Watching the Hood by Air runway, I wrote the darndest thing down: “This is the real New York.” Because, obviously, security guards are more real than gallery girls; the hood is more real than the UES; and racially ambiguous bald androgynes with white contacts, fine tattoos, and scary swaggers are more real than… any of y’all. No. Shayne Oliver’s Hood by Air was phenomenal but it wasn’t anymore “real” than, say, that acronymed brand that bribed me out of an already postponed interview with a free shop through their closet of Made-for-Reality-TV dresses (no thanks). It wasn’t any more real than Alexander Wang’s Chinese manufacturing empire or twin billionaires making très chic twin sets. It wasn’t even more real than Rachel Zoe.
We complain about New York Fashion Week being weak but I think we get what we deserve. This city isn’t a creative utopia like it maybe once was(?). It is now, foremost, a place of business. And Shayne Oliver—creatively, ingeniously—presented himself to market. The Hood by Air show was, as we all went Twittering out, one of the best of the week. The shorts-shingled-pants and zip-off what-have-yous were structurally innovative; so much so I don’t yet have the words for them. Form, check, function, check, and message: Oliver’s queer accented hood-cum-luxury looks were inspired by, “prophets and fetishists, people who push boundaries,” yet he dressed his blackest models in streetwear basics (basketball shorts, cotton t-shirts) with, alternatively, prison stripe doo rags and pearl earring security headsets. Who’s New York? Well, that was at Milk Made, sponsored, in part, by American Express, Lexus, M.A.C., Macy’s, Smartwater, and Tumblr.
Speaking of Tumblr, here’s a line I overheard while waiting in line for Eckhaus Latta’s Milk Made presentation at The Standard: “We shot it with these, like, sixteen and seventeen year old we met on Tumblr but, like, IRL.” The theme at Eckhaus Latta was anxiety and the leitmotif was Steve Jobs’s face. True to its audience, the show flyer was printed with capital-R-real avant statements like:
Netflix pillow, we didn’t make it past “the truth is out there.”
(We have each other) my smart phone.
How do I turn off my smart phone?
How to I turn off?
Will there be a day when we stop seeing each on the street and only online?
If so, will I recognize you?
Eckhaus Latta’s presentation simulated the behind-the-scenes of a studio photoshoot, with models trading off acting as models and production assistants. The space was crowded with construction materials, attractive art kids, and ambient noise, intentionally mic’ed and turned up. A cute boy whose face I knew but couldn’t place recognized me and we exchanged who’s whos. Now we’re Facebook friends.
Eckhaus Latta wasn’t the only team to explore the behind-the-scenes of commercial image production this fashion week. Over at the Suzanne Geiss Company in Soho, the self-described “post-Internet lifestyle magazine” DIS has been hosting (February 2-24) an open-door stock photography shoot. DIS invited a slew of artists and photographers to set up photo shop at the studio during gallery hours. The public is welcome to peak in; sights you’ve already missed include plus-size models in girdles and heels looking at art, built dudes in wife beaters eating salads with chopsticks, a Tina Turner look alike, Pussy Riot look alikes, a tupperware bubble bath, and so much more. The idea of lifting the veil of image production is interesting enough on its own, but what’s more conceptually relevant is how this could monetize the collective, as the images produced will be available for purchase at DIS Image Studio, a stock photography site where the goal is to, “create and commission stock products that are as viable in the art market as they are in the commercial market.”
This article was initially imagined as week’s end roundup of NYFW but here’s the thing: it was already overmediated all way through. Livestreamed, Instagrammed, Twittered, street styled, Style.com, whatever. We’ve seen enough and of what? Grumpy Cathy Horyn called it, when “at the shallow end of New York Fashion Week,” she claimed shock at, “the lack of energy and imagination,” here in New York. “Flicking through a digital slide show of mostly black clothes seemingly designed for depressed urbanites is enough to induce a coma,” she wrote. “The problem is there are too many labels and not enough genuine talent.” I hope, but doubt, that Horyn caught Hood by Air. Shayne Oliver almost-prophetically fulfilled her desire for, “a young New York designer [who] would want to express in fashion what a young rapper does in music and style. I don’t mean imitate that person but at least offer something that feels just as raw and connected.” Horyn is wrong in her assertion that there isn’t enough “genuine talent.” There is, it just gets drowned out by the rest of the “too many” labels on the Mercedes-Benz schedule.