Guerrillas in Our Midst

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Almost everything about Alexander Wang’s show last night was counterintuitive. It was held in the middle of a public street in Brooklyn, yet we the people were crammed six deep behind barricades and yelled at by security men. It was supposed to feel spontaneous, like a guerrilla act, and yet it required nearly four hours of my time to get there and back. The plan called for a total of three street shows — two in Manhattan, the last in Bushwick — each visited in succession by a party bus loaded with models (and Wang), and trailed by pickup trucks with portable lights.

Guerrilla hardly means what it once did. Though it’s nice to know that VIP will always mean VIP. While everyone was waiting behind the barricades, and others were trying like rats to get in, Kim Kardashian West and Kris Jenner were escorted down the nearly empty, darkened street to a waiting area, video lights illuminating them.

By the time the bus got to Bushwick, images from the earlier shows were already on the internet. I could have caught the whole thing online in about ten minutes. Yet I think Wang’s instinct to try a different method of showing was absolutely correct. Runway shows have become stultifying, and the idea of taking models on the road, if only in two boroughs, is as old and as thrilling as Kesey’s Merry Pranksters. Perhaps the logistics were insane, but Wang’s motives were surely pure. Wang revels in sending editors to far-flung New York City locations — previous shows have been in the Navy Yard, a derelict theater in Harlem, and on Wall Street. This season’s various venues engaged more people. The bus itself signaled movement and fun. And the clothes were a tightly edited mix of summer minis and layered but polished streetwear, the best bets being Kaia Gerber’s opening white shift, a simply layered tank dress, and blossom-y army fatigues worn with a black leather bustier and a white lace top.

Photo: Imaxtree

Earlier Saturday, on the same street in Brooklyn, Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta showed their collection at 99 Scott, a relatively new cultural space in a former industrial building. The raw, elegant room was a well-chosen showcase for the designs of this talented couple, whose collections since they started Eckhaus Latta, in 2011, have grown in depth and refinement.

First of all, the designers have a great sense for models — some professional, others friends — whose faces and body language help to give mystery and no small amount of sexuality to the clothes. I’m tempted to say that what made this show so watchable was the beauty of hard female faces and not-quite-perfect bodies in clothing that insisted on being ordinary — cropped, scoop-neck tops with slim skirts; a blue striped cotton shirtdress; a knitted, deep-blue tank dress. But that sounds like Latta and Eckhaus are merely doing that thing where the uncool becomes the cool. I think they’re too wary of that standard fashion trick — they’re not interested.

Instead, they trust their sensibility and their community, no doubt reassured by the fact that their stuff sells out. Although they’ve expanded their knitwear, it has not lost its raw, almost homemade identity.
Their colors are particular too — marigold orange with cadet blue, poppy with sand. This season, the new addition is classic suiting, worn by both genders. The silhouette is distinctly Eckhaus: a somewhat full shoulder and chest, with a barely defined waist, and wide-leg trousers. It makes enough of a fashion statement, but it’s still pretty plain. It’s not trying too hard. But the important thing is that Latta and Eckhaus have struck a silhouette that’s fresh and which is theirs to build on.

Photo: Imaxtree

In so many ways, Eckhaus Latta’s show yesterday reminded me of early Helmut Lang shows in Paris, although the aesthetic is obviously different. They, too, can impart a subtle sex appeal. They can handle an idiosyncratic fit without it looking forced. They’re good at scrubby, unrefined textures. Above all, though, they know how to stay in their own fashion lane — and let others be fascinated and perplexed by their work.

Guerrillas in Our Midst