WORN OUT: Pythagorean for Spring

This month, Cara Schacter went to New York Fashion Week and took some notes; on moonlit ponytails, compulsive masking tape behavior, wearable ice packs, and being softcore cerebral.

The point of a fashion show isn’t totally clear anymore. Digital lookbooks and virtual showcases are cheaper, more accessible, less prone to airborne disease, and give technically better views. Even if you do go to a show, Vogue Runway will probably upload the whole collection before you’ve left the venue. But, to quote Pythagoras regarding – I don’t know what he was talking about but let’s just say – the resonant frequencies of live performance: “There is geometry in the humming of the strings, there is music in the spacing of the spheres.” Or, to rephrase Pythagoras: there is geometry in the humming of an hour-long delayed start, there is music in the spacing of the Sambas, Salomons, and Sportivas seated front row. The texture of the space-time continuum is non-fungible. Even when everything is made of upcycled cane sugar and reworked 3-D prints of vegan silk spun from vintage condensation of ethically-sourced Topo Chico sponsorships, care of The Standard. It is a uniquely explicit attempt, however effective, to capture This Moment. That thing Heidegger says about art creating a clearing in the conference of earth, sky, mortals, and gods. Fashion Week is that, except the clearing is in a kosher deli, the stock exchange, or under a bridge in Dumbo.

September 8, 2022

7 p.m. The press release for Lucky Jewel’s debut collection said to expect a play on “the pseudo simulacra of existence.” On the other side of the page, a series of I-statements: i think something else should happen, i <3 turning reference photos into vessels for boosting engagement, i am inventing a new kind of girl .

Milling about the dining room of the Ukrainian National Home pre-show, I was introduced to a familiar kind of girl. She was working on production for another brand and had spent all night at the studio vacillating between Adderall and caffeinated Nuun electrolyte tablets. Despite the dextroamphetamines and tropical-flavored hydration, the girl possessed a languor common amid her kind – a sort of intimidatingly anemic air. I couldn’t tell if I was boring or if she was iron deficient. The girl asked if I’ve ever been so sleep-deprived that I start seeing bugs everywhere. Maybe she was just tired.

Pre-show Lucky Jewel SS23. Photo: Alexia Mavrolean.

Pre-show Lucky Jewel SS23. Photo: Alexia Mavrolean.

We took our seats and the song “Shut Up” by the Black Eyed Peas came on. The first look was an office-grey two-piece set: ultra-low-rise trousers and a collared jacket with one side all bunched up, paired with a studded foam clutch. “They’re clothes for businesswomen who know nothing about business,” Lola Dement Myers later told me (she’s one of the brand’s trio of designers along with Olive Woodward and Shay Gallagher). “Like, if you’re at the office but what you’re wearing doesn’t fit right or it’s kind of inappropriate.” The second look carried a briefcase entirely covered in masking tape. This was a reoccurring detail, a number of pieces (mostly shoes but, at one point, even pants) were similarly enveloped. Shay said the tape thing was inspired by Lola’s “tape obsession.” Lola showed me her makeup bag. Nail file, mascara, Fenty lip gloss – all mummified.

How do you “feel”? I tried to conceptualize sentience in the abstract.

September 9, 2022

3:30 p.m. On foam benches, in a bright room on the sixth floor of the Pfizer Building in Bed-Stuy, condoms attached to lollipop sticks were laid out alongside show notes for the Bad Binch TongTong show. “Stop reading, just ‘FEEL’ it!” the note said. “Feel” in quotation marks. I got stuck on the punctuation. How do you “feel”? I tried to conceptualize sentience in the abstract. I recently heard the term “immersive adjacent.” As in, “the show is immersive adjacent.” What?

A dancer in a black mermaid-tail and a black crop top with a disc around her collar emerged from the mouth of a floor-to-ceiling inflated green head. She dragged her body across the floor. A child holding a giant lollipop scurried to the mermaid, turned, scurried back. Another mermaid in a wheelchair came out of the mouth. Then two men wearing large black spheres like Zorb balls, kind of… It’s hard to explain.

My notes don’t help:

Chirping bird sounds
Men in spheres connected by black strand. saliva string? Umbilical cord?
Double hula hoop outfit
Holding a lamp? A flower?
Man controlling mermaid (no tail now) with lamp
Or woman in tight dress with rhinestone ‘B’ is controlling her?
She’s bouncing against the saliva
Conventional Girls holding phones
Velvety inner tubes
They’re entering the saliva string
Everyone is in the saliva
The saliva is a tunnel
The saliva is a condom?

Bad Binch TongTong SS23. Photo: Crash Magazine

Bad Binch TongTong SS23. Photo: Crash Magazine

6 p.m. After Bad Binch TongTong, I stopped to pee in Clinton Hill and bought a white grape seltzer to bring to Collina Strada. The flavor was described on the can as “dewy and delicately sweet” – very apropos the show to come. Outside the Naval Hospital Cemetery turned pollinator habitat, street style photographers were going haywire. They sifted through the crowd, asking select people about the inspiration for their looks. The invitation said the start time was “6 p.m. sharp.” At 6:40, the line was still thick with people smoking Parliaments in mesh tops, wide-legged white denim with childlike marker drawings, Oakleys, expensive socks, plastic sandals. The blonde balayage of PR girls fell in soft s-waves, tucked behind chunky headsets. Inside was legitimately idyllic. We sat on white folding chairs atop a boardwalk that wrapped around a wildflower meadow and monarch butterfly preserve. The collection was bright, silky, see-through, and diamanté-encrusted. A pink, gauzy, Greek goddess type of dress hung from metallic flower rings worn on the model’s nipples. According to the show notes printed on recycled paper, the collection was made from “deadstock denim and satin, rose-derived sylk, orange fiber organza and acrylic scraps reborn as knitwear… because even if we can’t be emotionally available, we can always be bioavailable.” Walking to the J, I Uber Eats-ed walnut shrimp from Congee Village so it would be bioavailable by the time I got home.

September 11, 2022

9 p.m. Because Hudson Yards has two multi-hectomillion dollar buildings named after storage spaces, I confused The Shed with The Vessel and, at first, thought Luar was happening in the $200 million staircase citadel that’s been closed ever since it was the site of its fourth suicide (The Vessel). Alas, it was at The Shed (the $500 million building with a 4,000-ton retractable shell The New York Times called “a provisional metaphor” for “a rare sense of mobility” within “the stagnancy and self-isolation of elites”).

The lobby of The Shed was packed. The crowd felt, for lack of a better word, random. Some people looked, for lack of a better word, basic. Others wore full Luar regalia – a woman beside me held an American Girl doll outfitted in her own little Luar “Ana” bag. The man in front of me wore a baseball hat from a Dimes Square institution while his girlfriend was head-to-toe Aritzia. I spotted the jawline of the boyfriend of a niche celebrity, masticating anxiously. Security kept yelling that nobody was getting in until we backed up. Not everyone made it in.

September 12, 2022

12 p.m. Before the Maryam Nassir Zadeh show, Harper’s Bazaar ran a piece by Rachel Tashjian on the designer’s “sexy sincerity.” She said, “many of New York’s young women currently seem obsessed with a mode of cerebral sexiness.” Speaking for a friend, uh, ya, there is a geo-feminine urge towards a, potentially pathological, potential tedious, over-intellectualized mode of being. The Thinking Woman is often clad in staid accessories – the erudite square toe-box of a vintage Prada loafer, sardonically rectangular eyeglasses. But Maryam Nassir Zadeh offers a radically softer form of psychic hotness. “She is like the wind,” a fashion editor told Tashjian re: MNZ. There is something elemental about MNZ’s aesthetic. The SS23 collection felt simultaneously stripped down and layered: a black bodysuit (or the outline of one, the front panel being entirely cut-out) was worn under a twisted half-cardigan and white trousers held up by a leather belt/pouch. There were silk scrunchie armbands and crocheted necklaces. MNZ has a lens through which being capital-b beautiful feels like the most obvious thing in the world, like it was there all along, she’s just brushed off the dust and wrapped a sarong around it. There’s this Instagram story MNZ posted last Spring: a picture of what appears to be a morsel of dryer lint on a hardwood floor.

There is a distinct sense of calm that washes over a group of people surrounded by blenders and bowls.

September 13, 2022

1:00 p.m. The Foo and Foo show was at Master Kitchen Supplies on Delancey Street between Chair Up! and Sara D. Roosevelt Park. I sat between the toothpick holder aisle and the No Smoking sign aisle. There is a distinct sense of calm that washes over a group of people surrounded by blenders and bowls. A feeling that we have tools at our disposal, should an urgent need to purée arise. The presentation opened with Georgia May Jagger wearing a black miniskirt and a hooded jersey tank. Loose-fitted jeans revealed an underwear band with the “Tommy” of Tommy Hilfiger covered in a piece of tape that said “Elizabeth” – which, Elizabeth Hilfiger would later tell me, was not a cheeky attempt to distinguish her brand from her father’s, but a (futile) reminder for the model to change his underwear before the show. Thankfully, Foo and Foo’s ethos is categorically easygoing. Everything is intended to be customized. Like the collection’s attachable and removable cooling fabrics designed in collaboration with Techniche – the ‘Hyperkewl Plus’ padded quilt with special fibers for rapid water absorption and prolonged water retention, or the ‘Coolpax’ ice packs that you can hold to your skin without getting freezer burn. When I asked Elizabeth what it means to be ‘cool,’ she said, “Nothing too overdesigned. Clothes that won’t overpower your own mood. Just modular and fun and wearable.” High-tech nonchalance. Outside the supply store, wearing a Foo and Foo logo top with Foo and Foo tapered jeans, Bella Hadid asked if anyone would mind taking a picture of her and her friend.

Foo and Foo SS23. Photo: Mark Hunter.

Foo and Foo SS23. Photo: Mark Hunter.

8 p.m. When I think of the Financial District, I picture obtuse steel sculptures, pencil skirts, the weak seal of a Dig Inn plastic lid on its cardboard container, the shrill light of a Chop’t. At night though, FiDi is romantic. Its topographic situation – straddled by river – highlights the eager skyward extrusion of the city; the skyward extrusion of man. It’s charmingly quixotic, tender even.

The air felt velvety. The seagulls looked like doves. A drone flew among the gulls. It was the most graceful drone.

FiDi was twinkling the evening of the Gauntlett Cheng show at HeliNY, a heliport on the East River Piers. There was chance of rain, but the weather held. The air felt velvety. The seagulls looked like doves. A drone flew among the gulls. It was the most graceful drone.

The show was stunning ­– delicate but commanding. Five-foot-long slick back ponytails. Tracks of hair extensions sewn to the seams of stockings. A sheer lace catsuit with a matching bolero. A knit moss-green bustier with a knit black thong. An iridescent whisper of a blue dress floating across the halogen-lit landing pad.

Screenshot of @maryam_nassir_zadeh Instagram story by author

Screenshot of @maryam_nassir_zadeh Instagram story by author

CARA SCHACTER is a writer living in New York. Her column “WORN OUT” runs the last Wednesday of every month. Last time, she wrote about cleavage .

NEW YORK FASHION WEEK ran from September 9 to 14, 2022.