At New York Men’s Fashion Week, Gender Was Fluid—and Fleshy
As the meaning of menswear evolves, so do designers’ fall collections. Classic suiting took a backseat to a wave of unorthodox inspiration—ballet, nakedness, and yes, puppies.
Despite its name, the Ballets Russes never performed in their home country. The Russian Revolution had decimated the country’s art world, so a group of creative nomads led by impresario Sergei Diaghilev performed throughout mainland Europe. In 1916, the troupe landed in Spain. Over a hundred years later, Madrid-based designer Alejandro Gomez Palomo found inspiration in the historic cultural exchange.
Luckily for the tutu haters in the crowd at Chelsea’s Pier 59 Studios, Palomo’s execution of the idea danced perfectly between the literal and liberal. There were no tutus, sure, but there were ample skirting, ruffles, and lace that one would expect from a ballet motif.
Though the collection was not exactly a parade of skin—the majority of looks were suits or skirts with floor-length hemlines—a few standout ensembles prominently included see-through mesh that celebrated male dancers’ forms like a sexier Degas painting.
The collection did not shy away from rich, opulent, jewel tones. The colorful suiting included a mish-mosh of colors like ruby, emerald, and crystalline gray. A few oversized polka dots lined trousers, capes, and even shoes. But Palomo’s pièce de résistance, a fitted, feathered, black gown, was more dying swan than Don Quixote, which ended the midday show on a somber, but dynamic, note.
Twenty nine-year-old Angelino Pierre Davis made her debut on the east coast with No Sesso’s Fall line on an unseasonably warm day in February; she very well may have brought the California sunshine with her. The budding line, named after the Italian translation of “No Gender,” is the first label from a trans designer to be shown at NYFW. Davis enlisted a unisex cast of very cool muses to model her debut.
The crew included musician and Solange collaborator Kelsey Lu, Chromat model Maya Monès, and performance artist Boychild, who trekked down the runway in celebratory fashion. The clothing was as high-octane as the voguing models, and it was the type of mid-aughts tribute show that left guests like Amandla Stenberg wondering what year it is.
There were plenty of sartorial staples of the naughties, such as a reoccurring, Guy Fieri-esque fire print, pleated schoolgirl skirts (made for all genders), and a velour tracksuit with the brand’s name printed across the bum. One look of velvet lounge pants paired with an oversized, baroque-printed puffer jacket—and nothing but the model’s tattoos underneath—came off as the perfect marriage between 2003 and 2019.
Men, if designer Neil Grotzinger has anything to say about it, the low rise jean comeback is coming for you, too. Just a day after the Super Bowl, Grotzinger’s NIHL picked up where Adam Levine left off, with a parade of male models in see-through, high-cut leotards that displayed plenty of nipples, hipbones, and in some cases, chest tattoos.
Business casual it was not, but the collection injected a stylized subversiveness to menswear, with the key theme seeming to be exposure. The theme did not just relate to skin; details like zippers were left in the open, too.
The let-it-all-out mentality was balanced by softer elements like florals and lace. It was a true mixture of rough and sweet, and if for those adverse to low-riders, Grotzinger threw in a white leather jumpsuit for good measure.
A sleepy crowd filtered in to Wan Hung’s 11 a.m. show—it might as well have been sunrise in fashion world. Luckily, Wan Hung Cheung’s downright delightful inspiration perked everyone back up.
According to show notes, the Chinese-born, London-bred designer based his fall collection off of the story of Bubbles and Bella, an elephant and dog, respectively, who formed an unlikely friendship at a South Carolina Zoo back in 2007.
The cuddly concept shown through in Cheung’s plush designs. He found whimsy in winter dressing, and even managed to make very tall models look like kids out exploring the first frost in wellies, shearling caps, and fleece-lined hoods. The monochromatic, primary-colored ensembles came off as somewhat costume-y, and would not be out of place in a Wes Anderson film.
New York-based designer Ji Oh has always worn her “androgynous” label on the chest of her pristine, tailored white shirts. For Fall, Oh decided to expand her range from womenswear to unisex, because wanting to look long and lean in a striped shirtdress à la Tilda Swinton is truly a genderless ideal.
As always, tops are a focal point in Oh’s fall collection. Two white button-ups were printed with black-and-white images of body parts, giving the shirts a surrealist touch. Pleated skirts and skorts were also included in the smart lineup, which has a British feel worthy of Oh’s Central Saint Martins degree.
The skirts were gender-free, but for the men who prefer trousers, Oh delivered classic, tailored options which just a hint of quirk, such as an electric blue color or mismatched belt loops.
“There’s a lot of tech junk we’ve forgotten about,” DYNE founder Christopher Bevans said in front of a hoard of old computers, smashed and piled one on top of each other, Office Space-style.
In the midst of the industrial rubble stood mannequins outfitted in DYNE’s collection. The clothing—fleece vests, bright beanies, and mesh shorts—had an outdoorsy vibe that countered the mess of machinery.
Bevans ditched a traditional runway show in favor of an exhibition at the Fashion Institute of Technology, from where he graduated. As the designer rhetorically asked, “Why do I have to do a runway, because the industry says so? A runway is over in 15 minutes. I’d rather give people the opportunity to spend some time with the garments, to touch, see, and feel the details.”
A hoard of mostly male, puffer coated-guests were much too polite to reach out and touch the garments, but they were more than eager to take photos of the elaborate set-up. Viewing-wise, it was somewhat of a Lord of the Flies-esque free-for-all, a reminder that “survival of the fittest” can describe both the natural world and fashion week.