Changing of the Guard: Streetwear Shapes NYFW

As NYFW attempts to forge a new path amidst an industry that’s been in full flux for quite a number of seasons now, many adaptive and innovative changes have taken place. Tom Ford’s appointment as the new CFDA chairman is one of those exciting and significant recent developments. Shortly after being voted into his new role, the American designer got down to business, most noticeably slashing and condensing NYFW’s schedule. As a result, according to the ‘official’ dates, what promises to be a dense, absorbing, and busy New York Fashion Week will take place between the 6th and 11th of September. Yet, despite the logic that designers showing on the periphery of this edited schedule are considered “off calendar,” NYFW arguably began last night with two remarkably exhilarating shows: VFiles and Kith.


Backstage at the VFiles Runway Spring/Summer 2020 show in New York. Photo: Courtesy of PR.

VFiles' show, which took place again at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, echoed a format from previous seasons, with its event-like dimensions. Visually stimulated by director Jeron Braxton's digital work and featuring live music from influential artists such as A-Track, Rico Nasty, YG, Brooke Candy, Penelope, and Delly, the venue was packed and vibrant with energy. Much like their platform, the gathering itself felt like an experience-based social networking event connecting a creative and enthusiastic global youth community.

VFiles has sponsored group shows like this one 11 times over, and winning designers from previous seasons include Discount Universe, Ottolinger, Gypsy Sport, Feng Chen Wang, Kim Shui, and Kozaburo. For the first time, however, VFiles Runway Showcase partnered with fashion marketplace app and creative hub Depop to create this season's group fashion show. Concurrently, the brand launched its own shop on the platform which featured vintage pieces sourced from Depop. Together, they presented collections by Antwerp-based designers Di Du and Nico Verhaegen, Central Saint Martins graduate and French fashion designer Pierre-Louis Auvray, and London’s Wesley Harriott.


Rico Nasty performing at the VFiles Runway Spring/Summer 2020 show in New York. Photo: Courtesy of PR.

If various looks from each designer stood out as bold, distinctive and forward thinking, Auvray’s surrealist take on garments was notably fresh, against the (trend) grain, and captivating. Granted most outfits were unwearable by conventional standards but within context and, for the sake of accepting unchained creativity back into fashion, it represented an exciting breath of fresh air.

Many might have heard of Auvray for the first time a few years ago due to his quarrel with Gucci’s creative director, Alessandro Michele, over the legitimate claim that the luxury brand had copied his designs. But by then, Auvray's unique – and often whimsical – take on anatomy and dramatic silhouettes had already drawn much attention to his design. For this collection, however, which he solely created for the occasion and describes as "cyberpunk, robotic, rococo vaporwave," the French fashion designer turned his attention towards sustainability. Using upcycled plastic and knitwear, Auvray patched and combined the repurposed materials into textural pieces with themes inspired by gaming – more specifically consoles – and toys.

Later that evening, not far from Wall Street, Ronnie Fieg kicked off NYFW on his end of the youth spectrum with the much anticipated “Kith Air” presentation. Guests were ushered into the striking Cipriani location, a rather massive Italian Renaissance-style great hall which, by way of a stunning themed projection-mapped show, was transformed into the inside of a plane. Attendees were then ‘flown’ around the globe – from the Sahara desert to the Swiss Alps – highlighting each season with a different destination. Interestingly, unlike previous presentations (like last year’s Kith Park elaborate set and production), this digital spectacle portion of the show did not take any focus away from the clothes, which had been carefully styled to match the projection themes.


Kith Air Spring/Summer 2020 show in New York. Photos: Courtesy of PR.

This, among various other choices made by Fieg, resulted in a more honed and memorable show. In a way, one could speculate that it testified to the designer’s desire to step into a more advanced arena and to elevate his brand. A strategy that makes sense when one considers his mostly immaculate record as a visionary when it comes to creating buzz and producing impactful collaborations (which has helped to bring global companies such as Versace, Coca-Cola, and Tommy Hilfiger back into a youthful spotlight), and how that would play out if Fieg targeted his efforts in developing Kith beyond streetwear.

Point in fact, the collection – which smartly presented the drops that will be released during the course of the year and will, like they have in the past, quickly sell out – included a plethora of collaborations, some more noteworthy than others. Whereas the Converse and Disney pieces, for instance, were not necessarily all that surprising, the licensed collaborations with entities like Vogue, Bergdorf Goodman, or Def Jam Records were novel and tastefully executed. What’s more, they will place Kith on varied markets, both further exposing the brand and extending its reach. Simultaneously, by also collaborating with brands like Rhude, ASICS, Clarks, or New Balance, the designer also lived up to the expectations of his more purist and technically inclined clientele.

That NYFW is currently evolving and moving into uncharted territory is beyond discussion. Only time will tell whether it’s for the best or for the worse, and chances are it will largely depend on who it affects and how it affects them. In the meantime, these changes are making room for unexpected turns and exciting explorations which younger, ‘irreverent,’ independent brands are fully embracing. So, whereas worried and inquisitive discussions continue to take place about NYFW’s edited schedule, Tommy Hilfiger’s return, Alexander Wang and Monse’s summer shows, Calvin Klein’s hiatus, and so on, it is refreshing to see other growing brands making way and doing their part to navigate the fashion industry toward a different future.

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