Fashion Week, disrupted

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Fashion outsiders came in out of the cold and kicked off New York Fashion Week. Traditionally the preserve of industry elites, buyers, print magazine editors and their famous friends, the fashion week calendar is now more accessible than ever before thanks to the first wave of Noughties bloggers who disrupted the buying cycle with new technology. By tearing up the rule book on the six-month lead in from runway to glossy pages, fashion bloggers turned the industry on its head. Nearly a decade on, the result is a more democratised landscape for fashion fans and upstart designers alike.

An international group of energetic emerging designers carved out their niche at Industria, in Greenwich Village under the auspices of the Global Fashion Collective. Without the help of top tier fashion schools like Parsons, FIT or Central St. Martins, to launch their careers, these young creatives are taking matters into their own hands and getting a toe hold in one of the most important fashion centres in the world.

Designers hailing from Tokyo, Beijing, Vancouver, Munich and Atlanta were on the programme giving it their best shot. If you were looking for the next wave, this was the place to find it.

Of particular note were Beijing’s MRANDMRSHUA, Vancouver’s Kirsten Ley and Tokyo’s WILDRAULEIN71 brought their vision for Autumn/Winter 2018.

Kirsten Ley’s collection was a celebration of the female form through sculptural approach to leather  bodices, hip hugging trousers and peplum skirts. A truly gothic take, this season was inspired by actual Victorian romantics, the poets Keats and Shelley. The interplay between sculptured leather pieces and ruffled chiffon manipulations was balanced with fitted midi skirts and straight leg pants. Highly individual atelier pieces in verdant green and midnight black, Ley has the soul of an artist and the hands of a technician at her disposal.

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WILDFRAULEIN71, was an ambitious collection that owes a great debt to the high priestess of Japanese fashion Rei Kawakubo, founder of iconic label Commes Des Garçons and more recently, the retail platform Dover Street Market. The 23-year-old behind WILDFRAULEIN71, Designer Roop Shimura brought a more artisanal feel to the collective show. It was a kaleidoscope of earth tones in knitwear that played on texture and layering, all pulled together with matte and shiny textures in autumnal shades.

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The show stopper for me was MRHUAMRSHUA for its whimsical playfulness that served a through line for a genderless collection. It was an intersection of European military garments from the last century and the hot colours and vivid patterns of the former British colonies, all blown up on a 21st century catwalk in New York City. The silhouettes were softened with silk draping and a distinctly unisex sensibility for the more structured jackets. Fitted tailored pieces adorned with lace, tassels, and embroidery, featured unique patterns and vibrant clashing colours. Gold buckles, plaited aiguillette rope. I felt this was a statement, whether intentional or not, on a joyful celebration of post-colonial identity.

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I think the idea of fashion weeks only showing designers from that city are long gone, globalisation has broken down the idea of nation and what I encountered in the intimate setting of a downtown loft space was the rumblings of the new world order. The high-end conglomerates can have their elite clientele who jet from city to city and buy up the latest Marc Jacobs and Michael Kors in the identikit tier one retail spaces, but the war cry of fashion as a creative expression of individuality is right here at the grassroots and on the fringes.

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