Barragàn Presents a Radical Gender Agenda at NYFW
At Barragàn, gender lines were blurred, while knitwear brand PH5 made its NYFW debut, and Marissa Webb and Noon By Noor were simple and impressive.
Barragàn by Tim Teeman
Every boundary was blurred, creatively and mischievously, at the Barragàn show in the High Line room of the Standard Hotel: both received notions of “male” and “female,” and flowing from that what male and female dress constituted. All that mattered was Victor Barragàn’s clothes, which not just looked stunning, but also pleasurable and fun to wear.
They were designed to not only innovate fashion, they keyed perfectly into our times, and how gender and sexuality seem finally more full of options around self-definition and self-presentation. The audience at the show—one handsome person, who to the all-too-presuming eye looked like a young man—wore a pretty summer dress.
The staging featured the gender-blurring models standing in clumps facing the massed ranks of us attendees. They were involved in an extended take on the Sisyphean task, interchangeably taking charge of a grey boulder made of foam, which they rolled up and down a little stage, and then up a small slope, before either giving up or rolling it optimistically towards a hole at the front of the stage.
The descriptions of the looks we were handed—“ruffle turtle neck body with leather pleated skirt,” “sleeveless leather trench coat with back pockets”—did not do justice to the good-crazy on display. The beautiful man in the sheer, sheathed black dress showing a lot of skin and with great ear-rings worked the boulder the cheekiest. Another man had a plasticy-looking vest and a pair of black briefs. He was more serious with the boulder.
On other models there was a body-hugging top with black leather skirt, another top made of what looked like small wallets, and a slash of material across a chest, with luxe chainmail hanging from the neck.
The models’ outfits came in colors of all kinds, from utilitarian to bright orange, with some see-through material, and sometimes with a trouser leg missing.
After the show, Barragàn said his influence was “Military, with lacy, see-through clothes, and showing more skin with pockets.”
Ruben Gutierrez, his collaborator, and the show’s scenic designer, said: “We don’t think of clothes from a gendered standpoint, and that makes it easy to cast genderless models. We think of it from a neutral standpoint, mixing masculine materials and feminine materials. As a generation we have come a long way to accepting non-binary genders. For us, it seems pretty natural.”
He and Barragàn did not choose the models according to their gender, but their personality and look: mixing laciness and cargo-utility looks added to the genderfuck.
Gutierrez said the design influences came from the suburbs of his and Barragàn’s native Mexico, as well as punk and ’90s nostalgia. One sweater was inscribed with the lettering of the famous Friends logo, made over to read “Lesbian”: Gutierrez said he thought queer characters on ’90s TV had been made fun of, and this was his and Barragàn’s way to reinterpret that.
Of freeing up men and women from traditional modes of gendered dress, he said, “We know it’s not an overnight process, but by showing these pieces we hope we have made a step forward to entering the mainstream.”
PH5 by Lizzie Crocker
For three months leading up to PH5’s New York Fashion Week debut, designer Mijia Zhang slept inside a factory in China owned by the family of her business partner, Wei Lin.
Innovative knitwear, PH5’s specialty, is particularly difficult to make because it’s computerized—meaning every stitch, pattern, and color requires a different code.
“I had to figure out the coding of my design and then convey that to the technician,” said Zhang, speaking to The Daily Beast at a small venue in Tribeca where PH5, which launched in 2014, staged its first show on Wednesday: a collection of sporty, playful, mixed-media knits, from striped jumpsuits to cropped tanks and maxi dresses.
“The more colors you use, the more complicated the coding and sewing process,” said Zhang, who oversaw every step of making the clothes, ensuring the “tension is right” so that each piece—many of them transparent—is durable. She paused on “tension” to stretch Lin’s multicolored, delicate-looking cardigan.
Knitwear is indeed high maintenance: One snagged thread might cause an entire garment to fall apart, especially when a single piece incorporates five or 10 different stitches.
“The stitch alone is hard, and then we have to print it and layer it and position the pattern,” said Lin, 28, showing me an asymmetrical sheer knit skirt screen printed with various shades of blue, red, and black stripes.
She added: “Some of the pieces drove my mom crazy! She said, ‘You’re going to kill the workers!’”
Having learned the trade from her family, who own a knitwear manufacturing company in China, Lin wanted to give back to her parents by launching her own clothing label.
Her ambition began taking shape in 2012 when she met Zhang (the two were roommates in Manhattan), who went to Parsons and has since worked for the likes of Christopher Kane, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, and Nike. (Every look in the collection was paired with monochromatic white or black Nike sneakers.)
With Lin’s business and manufacturing background and Zhang’s gift for design, PH5 was an auspicious collaboration. The young label already has a celebrity following (Rita Ora and Emma Roberts are both fans) and, with their relatively affordable price points ($175—$475) is poised to become a successful contemporary brand.
“We want people to be able to wear this stuff every day, to get a lot of use out of it,” said Zhang, with Lin picking up where she left off: “That’s why most of our pieces are reversible and have pockets.”
The clothes look geared towards women Lin and Zhang’s age, but the two insist their only demographic is women who dress somewhere on the sporty-feminine spectrum.
“On the PH scale, seven is neutral. We called ourselves PH5 because we lean towards the feminine,” Lin explained.
The collection was inspired by several of Zhang’s favorite artists, including the Quistrebert Brothers’ projected fluorescent light paintings and Carlos Cruz Diez’s layered lines of colors, both of which are reflected in the garments.
“I’m more of a nerdy art fan,” said Zhang. “I don’t like gallery openings, but I like reading about an artist’s story and learning about their inspiration.”
As for their plans for the brand, the two would like PH5 to have a singular, distinguished voice in the knitwear market.
“As a factory owner, nothing makes me prouder than knowing that we create the best knitwear,” said Lin. “And when you’re young, you have nothing to lose.”
Marissa Webb by Allison McNearney
The fashion tribe was out in force on Thursday—well-coiffed fashionistas trading front-row row kisses while photographers primed their shutter-fingers—to celebrate Marissa Webb’s Spring/Summer ’17 collection.
The second season since she stepped down as Banana Republic’s Creative Director, Webb continued her eponymous line’s trend of giving her customers femininity with an edge—industrial chic meets delicate romance. So the idea of “counterbalance,” her inspiration for this collection, seems a natural choice.
Frilly light pink shirts were tucked into tight black leather pants, army green jackets were tied shut over black satin mini dresses, and blue and white gingham skirts were paired with black leather motorcycle jackets.
There were lots and lots of ruffles—side ruffles, back ruffles, arm ruffles, a decorative wave here, and one there. But these dainty details were… counterbalanced… by structured pieces in army green khaki and shiny black leather. Gingham dresses with flirtatious cutouts and eyelet-lace accented blouses revealed just the right amount of skin.
At times, it seemed the collection would have benefitted from a bit more focus, and some of the cutesy country-style designs in gingham toed the Little House on the Prairie line (although that’s not necessarily a bad thing).
But, overall, Webb presented a collection that leaves us dreaming of spring. A series of pieces using blush French lace, in particular, were pure romance, while she gave a fresh spin to impeccably tailored, high-waisted pants and skirts (her high-waisted leather pant is a must). And there’s nothing sexier for a night out on the town than Webb’s black satin crepe jumpsuit with an open back… or you could always keep it simple in nothin’ but a pink satin crepe trench coat, which looked soft, slinky, and divine.
Noon By Noor by Lizze Crocker
If Noon by Noor’s latest collection is any indication, the must-have shoe of 2016—the slipper-like, pretty-ugly “babouche,” seen all over last spring’s runways and beloved by the likes of Sienna Miller and Mary-Kate Olsen—will continue its reign through next year.
The traditional babouche is rooted in the Middle East and has been worn for centuries by bedouins and Morroccan kings. It makes sense, then, that Bahraini designers and cousins Shaikha Noor Al Khalifa and Shaikha Haya Al Khalifa featured variations on the round-toed babouche in Noon by Noor’s Spring 2017 collection.
The shoes came in rich fabrics and textures (golden tulle, luminous white lace, and one pair embellished with shiny blush-pink pailettes) and were fitting with a collection of mostly feminine loungewear and fluid shapes and textures.
Dressed-up sportswear and feminine silhouettes are Noon by Noor’s strong suit, but this season’s nostalgic chiffon maxi gowns—reminiscent of Betty Draper’s favorite nighties—stood out in the show’s lineup.
One came in a soft pink ranunculus print while another was white lace with micro floral embellishments. Sportswear pieces included a flowy, golden-flax linen coat and a roomy oxford jumpsuit in the same fabric, as well a white mesh bomber worn over an iridescent white romper. Still other highlights were the exotic floral jacquard dresses in salmon pink for eveningwear.
Along with the babouche, models wore new-and-improved versions of yet another trend, Ugly Shoe: the slip-on, orthopedic sandal with chunky flat soles and a single swath of fabric that stretches across the top of the foot. It’s a throwback to the ’90s that’s tough to pull off these days, but Noon by Noor made it look easy, modern, and romantic all at once.