trade show report – ENK’s Fashion Coterie

by Charles Beckwith

The Fashion Coterie is much larger than The Train and Platofrom 2, which I attended yesterday. It encompasses Pier 90, Pier 92, Pier 94, and a large chunk of the sprawling Javitz Center.

I go to the trade shows looking for what is not on the runway, but should be. To do this one has to develop an eye for unusual silhouettes and do a lot of walking. You immediately start to see patterns overlapping to a ridiculous degree, and if you are trying it is not difficult to spot the avant garde in the chaos.

Having walked down the first two long aisles in Pier 94 and seen zero real innovations, I was starting to get frustrated. I can see why most of the brands are represented by PR and sales people, and so few actual designers. Everywhere I looked, riffs on the inane. “Jeans with cut #23,” or “generic seasonal top in 19 colors of jersey with decorative object #537 glued in an oblong ring around the neck.” Where was the breathtaking mastery of craft, or amazing renovations of concept? I want to see “new X jeans,” not “jeans like yesterday but with a new little twist of X.” I saw too many pointless silk screens, affectations, and clueless PR people who couldn’t even tell me the names of the brand’s designers.

That said, half way down the third row I saw something unusual, which led me into the stall of Maxime Cossoguy, a local New York designer. He was displaying his “Drowning In My Sleep” collection. Maxime has been designing for 15 years, and this namesake line has existed for 3 years. Maxime is a FIT graduate, inspired by music and poetry. The logo incorporates the G-clef symbol, and his poetry is written inside some of the garments. He says he travels a lot for inspiration, and has recently been to Paris, London, Amsterdam, Munich, Cypress, Barcelona, China, and Japan. This diversity of influences is well reflected in his small collection, from the triple collar denim jacket to the short bib overalls a model was wearing in the booth. I like his style, and the little twists of the unexpected. Maxime’s work is definitely a refreshing break from the all too standard silhouettes.

Near the back of Pier 94, sharing a booth with Missoni Accessories, I found Masacva, by Russian ex-model Irina Medelie. She showed in Russia last season, but this Spring-Summer collection is her first in the US market. Most of her pieces were relatively standard, but a few stood out, including a fun looking jumper. Her trademark seems to be “simple with detail,” and I think it works. I was told by her showroom reps that many of the buyers were coming in and looking at the Masacva pieces, but not purchasing, because they think it is not conservative enough for their clients. I have to disagree. It is edgy, but not in a liberal way. I think the edge is in the craftsmanship, not so much the lines. She has some beautiful clothing, and I hope to see people wearing it on the street.

I met designer Zoe Zheng in her Zoe Couture booth. Usually I avoid even glancing at the booths of small American brands which label themselves as “couture,” but I saw the side swept sweater before the sign on this one, and was pleasantly surprised. Zoe has some very fun looks. She likes her customers to be able to play with their clothing, and proudly says “if people buy one or two pieces they can have five silhouettes.” Zoe’s family manufactures cashmere, and her first collection was all cashmere. Now she is moving on to incorporate a wider range of materials, and this is her first spring-summer collection. For inspiration, she spent time looking at paintings in the Getty Museum. Well-cut cotton, and a few nice bits of knitwear. Classification: luxury casual.

I moved over to Pier 92, where I spotted the creative cuts of Dimitri Tcharfas and Shannon Nataf, in their Suh-Than booth. The line features a lot of multi-layer material mix garments; denim, linen, leather, silk, and suede incorporated together in vest-jacket-dress sorts of gestalts. I saw a lot of simple but dramatic silhouettes, with entertaining flares and things like little gull wings the wearer could unbutton and play with in a lot of ways. The line is 4 years old, and this is their fourth collection. It is titled “inner workings” and is inspired by the surf, the way you can see the sand and shells under the surface after a wave crashes in. Using sheer materials layered over architectural lines, they have worked to reveal their skillful European-style tailoring, making a unique statement about quality of work, and taken a bold step where they have risked showing any flaws in the assembly of the garments. Fortunately, there seem to be none. Beautiful lines and a lot of creativity make this duo one to watch.

Just as people were starting to shut down and close up their racks, I spotted some interesting webbing on a pair of shirts labeled Akiko, which turned out to be Akiko Yasuda. Looking closer I saw other interesting details in her garments, and when I started asking questions, her showroom rep got me on the phone with Akiko herself in Los Angeles. Akiko is originally from San Diego, and she related to me that the inspiration for this line was a specific Japanese tea garden. This is the same beautiful garden she went back to when it was time to shoot her look book, and flipping through it, the pieces really do look like they belong there.

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