There’s ‘Male,’ ‘Female,’ and Telfar: NYFW’s Gender Boundary Blurring Continues
At Telfar’s NYFW show, there was a playful deconstruction of what men and women wear, while an endless summer unfolded at Adam Selman, with pretty stripes, loose denim, and pop.
Barragàn’s display of gender-blurring brilliance was echoed at Telfar Clemens’s NYFW show Thursday night at Skylight Clarkson Station.
Indeed, the show was a successful draw for the counterculture crowd: ambiguously gendered goths, punks with sleeve tattoos and bull nose rings, Rastafarians and hippies with dreadlocks piled atop their heads like wicker baskets—they all love Telfar.
Seated next to me, a woman with a shock of Kool-Aid colored hair bounced creative ideas off a Boy George look-alike. “I want to do a short visual history of trans models,” she enthused.
Such a history would have been truly groundbreaking 10 years ago, around the time that Clemens presented his first collection of gender-neutral basics.
In the decade since then, his unisex clothing line hasn’t strayed far from its roots, but both his designs and his fans are being embraced by the mainstream now more than ever before.
Ten years ago, Telfar’s clothes wouldn’t be stocked by high-fashion New York retailers like Opening Ceremony and Oak. Likewise at Dover Street Market in London, which started carrying the designer’s unisex line this fall.
Moments before the show began, Jonte Williams, the androgynous choreographer and singer-songwriter, sashayed into Skylight Clarkson Station wearing a tight, assless Telfar onesie and studded platform heels (we also saw the onesie on one of Telfar’s male models). Williams’s bravado was infectious, his pert backside unblemished by stretchmarks.
The onesie echoed a piece from the label’s swimwear collection which debuted at the end of August in a roving pop-up shop on Fire Island with semi-secret locations that could only be tracked down through certain gay apps.
A sassy male voice permeated the showroom through loud speakers—“You don’t know me, that’s just lighting design”—before the first models walked out on the runway.
As ever, Clemens presented a collection of normcore turned on its head—specifically of slashed jeans, reversed polo shirts with collars that buttoned at the nape of the neck, backless hoodies, and anoraks with detachable sleeves.
Polos, rugby shirts, and other preppy basics in orange and green neons, royal blues, and summery whites were subverted and slapped with his TC logo.
Stamped on leather bags throughout the collection, Clemens’s signature emblem looked a lot like Tory Burch’s—not coincidentally, one assumed.
Models of indeterminate gender wore track pants with an egg-shaped hole in one knee and Vans-esque sneakers with gladiator sandal straps.
As at Barragàn earlier the same day, Telfar’s collection suggested that clothing free of pre-assigned (or even presumed) “women’s” and “men’s” conventions is the future of fashion. It may be a distant future, but the idea itself feels very modern, if not avant garde. Certainly, it made Telfar’s show stand out in what can feel like a week of one humdrum high-fashion collection after another.
Adam Selman by Tim Teeman
The young man seemed nervous. Nervous but determined. He was alert and focused like a gazelle. He was seated in the fourth row back. He had a perfectly good view of Adam Selman’s New York Fashion Week show. But only the front row would do, so—dammit—a seat on it would be his. Nothing would stand in his way. He was a front row kind of a guy. They couldn’t treat him like this.
And so it was I saw this young man claim his birthright, just a few minutes before Selman’s show began, but once there he seemed nervous, not happy, afraid maybe of being unmasked and sent back to the perfectly nice upper seat he had left behind. But then the clothes started coming.
It was summery, poppy show, with celebrity attendees including Tinashe and Leona Lewis. The first look was a luscious pink sheer striped long overall dress, and what followed were more lazy-days-by-the-sea luxe: culottes and pajama shirts, a flared cutoff-top, a flared short skirt, an overall dress and floral pleated dress.
It wasn’t all summery picnics and the sound of the ocean. Abruptly, to what sounded like a growled distillation of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Relax,” a striped top and skirt gave way to a black lace back wrap jumpsuit, a black camisole dress, and a collection of oversized jackets made of denim canvas. With delicately colored and styled shorts, the denim outfits, which hung delightfully loose in easy culottes, screamed more Land Girls than rock chick. And in that meeting of traditions—punky and femme, vintage and modern, unconventionally edgy and unapologetically, conventionally pretty—lies the assured command of Adam Selman.