Fashion

Breakout Designer Shan Huq Channels a Sexy, Suburban Applebees Host

Fashion

Breakout Designer Shan Huq Channels a Sexy, Suburban Applebees Host

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The banality of suburban living is something we’ve all experienced and desperately fought to escape: those weekend nights with no agenda, spent driving around your sleeping neighborhood, hot boxing your dad’s rusting mini van and, if you made enough in tips that week at Olive Garden, treating your friends to a Dairy Queen dip cone. These suffocating simplicities feel foreign amidst the gloss of NYFW, but somehow resonated with 20-year-old newcomer Shan Huq, who designed his debut SS ’16 collection with Middle American sensibilities in mind.

Staged in St. Mark’s Church in the Lower East Side, the oversized, desolate space—drowning in beige walls and the same carpeted floor you’d find in your Aunt’s dining room—was a smart extension of the designer’s vision. “Shan was really inspired by everyday American dress,” said the show’s stylist Matt Holmes. “I had this idea of suburban kids that broke into a church and were just looking around. It was cool to have this space that immediately feels so religious and stiff, but the models look like they belong on regular streets.”

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 3.56.09 PMBehind-the-scenes via Shan Huq’s Instagram

Wardrobe essentials served as the backbone for Huq’s self-taught collection, which he said he began designing in January: a sweater vest was worn over a plaid button-up, ribbed long-sleeved tees were tucked into awkwardly cropped track pants and cargo shorts made a comeback with nylon zip-up jackets. Everything looked as if it were lifted from a passing period on the first day of middle school in some small town where Wal-Mart was the only source of fashion. This was intentional, however, as Huq and Holmes did field research on the streets, pulling inspiration from regular passersby and exaggerating the mundane outfits they witnessed.

Though it’s easy to mindlessly slap the passé “normcore” label on this look, Huq’s collection possessed quietly sexual undertones that elevated the experience to a level beyond the viral Internet trend from 2014. “We played with essentials of sexuality,” the designer said. “That’s why things feel a little perverse—some pieces are too low and others are too short; I thought about essentials of the mind and body.” Holmes augmented this direction by styling the women to look slightly stronger than the meeker men, who wore protective zip-ups and turtlenecks to explore the idea of hiding and revealing with clothing. Huq’s brand of sexuality wasn’t overt, but softly embedded within the show’s nostalgic back-story—something we were forced to dream up on our own, while watching.

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 3.56.26 PMBehind-the-scenes via Shan Huq’s Instagram

Closer examination of the garments revealed a more concrete narrative with the help of New York writer Tyler Sayles, whose original tongue-in-cheek quips were embroidered directly onto Huq’s clothing. Having grown up in Flint, Michigan, Sayles said he’s always been enamored with those sultry, regular girls who would happily fuck their boss at an Applebee’s. “They take control of their lives in a way that doesn’t have to do with some extreme passion or medium,” he said. “They’re just sort of real, which I admire.”

This likeminded enthusiasm for everyday musings aligned with Huq’s, so the two decided to collaborate this season—a marriage that manifested into garments featuring lines like, “When I was a server at Applebee’s I had a thing with my boss,” or, “My grandma went on a carnival cruise and brought me back this keychain from the Cayman Islands.”

Even the soundtrack, created by Michel Sayegh, reinforced Shuq’s exploration of commonplace culture. “Every day you hear cars; you hear commercials; you hear interruptions,” he said. “The music is a collage of sound bites we’re exposed to all the time.” In-between a generic, clichéd runway beat, Sayegh pulled in samples of beauty tutorial clips from YouTube with advice on aspirin masks and DIY pore strips that almost read like a stab at the sea of bloggers swarming Fashion Week; an Olive Garden commercial also sputtered in, advertising shrimp carbonara and the ultimate suburban staple: endless breadsticks. Listen, below, and see Shan Huq’s full collection, above.