Project, the bi-annual contemporary menswear trade show, is in full swing at Manhattan’s Javits Center and dropped in the middle of this bustling three-day event in which dapper dressed men meet vendors, negotiate, haggle and ultimately place orders for boutiques across the U.S. is a a group of individuals shiny and new to the scene: five graduates from Parsons have been selected to display their menswear collections on this high-profile platform. We first became aware of them at Parsons graduate show which Fashion United reviewed in May so it’s an opportunity to check back with them as they take their talent out in the world. Project bills itself as creating “destinations where innovation, commerce and service converge” so these young designers find themselves at a three-way intersection that could offer them their first industry opportunity. Let’s see what they have brought along to catch a passerby’s keen eye:
Kou’s collection brings attitudes of Chinese philosophy to the New York hustle. Merging Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism, she seeks to remind us that we must slow down and remember who we are in the crazy busy metropolis. An afternoon spent sitting in Union Square taking in her surroundings was the inspiration for a print which follows the gentle weaving journey of a squirrel going about his daily business. “There is purity in this,” she explains calmly, and her collection reflects this serenity in soft cool pastels with delicate textures and hours of hand embroidery. They say working with one’s hands is therapeutic, I comment. She confirms, “No machine has touched these clothes. Everything is hand done.”
Konishi also took a dive into philosophy to begin her collection focusing on Sigmund Freud’s words “Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.” She incorporated a slashing technique that led to her creating her own fabric, a loopy nubby textile which spills forth from openings in sleeves and legs, from quilted bombers, eventually creeping over entire garments. She likens the detail to scars, and mentions that she felt like a surgeon, explaining, “We shouldn’t have to hide these parts of ourselves. We should question the surface impressions of things,” As she says this, she flips open a pocket flap to demonstrate there is no pocket there, then demonstrates an elaborate trench coat which is completely reversible so there is no wrong side. Because what you hide one day you choose to show the next.
This bold fun streetwear-influenced range does not wear its inspiration literally. Child-like scrawls in crayon hues take their start from the Chinese propaganda Shao grew up with which promoted the Chinese Dream despite society’s turning away from the building blocks of that dream. Shapes are derived from school uniforms and the customizing tricks the young designer used to differentiate herself from others in society. She describes her portfolio and garments as her own “tools of propaganda.”
Chia was thinking of reincarnation as she began work on her all-white collection and as a result of extensive and exciting fabric experimentation her range is perhaps the most highly conceptual of the five but with minimal tweaks could also become the most commercially innovative. On vinyl she took imprints of classic apparel details––zippers, cable knit, denim jacket pockets––from which she developed prints. She fused vinyl with denim to create a satisfyingly sturdy fabric for pants and jackets. Pieces seem to be embodied with ghostly traces of former garments. Etched plexiglass dickies are the most conceptual items while other garments are split down the middle between commerce and concept with one side a classic jacket and the other framed in plexi rods so that one half seems already framed for posterity while the other continues to exist among us. Inkeeping with this art school mindset, she says, “My monocolor palette was to suggest an empty canvas. Color would distract.”
Yoon’s design philosophy evolved from her dislike of littering. She attempts to inject new life into recycled clothing using wire which pleasantly distorts the fabric of her father’s discarded closet staples––like a military khaki and plaid hooded utilitarian overcoat. In this way she imbues the garment with a reformed silhouette and personality, but with a pleasant yet lived-in appearance, to compliment its new owner.
By contributing guest editor Jackie Mallon, who is on the teaching faculty of several NYC fashion programmes and is the author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry.
All images author’s own part from lookbook images from Qiangxin Kou and Yuner Shao.