Fashion Week Recap: Backstage at Hood by Air
Smiling and Vomiting at New York Fashion Week
Fashion Week has hit New York City again, and big, fancy designers are showing their latest collections for fall/winter 2014. So we went to a few shows to figure out what all the Tumblr goofballs, twinks, and trust-funders will be wearing in autumn. Keep checking back frequently throughout the week for our reviews of the shows at Milk Studios, Lincoln Center, and more.
The influences behind Robert Geller’s collections are always super fascinating. The press releases for his shows are like rabbit holes that have you crawling through obscure Wikipedia pages and loading up your Amazon shopping cart with very rare goodies. This time around, however, the genesis for Robert’s fall 2014 looks lie with a rock star we’re all pretty familiar with: David Bowie. It’s not super surprising that Robert would find a muse in the Thin White Duke. David has long been a bastion of style (just check out the feature we did this month on Kansai Yamamoto, the designer behind many of David’s iconic looks). Not to mention, David’s a master at walking the thin line between being tough and elegant, just like Robert’s eponymous brand. Surprisingly, Robert opted to mine one of David’s lesser-known personae. Instead of aping low-hanging fruit like Ziggy Stardust, Robert looked to the big and boxy suits David wore in The Man Who Fell to Earth as a springboard for his collection. Robert’s models took to the runway in everything from neoprene overcoats and tall military caps to Chelsea boots and elongated tops. In the context of his previous work, it wasn’t revelatory. Everything from the warm hues of purple to the layered silhouettes was well within his wheelhouse and felt very familiar to me. Even so, it was refined to the point that his looks are becoming so pure and distinctive they’re bordering on the iconic.
—By Wilbert L. Cooper
The jungle-drum music and the “exotic” prints on the clothes made it apparent that Mara Hoffman was channeling the Dark Continent with her latest collection, which is weird because she’s never even been there before. Though I’m usually very suspicious of cultural reappropriation by old white people, I was at least pleased to see that Mara had the Rainbow Coalition do her casting. Models of all different races and complexions were clad in flowy dresses that were decorated in vibrantly colored sequins and patterns. There were definitely some great looks, and the styling of dark-skinned models in white was especially striking. But at the end of the day, this stuff is what a WASPy mom would wear to an Invisible Children fundraising event.
—By Wilbert L. Cooper
Power: The Evolution of Black Masculinity Through Fashion
The Evolution of Black Masculinity Through Fashion
ll eyes were on Shayne Oliver as he stepped into a sweltering Bronx church in the heat of summer, 2000. The lanky teenager shuffled into the vestibule wearing a short white crop top, exposing his taut midriff. Blots of black skin poked through hand-tattered jeans that were so tight he had to cut them up and safety-pin them back together to get them on. Shayne’s outfit set him drastically apart from the men of the congregation, who wore boxy suits. He and his mother hadn’t even taken seats in a pew before the preacher started spewing a diatribe of venomous, homophobic remarks from the pulpit. It took a moment before Shayne realized the preacher was attacking him. “Basically, the pastor ran me out of the church,” he told me recently. “I stopped going after that.”
Shayne’s now 25 and the designer of menswear label Hood By Air, whose provocative styles—along with brands like Telfar and Third Floor—are carving out a new and empowering palette of masculinity for young black men to paint from. At Shayne’s shows, it’s not out of the ordinary to see his models stalk the runway in makeup and dresses. Their bellies are often exposed, and half the time you can’t tell whether they’re men or women. But far from sissiness, the looks exude the visceral power of a lineman crushing a quarterback, or two swords clashing in an action film. This time last year, at Shayne’s debut New York Fashion Week runway show, the scene was so thick I had to stand on my tiptoes to catch a glimpse of his powerful vision of androgynous modern menswear. With macho gangster rapper A$AP Rocky on the catwalk, and stars like Kanye West and Waka Flocka Flame in the crowd offering up their adulation, the show was the birth of a new epoch in the evolution of black masculinity.
There have been others who’ve pushed similar boundaries in the past. Before Kanye and A$AP, black artists like Sly and the Family Stone in the 60s and Cameo in the 80s wore gear that looked like it was straight out of the Folsom Street Fair. In the 90s, Tupac walked in a Versace fashion show in a flamboyant gold suit.
But one of the things that sets this new wave apart from what came before is that straight men like Kanye and Rocky have no problem recognizing that some of their looks might have originated in the gay community. This kind of inclusiveness and openness is one of the many elements that signifies a shift in the way black men comport themselves in an age when the old notions of machismo, which were burdened with the baggage of 400 years of slavery and Jim Crow, continue to be chipped away.
Sex isn’t about fashion. Fashion isn’t about sex. Let Glenn O’Brien explain
Fashion and/or Sex
by Glenn O’Brien
Sex isn’t about fashion. Fashion isn’t about sex.
If fashion were about sex, models would twerk down the runway in fashion editors’ faces and twirl around poles for the photographers. Vogue editors would get lap dances. And the models wouldn’t look prepubescent. The rack would be back in fashion, and not the one you see pushed down Seventh Avenue. Strippers would put it on instead of taking it off. Sasha Grey would be in high-end fragrance ads.
Victoria’s Secret pretends that it has a fashion show and that it participates in the world of fashion, but the secret of the Secret fashion show is that it isn’t a fashion show—it’s Republican burlesque. It isn’t about fashion any more than the Sports Illustrated “Swimsuit Issue” is about sports.
Indeedy-do! Fashion is one world and sex is another. The twain may meet once in a while, and while we might treasure the juiciness of those overlap moments, there are two different distinct systems and iconographies at work here. But then again, there is sexy fashion and there is fashionable sex. We are not entirely deprived of their collaboration. If you’re lucky and smart you can have it both ways on occasion. Sex and fashion are very intimately related in their origin, and once in a while, even today, they are joined somewhere near the hip.
But if fashion isn’t purely about sexual attraction, what is fashion about?
Introducing the 2014 Fashion Issue
Right in time for New York Fashion Week, we’re unleashing our annual Fashion Issue to the internet. In case the leather gimp on the cover doesn’t make it blatantly obvious, the 2014 Fashion Issue is sex-themed. This gentleman was shot by none other than Robert Mapplethorpe (*cue the angels*). In addition to the cover, we’ve got an entire portfolio of his Polaroids inside.
Before you grab the Jergens or your pink vibrating Rabbit, you should know that there are only two pairs of tigolbitties and absolutely no boners in this issue. Instead of giving everyone exactly what they’d expect from a sex-themed issue of VICE, we decided to take a more refined approach. It would have been a hell of a lot easier to fill 132 pages with soft-core porn, but we wanted to focus on fashion as a form of self-expression and sexual freedom, and to explore the role it plays in our lives. This is an issue dedicated to and featuring photographers, designers, icons, and every day people who’ve helped blur the lines between what is acceptable versus what we’re taught is taboo. It’s more social experiment than wack-rag.
So how on Earth did we fulfill our mission without coming off like a bunch of pretentious jerks? To give you the Sparks Notes:
- We photographed women wearing some of the more restricting and fetishized trends of the last few decades; shot sexy nuns decked out in latex and lace; photographed a rendezvous between two classy ladies as an homage to Duran Duran.
- Our own Wilbert L. Cooper examined the connection between masculinity and fashion among black men; we interviewed the legendary Kansai Yamamoto, the man responsible for helping David Bowie to create his gender bending Ziggy Stardust persona; Richard Kern shot boys as girls and girls as boys.
- We defended female body hair, because, yes, hairy women can be sexy; we explored the emotional baggage that is often attached to dainty, wonderful, old lingerie; and even got our new friend Glenn O’Brien to school everyone in the history of sex and fashion.
We’ll let you explore the rest of it yourselves. You’ll be enlightened and informed. Hey, you’ll probably even find something to rub one out to.
Thanks again to the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation for their contribution to this issue. Look for the print mag at a store or boutique near you, but we know it lasts about an entire day on the shelves before it’s gone. You’ll just want to go ahead and subscribe. If you’re fancy and you have an iPad, download our FREE app, because then you get a whole bunch of extra stuff like extended interviews, more pictures, and all that hot noise.
Starving for Fashion
Above: The author in one of her first test shoots. She was 19 and 115 pounds. Photo by Michelle Ricks.
This week in New York City, hundreds of young girls will hit the runway for fashion week, the modeling world’s holiest and most competitive grail. Although participating in New York Fashion Week sounds glamorous, the lifestyle that some of these girls are engaged in—never sleeping, never eating, traveling endlessly, and constantly being judged and objectified—can be a catalyst for poor mental health.
In the past decade, at least 20 models have committed suicide—some famous, some not—and there are likely many more lesser-known models whose attempts may have gone completely unreported. According to a 2012 study done by the Model Alliance, a non-profit labor advocacy group where I work as a graphic designer, 68.3 percent of models admit to suffering from depression or anxiety. For several years of my life, I was one of those women.
I started modeling professionally at the age of 19, when I was in college. I was suckered into signing with a small boutique agency in San Diego in the summer of 2007. Having grown-up in a tiny suburb of San Diego misguidedly obsessing over shows like America’s Next Top Model, the opportunity to model and travel for free seemed like a no-brainer. But before my agency would allow me to sign the dotted line on my first contract, they wrapped a measuring tape over my jeans. You see, models aren’t measured in pounds, they’re measured in inches. I had to lose two inches, or roughly 15 pounds, all over my body to land the contract.