Freya’s Fashion Week Faves!

by Freya Drohan

To quote the Nina Bo’nina Brown meme, “Well. It’s Over.” Unlike seasons past, when it felt like the industry was still learning to walk after its crawl through COVID, my main takeaway was that the NYFW schedule this February felt pretty consistent, seamless, and stress-free (except for when I went to the Guggenheim for 2PM to realize the Jason Wu show happened at 1PM. But you live and you learn.) Though it also could have been down to the disarmingly good weather and no major timing conflicts, the overall experience felt like a vote in confidence that NYFW has found its footing again and solidified its status as a crucial platform for all those involved in various facets of the industry. In other words, all that talk of “NYFW is dead”—I didn’t hear a single whisper of that this season. Now, let’s discuss some highlights!

Christian Siriano’s commitment to all women 

Technically not on the official calendar, Siriano returned to one of his go-to venues, Gotham Hall, for a show on Thursday evening. While, unfortunately, designers seem to be reneging on their inclusion of as many non-sample size models, Siriano’s casting always feels joyful and indicative of what clothes can look like in the real world, on all types of bodies. In terms of the garments themselves, the sassy energy of ’80s cocktail frocks, the elegance of nipped-in eveningwear, and countless cascading trains to add extra drama sealed the deal.

Rodarte returns to NYFW

California-based sisters Laura and Kate Mulleavy decamped back to NYFW for the first time since their physical runway outing in September 2021. And thank God for that. It being my first experience seeing their designs take to the catwalk IRL (in this instance, the marbled floors of the Williamsburg Savings Bank), having the entire context ensures an added appreciation of the theatrics that are so intrinsic to the label. From the set, which incorporated a glittery dinner party scene, to the almost-haunting soundtrack and gothic Wednesday Addams-approved eye makeup which accompanied the witching hour frocks, it’s plain to see that these are cinematic and thought-provoking clothes that deserve a live audience. The designers looked to fairies as a jumping off point, albeit a dark take on the creatures—pretty Tinkerbell, it wasn’t—which influenced details like floating bell sleeves, magic beading work, little bits of lace, and floating kaftans which featured faerie prints drawn by their mom. There were also colossal wings worn by some models, dare you have missed the more subliminal nods to the mysterious spirits. They didn’t feel necessary, really, when you considered the beauty of the intricately-detailed dresses (my favorite was the rather simple but striking sheer black slip with a matching embellished veil-cape). Alas, one can never say you won’t get a commitment to the entire plot and fantasy from this brand—main character wings and all.

LaQuan Smith kicks it up a notch

Looking back on the shows I attended, the one that seemed to most have its finger on the pulse of what’s hot (key word: HOT) was LaQuan Smith. The Queens-born designer can no longer be considered one to watch, as his status as one of the most buzzed-about names in American fashion has long since been crystallized. Held at the eye-pleasing Rainbow Room with a who’s who audience and notable front row, it was a fittingly haute venue for what felt like Smith’s most impressive outing to date. For whatever reason, the first word that always come to mind when I think of Smith’s clothes is PHWOAR; a word that I’ve never once used in real life but thanks to its usage by British red top tabloids, it always signals the idea that “sex sells!” in my brain. And there’s no divorcing the word sex from Smith’s clothes. From the low, low-rise waistlines, cinched tailoring, and daring cut outs to the use of sheer and mesh fabrics, these are clothes you’d only hope to bump into an ex in. Further making those in the room nod along in enthusiasm were sharp shouldered coats with oversized lapels, a villainously good patent trench coat on Luma Grothe, and an asymmetric take on a power tuxedo jacket. (Dynasty’s shoulder pad-clad Alexis Carrington served as a muse for the collection.) There was also the debut of menswear, which had Lil Nas X eagerly smiling in approval from his seat. In my books, it was the strongest casting of all shows this season—giving us supermodels like Jourdan Dunn and Frida Aasen with strides and stares that would put the fear of God in you (SISSY THAT WALK!) as well as the likes of the Dupont twins, Leyna Bloom, and Alton Mason. As we said, sex sells—and LaQuan Smith can take our money.

Brandon Maxwell’s ease of elegance

Moms shouldn’t play favorites, but I don’t have children, and therefore I can safely say that Brandon Maxwell was my number one this season. Speaking of moms, there’s something about Brandon Maxwell’s work that just makes you almost well up with pride as if you know him on a personal level. Is it because he seems like such an approachable designer despite his status as one of the biggest brands of today, his undeniable love for women, the way he sends his whole atelier down the runway to receive their well-earned recognition, or the way he’ll always feed guests at his show? (This time around, we received heart-shaped boxes of chocolates as a sweet nod to Valentine’s Day.) Regardless, there’s a real emotional connection that people tend to have to the Texas-born talent and his creations. Mushy feelings aside, these clothes were a treat for the eye too. The immaculate quality of the leather pieces was delicious—fresh suggestions for Fall ’23 included boxer-waist roomy shorts with supersized cuffs, and luxe maxi skirts paired with ruched bralettes and cropped jackets. Equally yummy was a simple bustier top in alpaca wool, in black or beige, that could absolutely convince us to give a ruffled peplum silhouette another chance. In terms of styling, the self-assured elegance of suiting and pared-back maxi dresses was juxtaposed with magpie-friendly baubles like large sparkly bangles and rings. Forget chocolates, I’ll be pre-ordering those on Moda Operandi asap as my Valentine’s gift to myself.

Naeem Khan celebrates 20 years 

Naeem Khan’s mindbogglingly-detailed eveningwear goes hand in hand with the idea of marking life’s milestones, but this time, the cause for concern was the brand’s own big moment. Khan is celebrating two decades in business, and so there was no holding back when it came to the beaded, embellished, sequin, and fringe parade that sashayed through the center of Iron23 in Chelsea. The celebrity-adored NYC-based designer, who famously cut his teeth at Halston and was pals with the most seminal pop culture figures of the ’70s, wanted to pay homage to his family history and their prominence as purveyors of fine textiles too. The result was an all-out celebration of beautiful fashion, with cocktail gowns and ruffled dresses, slinky maxis, flirty minis, and ostrich feather capes made with both love and painstaking attention to craft. We look forward to seeing what the next 20 years bring…in the meantime, don’t these party-worthy pieces just make you want to pop open a bottle of champagne and dial up the music? The House of Khan certainly knows infectiously good dancefloor-worthy clothes better than most. It’s in his DNA, after all.

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