Photography: Kohl Murdock
Outside Vaquera’s fall ’16 presentation at China Chalet, a long string of kids filed down the block, braving the 10 p.m. cold for one of the most buzzy presentations at NYFW. Immediately, the environment felt like nothing I’d experienced that week, attracting a swarm of eclectic downtown students, nightlife stalwarts and Instagram influencers to the southern tip of Manhattan—a pack free of stiff editors or token celebrities, street style photographers or PR girls, clad in black. To passersby, it may have looked like we were waiting for entrance into some seedy nightclub, which in some ways, we were.
Designer trio Patric DiCaprio, David Moses and Bryn Taubensee took over the Financial District restaurant, staging a runway presentation that unraveled without any rules. As I waited for the show to begin, I sipped on a strong cocktail in a cheap plastic cup, while everyone around me chain-smoked cigarettes and flailed their fags to the beat of a throbbing Spinee-produced soundtrack. This all felt like a party, flanked by the space’s pink LED lights, tacky crystal chandelier and ’80s carpeting—a fantastic complement to the ambivalent subversion of Vaquera’s design approach.
With a mix, featuring tracks like Princess Superstar’s “Perfect” and Thast’s “Rep Ur County,” models began spilling into the room, doing anything, but walking. Some skipped wildly, unapologetically sipping attendees’ drinks as they passed by, and others proudly freed the nipple; one model dramatically collapsed to the ground, pretending to faint, and another snapped photos of the audience, while simultaneously parading around. They all wore looks imbued with Victorian decadence, this storybook whimsy juxtaposed against contemporary silhouettes, self-aware provocation and subtle nods to pop culture.
We caught up with Vaquera’s original founder DiCaprio after the NYFW dust settled to talk about finding his two new recruits, pulling inspiration from 1998’s Elizabeth and designing wearable clothes.
How did you three join forces?
“We met through our stylist Avena Gallagher. I met David while he was interning at Eckhaus Latta and I was assisting Avena during their [fall ’13] show. I met Bryn about a year later when she started assisting Avena, as well. I started Vaquera almost as a challenge to myself—like, ‘Can I do this by myself with no money or formal training?’ After four seasons I realized I could, but the results would much stronger if I began working with other people. We don’t really have set roles yet. I feel like we need to work together for a few more seasons to understand what everyone is best at.”
What was your inspiration for fall ’16?
“It was Queen Elizabeth—more specifically watching Michael Hirst’s Elizabeth from 1998 at home alone in your dirty socks and underwear. The collection was about this clash of regal, super dressed up pieces and homey pieces. We want people to want to wear these clothes.”
Cate Blanchett in ‘Elizabeth’ (1998)
Why did you present at China Chalet?
“China Chalet is kind of this emblem of New York nightlife. We wanted to build on that reputation by having our show as a celebration that led directly into the afterparty. It was important to me that this was most people’s last stop that day—no rushing off to another show, another afterparty, a meeting.”
This season saw a lot of recycle materials, like the sock coin purse or hand towel tops. What sparked this?
“The speed at which the fashion cycle is moving has made the idea of recycled materials [and] unique pieces super important. Since we can’t pull a Vetements [or] Tom Ford and show clothes that will be available for purchase almost immediately, we wanted to make things that only we could [and] would want to produce.”
How did you approach casting?
“The casting of the show was based on Vivienne Westwood and Malcom Mclaren’s shows in the ’80s. We were casting people who could move down the runway—personality [and] individuality is everything to the Vaquera girl [or] boy. We told them to be themselves and turn up. We sent them videos of old Westwood shows, the clip from [America’s Next Top Model], featuring the aswirl twins Ron and Richard Harris, and Madonna’s ‘Nothing Really Matters’ video with their call sheet.”
Madonna in ‘Nothing Really Matters’ (1998)
Where does Vaquera stand in New York fashion?
“I feel like we’re looking back to what people like Andre Walker, Miguel Adrover and Bernadette corporation were doing and trying to inject a similar energy into the current fashion scene. Our mantra is, ‘No more boring collections.'”
Contemporary fashion seems to be catered to social media and immediate consumption. Do you consider how your clothes will be viewed on platforms, like Instagram?
“I feel like there is a lack of strong critical fashion analysis lately. Instagram is important as a forum where images of clothing, or whatever, are posted and people can either like them, ignore them or comment.”
Tell me about the line, “Raquel, take that fucking jacket off,” which you embroidered on a velvet peplum top.
“This is a quote from Nichelle Nichols’ character Dorinda in the  movie Truck Turner. Her character in the movie, and her status as a black actress in the public eye of ’60s America, is an example of someone taking control of their destiny against overwhelming odds. Basically, we wanted to give her a shout out for being such an inspiration.”
Keep Reading: “NYFW Scenes from Vaquera’s SS ’16 Presentation”