Photography: Kohl Murdock
It’s incredible to witness the rise of self-taught designer Shan Huq, whose debut collection last September attracted a modest crowd and, for the most part, a quiet response from the press; this wasn’t a reflection of his worth, but proof of media’s blind obsession with fashion’s biggest players. While everyone was fussing over the standards, they missed the next big name.
Inside the walls of Lower East Side’s desolate St. Marks Church, Huq presented a vision unlike anything at NYFW—a focused exploration of midwestern banality that was at first quite challenging to absorb. This, however, is why we became immediate supporters of his project in its infancy. New York fashion has a tendency to play it safe, fearfully submitting to pressures of commercial success, but Huq’s been one of the few local rebels to assert his vision without concern for mainstream approval.
This season, things appeared to be changing, not in how Huq approached design necessarily, but in how the industry and fashion community responded. His show was packed with a generous mix of top editors and buzzing downtown tastemakers, who formed a line down the block, whereas last season, we casually walked right into the venue. Shan Huq’s taking root, and in a major way for being such a young designer—proof of shifting framework in New York fashion.
For fall ’16, the 20-year-old Los Angeles native continued with his use of unconventional presentation spaces, transforming East Village’s Cloister Cafe into a cool, dimly lit runway for his models to parade throughout. Once inside, were all given black lighters with “Shan Huq” printed across them—a gift that echoed the designer’s youthful ambivalence.
The look this season traded his everyday tracksuits for more sexy, subversive evening wear. “We were looking for something that was a bit going out-esque,” Huq explained. “But I didn’t want something too trendy or beautiful.” This sparked his desire to involve more sheer fabrics, appearing as short shorts, polos and oversized button-ups. “I really loved the idea of things that felt and are ‘thought of’ as soft.” Velour tops and nipple-baring cocktail dresses introduced a more luxe chapter from Huq, while floral prints on coats and underwear imbued a surprising sense of sophistication.
Huq said he was looking for the perfect pin-up this season and somehow landed on reality star Tila Tequila. “No one else would fit better than her,” he said, explaining two key looks in his collection, which featured giant prints of her face. On a fitted mini skirt, Tequila appears in a blonde wig; on an oversized winter coat, her famous face is shown smirking with empty eyes and closely tweezed brows. These pieces might just be fashion’s equivalent to clickbait, sending the audience into an immediate roar of approval. Even after the show, the model wearing that star coat was the last to get undressed because photographers all swarmed her, fans all begged to try it on.
Despite an appreciation for humor, Huq has serious goals for his growing brand. “I want Shan Huq to be a full fashion label,” he said. “I want it to have an identity that’s relevant and always trying new concepts, but at the same time provides a wardrobe that’s relatable and desirable.” The challenge, he said, is finding the perfect balance between relevancy and rebellion—paying attention, while sticking to your own voice. “I believe I’m doing something current, but also interesting,” Huq said.