to leave your bed in the morning?"

Eckhaus and Latta pushed themselves in the opposite direction. "Be powerful, feel comfortable, be excited. That's what we have to do. It's our job, everyone's job right now," said Eckhaus. It resulted in bold colors: the opening look included a shocking pink turtleneck, others arrived in a bright pumpkin orange (which happened to match the store). Also, in more personal touches. The designers heat-transferred their photographs and drawings onto a white deadstock brocade, creating a totemic pattern. This formed jackets with curved sculptural elements, and a corset worn by Camilla Deterre.

Speaking of prints, that's where Eckhaus and Latta rose to our collective challenge the most significantly. "We rarely use florals, and generally are pretty sensitive to prints," Latta said. "This season —" "We went to town," Eckhaus chimed in. "We really did. We went HAM," Latta confirmed. It's true. An art teacher-esque fluorescent floral formed a sleeveless top that made Susan Cianciolo's sleek black turtleneck and zip skirt pop. Later, it appeared as a mini skirt with buttoned blanket padding. A brown, 70s-style flower print was converted into a similar skirt, as well as an oxford shirt. From a distance, the drawings on Eckhaus and Latta's brocade looked like abstract squiggles; upon closer inspection, they look much more like little blooms.

"This season was very much a part of the energy of not wanting to question yourself too much. How do you sink into your own senses and trust them?" Eckhaus wondered. "It was like, 'Okay yeah, let's use this print, let's use that one, and, yep, this one too.'" "Everything Must Go!" never looked, and felt, so free.

Credits


Text Emily Manning
Photography Stefan Stoica