Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta understand that clothes are objects worn by people in a place and a time. Although their garments—in past seasons, transparent leather jackets and Steve Jobs fan art prints—are conceptually wow enough to hang in a gallery, their grounded FW presentations and love of nodel bodies make it clear that their wares are of the world.
This season, Eckhaus Latta opted out of a traditional FW presentation and invited, instead, its class of supporters to Anthology Film Archives to view a live telecast of a fashion film from Berlin. The moving picture, directed by regular collaborator Alexa Karolinski, had two acts: first, a fifteen minute quick-cut montage of the prep before a fashion show that showed everything but the clothes themselves (a photographer taking test shots, a makeup artist dusting a forehead, a hair dryer blowing steam, a nose exhaling smoke, feet fighting into thongs, etc.); then, the collection—
Eckhaus Latta’s work is born from conversations between the two friend designers, and it’s apparent: their clothes communicate. They communicate with their surroundings, like the Berlin Aldi supermarket parking lot this film was shot in; its colors complement those in the collection. They communicate with bodies, enveloping some parts and framing others. They communicate their own idiosyncratic language, making meaning through wear.
Eckhaus Latta’s clothes are innovative. They aren’t quite like anything we’ve seen before. Through repetition, though, a consistency season-to-season, the design duo’s peculiar vision is becoming un fait accompli, a world defined.
Eckhaus Latta is future oriented. Post-apocalyptic, perhaps. I would say “post-capitalist utopia,” but I would. Mike and Zoe employ familiar materials to new ends and unusual materials to necessary ends: a strip of material like brown packing tape connects navy nylon shorts to sheer pants underneath; loose-cut, tight-knit crocheting drapes over shoulders and folds around hips; bungee cords are a primary fastener. The materials have a scavenged quality but their composition is carefully considered. There’s a delicacy to the assemblages.
The stand-out items of SS14 are, for me, the layered hem trousers and the final dress, a midi-length thing which sheens between seasick green and the peaches-and-cream skin tone of the bleached model who is wearing it. Like Miuccia Prada, Mike and Zoe aren’t afraid of ugliness. In recontextualizing things we might usually consider ugly (for Prada, that’s the color brown; for EL, an almost pukey palette), the designers are making beauty that’s new.
Material innovation demands innovation in presentation and thus Anthology and a fashion film. In addition to their cinematic SS14 show, Eckhaus Latta has collaborated with artist Bjarne Melgaard, creating a line of “Liquid Cosmetics” and a collection of one-off pieces that will be exhibited as part of Melgaard’s solo exhibition “Ignorant Transparencies” at Gavin Brown’s enterprise starting September 14th. Expect to see ever-more of Eckhaus Latta’s delicate touch in the world around you.