New York's 'New Wave': Peter Do, Area, Bach Mai, and Who Decides War
France said goodbye today to the father of French 'New Wave' cinema, Jean-Luc Godard. While there may never be another like him, a new generation has come to push creativity forward through their unique spin. Fashion is no different, with a new flock of innovative designers every generation. In New York, designers such as Peter Do; Beckett Fogg and Piotrek Panszczyk of Area; Bach Mai; and Everard Best and Téla D’Amore of Who Decides War.
Peter Do could arguably be the most anticipated show of NYFW as the Vietnamese-born and 2020 co-winner of the LVMH Prize was launching his first official men's collection (though plenty of men have already adopted the contrast demi-leg jeans).
Guests lucky enough to snag an invite and receive the hard copy invite could sense Do's successful ascent to a bigger budget production. The invites were old-school and elaborate – a metal tin containing cookies, a mixed CD made by Do and sewing items, as inevitably, the cookie tin became the sewing supply box—and thanks to a surge of cash and star power from SM Entertainment, Korea's biggest entertainment company in charge of Girls' Generation, Red Velvet, NCT, Aespa, among others.
The music group did more than pack some invites up. They offered several acts to model, including NCT's Jeno, to open the show. Backstage, Do explained to journalists that it was partly due to the Met Gala dressing of NCT's Johnny but also what SM music meant to him as a teen when his family moved to Philadelphia when he was 14 from Vietnam.
"I used to burn SM mix discs and listen in the car on the way to school. It was an escape because I didn't have a great high school experience," he admitted by deciphering what This is for You meant. Presumably, the adoration backstage made up for any prior teen angst.
The designer explained the process behind this new collection which explored his four-piece suit design - a white shirt, jacket, pants, and skirt to go over. It involved re-examining coats and jackets from the past five years, cutting them up and reworking them, perhaps adding a back vent for ventilation (ditto for pant side seams) and belts that add long silk or chiffon pleated trains to just about anything, upping the ante on the self-belt to high chic.
"It dresses up what you already have. It's versatile and functional, and this dialogue between you and your wardrobe in the morning," he said, adding, "You can wear it however you like; we added a belt which can be cinched so you can adjust it for a different silhouette."
Dramatic sweeping satin overcoats, maxi-skirts, and heavy platforms are the designer's answer to what the "PD people" do at night. While from a retail standpoint, the collection may be men's and women's, but Do declared in show notes he designs for people, period.
His prints came primarily from his iPhone and signify a slowing down to mark a moment in time. "Every six months, I find two photos that are meaningful to me; the black-and-white is a New York City skyscraper, and the sunset is outside my office," he said, adding after five years, he finally has a door of sorts on it.
Even as poetic as the journey to the collection is how Do, who is seemingly shy and wears a mask for more than just health reasons, according to insiders, expresses his own personal journey.
"The collection is about how I'm always running out of time; it's a push and pull of time to work on things," he said, confessing, "I learned to be in the moment with my dog because she smells every little thing, takes her time and if I try to rush her, she doesn't do anything she doesn't want to. My dog and this brand taught me a lot about being patient."
A particularly poignant moment was his bow, where he embraced his mom, who attended the show for the first time after three seasons on the runway.
"I feel like celebrating every milestone because I don't take things for granted. I'm trying to be better to be in the present and enjoy the process more," he continued, laughing that he was already late with Fall 2023.
But for the moment, he was taking in the hullabaloo. "Hopefully, it's because of my clothes and not anything else," he said.
Rest assured, Peter, they came for your clothes and not who wears them.
Many directional and highly creative young brands often struggle with commercial sales. How to turn edgy designs into something a retailer can sell? In the best-case scenario, a diluted version makes it to the selling floor, while the outlandish, over-the-top are relegated to photo shoots, album covers, or the occasional red carpet. Area's Spring 2023 show proved the two are not mutually exclusive.
Speaking to reporters, Panszczyk explained the Area vision blurs seamlessly between fantasy and reality by design.
"There shouldn't be a separation between what you sell and what you dream about," he explained, continuing, "We are connecting the dots to show how they are related to each other and why both are important. I've never thought about our commercial collection as a downgraded. Especially because you have that responsibility to produce them, and for me, that is how we approach it holistically."
He was speaking, for instance, of the bevy of black, red, pink, and purple (a subtle nod to religious robes worn by priests) that riffed on the bow by making it graphic and oversized or the pyramid spike in gargantuan proportions and covered in signature crystals. Each was unique and highly wearable and seemed to signal to the retail world they were ready for business.
"I think we did focus on it to show who we are and what you can get from us as a brand," he offered.
Of course, the fantasy was another level, one dare mutter couture-like due to the intricacies.
Many looks became 3D, furthering the pyramid shape concept. The last three looks were too technically complicated to walk on the exterior part of the runway, staged in the Frick Museum courtyard.
"The pyramid folding cascades inward, and the tiles were scratchy when they walk; they would scrape the tile," he explained.
Huge unicorn spikes donned several styles, including a denim-strap cage-like number that, combined, looked somewhat Elizabethan.
"The denim started with this idea of fetishizing fashion, something you are obsessed and dedicated to, but we wanted to do something that felt more real. The Japanese selvage denim are the straps, but the spikes go back to the idea of pyramids and ancient architecture. It became extreme, almost like armor that kept people away, and we thought about how to translate craft, execution, and beauty," he explained.
Translation was hardly needed. It was all clear in this mesmerizing, seminal collection.
In his second New York outing, designer Bach Mai furthered his couture-craft message for evening and ready-to-wear with a very personal message. In show notes, the former first assistant to John Galliano at Maison Margiela paid homage to his father, who wore blue coveralls, aka 'blue collar' clothes, for his work at refinery and chemical plants in Deer Park, Texas.
Thus, blue and orange cotton twills were elevated to "couture-influenced shapes," evident in full ball skirts and oversized pants. A coarse tweed becomes a playsuit for day or poof trim on a sheer loose camisole dress in a nod to the loose coveralls.
The trapeze shape was particularly interesting in sheer tulle and orange trim over a nude leather bustier and shorts, while strong silver moiré striking on an open back gown with a Cristóbal Balenciaga-inspired hemline recalled the Texas pipelines, and technical organzas suggested oil slicks. Mai loves to dress a Texas lady, but these looks would suit an edgy socialite from Park Avenue to Nob Hill.
Who Decides War
The buzzy duo behind the label, Everard Best and Téla D’Amore, debuted women's for their Spring 2023 collection. The outing furthered the craft and messages the designers have been earning a design reputation for and confirmed their devoted fan base.
According to an Instagram post by Best, the pair delivered a message of environmental urgency via a Caribbean theme, which also had a California-surf vibe with airbrushed motifs on jeans, shirts, and more.
The denim splicing and shredding demonstrated the commitment to technique, while the stained-glass window motif continued through peek-a-boo cutouts on knitwear. A quilted blue bomber with green continent patches became a wearable globe and presumably a must-have piece for those rallying for the sake of planet earth.
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