'F*** Donald Trump’: Chromat Gives New York Fashion Week a Political Rap
Chromat provided NYFW’s strongest anti-Trump statement yet. Oday Shakar and Pamella Roland dressed up. Telfar served glamorous gender-neutral, and Club Monaco and Concept Korea gave surprise mash-ups.
Chromat by Tim Teeman
There it was at the end, very loud and clear as a very pissed bell: the rapper Tt the Artist intoning over and over, angrily, “Fuck Donald Trump, Who Donald Trump, Fuck Donald Trump.”
The politics were no surprise, but they were—as of Friday—the most profanely and passionately voiced during New York Fashion Week so far.
There have been white bandanas worn around necks and pink Planned Parenthood pins left on front rows bearing the statement, “Fashion Stands With Planned Parenthood,” but nothing yet as overtly stated as Chromat’s denunciation of the current president. If you are cynical about these things this was pure posing. But Chromat’s sounded honestly felt.
The response of the fashion crowd to this invective? There was no fist-pumping, or cheers. They milled about and left peaceably. One beautiful, tall woman allowed herself a mini-bop to the beat and that was that. If you were hoping for a mini-women’s march and shout-a-long, then sorry: no shakes.
When the rapper UNIIQU3 first appeared at the beginning of the show, the rap was as pure a celebration of Chromat as Tt the Artist's closing rap was a condemnation of Trump, and for this mini pre-show she was accompanied by dancers Deadly Dose and Blue, leaping and stretching about.
On the benches was a statement from Chromat’s CEO Becca McCharen-Tran: “There is a feeling of paranoia, the end of truth and the dawning of a new era of persecution of the ‘other’ in the current political climate. We know that no one is entitled to a happy ending, and this has further strengthened our drive to fight for the inclusive and empowering world we want to see.”
It was refreshing to read political views so keenly felt and plainly stated, and on the runway the politics continued, with a mixture of models of different sizes, proudly walking the walk, and wearing a stunning array of swimwear with bomber jackets, nifty jerkins, and filmy shirts, all perfect encapsulations of how McCharen-Tran seeks to dress the body as if “a building site”. “Great swim design complements and follows the natural style lines of the body instead of fighting against them,” she told The 405 last month. “And we are obsessed with finding the right fit for all sizes.”
The brightly-colored swimsuits and active-wear came accessorized with inflatables, sometimes worn over the shoulder, sometimes as a jacket, and eventually moulded into garments in their own right—a sarong, for example, and a final showstopper of a ballgown, with Chromat’s name boldly stated across it. The drama and spectacle of the show was not new for Chromat, but the overt politicking was.
Chromat’s statement read that the company had collaborated with outdoors company Klymit “to design inflatable garments that aid with internal buoyancy and help the wearer stay afloat and protected.”
A show spokesperson did not return a Daily Beast enquiry whether this too was a political statement, referring to, or thematically echoing at least the appalling images of drowning refugees. But given the bold statement of the rest of the collection—and the clothes that comprised it—it would not be a wild extrapolation.
Oday Shakar and Pamella Roland by Lizzie Crocker
Best known for dressing Sandra Bullock and Glee’s Dianna Agron on the red carpet, Oday Shakar made his second New York Fashion Week appearance on Friday with a collection inspired by his Middle Eastern upbringing.
Shakar had the misfortune of being next in line after Calvin Klein on CFDA’s schedule, which may explain the dearth of Vogue staffers and famous faces at the show.
They missed out on an impressive 34-piece collection of mostly eveningwear, including flowy silk gowns with sequined bodices in rich colors like burgundy and hunter green, rounded it with a handful of casual looks. An oversized, off-the-shoulder white cable knit sweater worn over a sheer skirt might sound like a bizarre pairing, but it worked--and nicely reflected Shakar’s desire to mix Western and Middle Eastern influences.
The Iraqi-born designer (his parents fled the country during Saddam Hussein’s regime) nodded to his background with floor-sweeping capes, some of them adorned with floral embroidery. Other pieces featured geometric patterns in a nod to Islamic architecture.
Red carpet-ready eveningwear made a splash at Pamella Roland’s show, too, which drew a large crowd. There were rumors that someone affiliated with the Trump administration might turn up.
“I heard Melania was coming,” one young woman whispered to her friend on the way in.
No such luck. But several pieces in Roland’s glitzy collection would befit the First Lady: a colorful sequin ballgown with a long train made of black ostrich feathers, for instance, or a silver sequin gown with feathers stitched to the bodice, fanning models’ faces as they strode down the catwalk. It proved a treacherous journey: a number of them tripped over their long gowns, then were forced to hold them up on the final walk.
The sequin and ostrich feather dresses were signature Roland, but they were no match for the slinkier ones--sheer, sequined numbers with plunging necklines and thigh-high slits.
Given all the drama and sex on display, you would never have guessed that the collection was inspired by abstract expressionism and Mark Rothko’s use of color. Roland’s designs were meant to look “hand painted...full of color and allure,” according to the show’s program.
Telfar by Brea Tremblay
What is more rare than pretty? Or polished? Or even rich? Cool. Cool trumps all, obviously, and tonight’s Telfar show was cool.
I am not a cool person so as I wrote that I said it in my head in the voice of Justin-Timberlake-as-Sean-Parker. “You know what’s cool? A million dollars. You know what’s cooler? ….Coolness?”
I don’t know. But I do know that Telfar shows are always cool. Telfar Clemens is the Williamsburg of gender neutral—he’s been doing it before everyone else was. It’s just a given now that his shows will showcase a collection of clothes for everyone bold enough to put them on.
The guests were cool. @bloodyosiris sat in the front row with a pair of shoes around his neck. He looked great, and before the show, the rest of the room waited patiently to take his picture. He posed with the noblesse oblige of a young duke giving an audience to his vassals.
The soundtrack was cool, featuring primarily a man’s voice opinionating on the state of the world. I didn’t hear Trump mentioned by name—subtlety is cooler of course—but the political was certainly raised. The most memorable dialogue concerned what we should do if we were hungry. To paraphrase: go outside and eat the coconuts. Outside, it was, of course, the Far West Side of Manhattan, tundra of slush piles and UPS warehouses, but whatever.
The styling was cool. Models were a diverse bunch—tall, short, whatever—and their hair looked like a Spin magazine from the mid-90s.
And the clothes were cool. Obviously, the clothes were cool. Antwaun Sargent from Vice once described Clemens’ work like, “something you'd find on a mannequin at Sears, if you stretched them out, cut them up, and placed them on a model with an eerie grin.”
That aesthetic continues. Clemens sent parkas and tracksuits down the runway in garishly awesome color combos like bright acid yellow and muddy khaki. The purposeful dissonance continued with sweaters that sat just below the shoulders, sleeves that didn’t quite match torsos, a hooded dress with three quarter sleeves with a second set of longer sleeves peaking out underneath.
Models also wore fanny packs, leg warmers, and bizarrely shaped hats that could have easily come from a high school production of Hamlet but were somehow toothsomely awesome. It takes bravado to pull these looks off, but that’s the point.
Club Monaco by Sarah Shears
Springtime had arrived at Club Monaco’s flagship store at 160 5th Avenue. A seemingly endless bounty of flowers by Putnam & Putnam appeared to grow out of every corner and off of every furnishing in the store, giving the illusion that one had entered a magical secret garden.
Trellises curved over archways and hung on walls so convincingly it looked like they were actually growing from the ceiling. The wondrous and overwhelming display made the usually airy store feel crowded like a Victorian living room, and the senses of the guests were thoroughly engaged with the natural beauty teeming off the walls, endless supplies of champagne and constantly refilled table of delicate and delicious hors d’oeuvres.
The presentation began somewhat abruptly, as people were still filing in, gawking at the amazing floral display and trying to figure out exactly where to stand. Amid the crowded confusion, models began snaking around the crowd, eventually making it to their designated stage areas.
The see-now-buy-now collection being presented had a preppy-boho vibe, which fell squarely in line with Club Monaco’s slightly preppy ready-to-wear resort wear aesthetic. For women there were numerous off the shoulder shirts and dresses that exuded the boho chic of last summer while still maintaining a polished and crisp look. For menswear, there was purposefully mismatched suiting with pleated pants, layered sweaters, vest and light jackets, which created a jaunty holiday on a yacht sort of look. A pair of black and white men’s Bermuda shorts had a printed 19th century chintz textile pattern.
The clothing and lifestyle brand’s creative director, Caroline Belhumeur, told the Daily Beast that the “collection was inspired by a documentary about people traveling from India to Spain,” and that there was also an influence from Eastern European folk dress. A bold bright red floral pattern that was present on many garments including a track suit ensemble was sourced from a Romanian shawl, and another pattern was inspired by an antique French curtain.
The clothing was on-trend and chic but also extremely wearable. Belhumeur’s sharp designs and great aesthetic could be seen in the enthusiastic crowd which was full of fashionistas like freelance stylist Caroline Vazzana, that have been making the rounds at the shows, as well as celebrities such as Katie Holmes, Drew Barrymore, Gretchen Mol, and Jeremy Piven.
On the way out, guests were given the opportunity to take home bunches of excess flowers, extending the magic of the mythical springtime out onto the icy slush of the city street.
Concept Korea by Sarah Shears
The gallery at Skylight Clarkson Sq just before Concept Korea’s show was packed, the energy was youthful and vibrant with an electricity in the air. Giddy anticipation could be felt as everyone waited in the overheated room to see the latest from the East by designers Younhee Park of Greedilous, Heejin Kim of Kimmy J. and Yohan Kim of Yohanix.
The first to walk the runway was Greedilous. The models wore sunglasses and heavily gelled hair with finger waves. The looks were an eclectic mix of textures, materials, colors and patterns. A black skirt burst with sequined ruffles, a man’s knee length coat was made out of a textile with a hyper-colorized photo collage kaleidoscope-esque print, and women wore Argyle knee-high socks with brightly psychedelic printed ruffled pleather skirts and flight jackets.
There was a sense of whimsy and fun to the clothes: a red women’s double breasted suit was paired with a bright neon pink fur jacket, a green cape was trimmed with fur so full around the neckline that the model looked like an adorable bobble head doll and many outfits were paired with massive faux pearl necklaces that were so oversized it gave the impression the models might just have been playing dress up. The playfulness with both the styling and the clothes themselves gave a sense of excitement and made the garments seem fun to wear.
Next up was Kimmy J. who must’ve been inspired last year by NYC road crews. The neon lime green that is the go-to color for vest worn by bike messengers, construction crews and children from daycares at playgrounds, also managed to make it into high fashion this week.
The first look out was a man’s fur overcoat in the very same neon-lime color, save for a couple of strategically placed black and white lines to make the garment look more utilitarian. Track pants in a variety of hues and metallic finishes were paired with wallet chains, and flight jackets were adorned with homemade patches that mixed up gutter punk styling with 1990s neon colors. It was an ultra-referential show, incorporating literal street style and uniforms to high fashion in a powerful, albeit slightly confusing effect.
The most subdued designer of the collective was the last, Yohanix. Like the other two designers, this show also had many iterations of the ubiquitous 90s flight jacket, but with the feminine touch of bows at the back of the collars. A metallic bronze slip dress glittered down the runway and metallic quilting adorned an army green duffle coat.
A completely sheer shirt had the English word “first” and some flowers strategically appliquéd on it, and a variety of wide leg pants sashayed up and down the runway. A number of floral jacquard jackets, chiffon skirts and delicate sequined outfits finished off the show.
All the looks felt soft and very feminine, and the earthy color palette offset the femininity without diminishing any of its qualities. It was as if Annie Hall and a Lolita subculture girl got together and designed a line and got it right.