The energy behind New York Fashion Week is always palpable, as Manhattan is the first city to kick off the Spring/Summer 2019 season.
From my perspective as a Londoner, New York City always gets a reputation for being too serious and too ‘fashion’ for its own good. But this season, NYFW brought queer energy in abundance. The queerness that oozed from the catwalk — and from the audience — was hard to miss this season.
Tokenism and the debate behind inclusivity on the runway is always a topic of conversation. However, something felt different this year. Authenticity felt rooted in all that we saw; the art was unapologetic. Members of our communities were using their own voice to channel true fashion moments.
Chromat: In their own words, this season’s show was based around the idea of the wet T-shirt. They reclaimed the experience of both being body-conscious, and then owning it on the runway.
Sheer, knee-length T-shirt dresses cling to the bodies of models of all kinds, in one of the most diverse castings of a show we saw this season. Elegance, confidence and power shone through, as the dresses clung and showed the models and their undergarments at their finest. It’s real and honest, and is a genuine representation of the Chromat customer.
Their inclusion of all bodies was a perfect thing to witness, as people of different skin tones, abilities, sizes, genders and more showed their inner power through Chromat’s collection. Erika Hart, a sexual education worker and powerhouse, stormed the runway, revealing her mastectomy scars. It was a true act of ‘this is me, take it or leave it,’ leaving a lasting impression on the star-studded front row.
Opening Ceremony: Queer icon and RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Sasha Velour revealed that she’d personally picked 40 LGBTQIA+ models to walk the runway for the Opening Ceremony SS19 show. As I vicariously watched via Munroe Bergdorf’s Instagram story, I sat in amazement at the queer expertise that was on display. Sasha started the show with a poignant speech discussing the importance of queer inclusion within fashion and the arts, setting the mood to that of powerful queer excellence. Drag Race alumni sashayed their way down the runway, down the tiny steps into the crowds and back on stage as they mingled and danced as a collective. The likes of Miss Fame, Jiggly Calliente, and Shea Coulée performed in stunning custom gowns, setting up for a finale from the true diva herself, Christina Aguilera. The end of the show formed itself into a magical group performance alongside Xtina, as they all moved and intertwined together, showing just how powerful a group of LGBTQIA+ creatives can be.
Christian Siriano: Endorsements from designers usually focus on other brands being emblazoned across garments. But Siriano decided to endorse an all together very different organization this season in his SS19 collection: support for Cynthia Nixon, displayed on T-shirts throughout the collection. It was almost hilarious, considering she was sat front row, amid a group of iconic female celebrities, including Whoopi Goldberg and Judith Light. The political statements also featured on the runway again in a more subtle way in their casting choices, as diversity and inclusion was seamlessly and perfectly infiltrated, with models of all sizes and races displaying their beauty. Nico Tortorella also featured, grabbing the spotlight in a sheer dress and corset. Again, another very well put together show that speaks of the zeitgeist of the moment.
The Blonds: Themed runways seem to be a little hit or miss for critics — but what’s not to love about a Disney Villains collaboration stomping the runway? The Blonds did not disappoint, with what arguably could be described as one of the most dramatic and star-studded catwalks of the season. Paris Hilton holding her tiny dog, marching the catwalk in a black-and-white Cruella De Vil-inspired ensemble, ticks all the goddamn boxes. Queer faces walking included Isshehungry, Desmond Napoles (the 10-year-old drag superstar known as ‘Desmond Is Amazing’), and Austin Smith (@empty.pools). Again, high energy, powerful femme concepts and heels higher than the sequin budget. Stunning.
Telfar: After showing a preview show in London in August, Telfar shared with us their SS19 lineup through a gender-fluid retrospective of the ’60s and ’70s. The all-black show was based around the concept of ‘Not for you, for everyone,’ a sentiment that was maybe used for their London show due to the turbulent goings on regarding Brexit in the UK. However, the political statement surely correlated with the US audience and press, as they stood in rainy Brooklyn to watch an unapologetically black and excellent show of ’70s orange and pastels, on black, high-waisted, smart trousers and clean white vests.
Gypsy Sport: As a devoted Munroe Bergdorf stan, my eyes and ears were primed and ready for the Gypsy Sport Runway. Self describing themselves as ‘uniting through individuality’, the runway was transformed into a mystical other world of fairies, nymphs and magical and very fashionable creatures. A mixture of diverse and beautiful models stormed the runway in another array of realistic expectations for bodies, and also realistic expectations of fashion. It allowed the hierarchy of fashion to be torn down, and for it to become accessible for all. Saying that, the models had hair made of grass, and dresses made of belts, but this is New York. Embracing the wild and having no limits on creativity is what it’s all about.
These brands and houses have queerness in their DNA. Their ethos is queer, and their brands always push boundaries and don’t see issue in creating a statement every season, but there was something different about it all this season.
The energy was coming from the right place, like it always has been, but what it was was the entrepreneurial spirit that we as queer people have to make our shows the biggest and best that they can be. We know that we have to work ten times harder to have our collections seen or watched, and by putting in the hard work, these amazing designers have had their work showcased with what seems like the most press ever. What we, as a community, are always saying to brands that use us in their creations is to make it authentic and allow us to take the reigns and be at the helm of the creative decisions, and that’s exactly what happened this season.
That’s why we are all gagging for more, and more importantly, why this representation of our beautiful creative bodies and minds means that hopefully, the fashion industry at large will take notice.
Images via Getty and Elvin Tavarez