Skip to navigationSkip to content
new york fashion week, eckhaus latta
Courtesy of Eckhaus Latta
Also, the Nike iDs were cool. Eckhaus Latta, fall/winter 2015.
MELANCHOLIA

Fashion at its best is an art that creates a powerful personal connection

Jenni Avins
By Jenni Avins

senior lifestyle correspondent

On a frigid afternoon smack in the middle of New York Fashion Week, I climbed three sets of rickety wooden stairs to where the label Eckhaus Latta would be presenting its fall/winter 2015 collection.

I climbed those steps with curiosity—a growing buzz surrounds the work of the New York and Los Angeles-based design duo Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta—but also with a hint of trepidation. My memories of their show last season included models crouched and piled together in a slow-motion group embrace, and a runway strewn with lettuce leaves. Some cool sky-blue denim and a mustard-colored dress stayed with me, but also at least one pants-less model who wore knee socks painted (literally) onto his hairy legs. I left with the distinct feeling that I didn’t get it. I could see that something was happening, but I wasn’t quite sure what it was.

But this season’s show was different.

I entered a dilapidated Soho loft, lit by a wall of windows awash in afternoon winter sun. Show-goers in many layers of clothing huddled around a T-shaped runway, indicated only by some tape on the floor. No chairs, no risers, no front-row celebrities. I tucked myself into the crowd.

I’m not sure whether it was the keyboards or the singing that started first, but a choir of cooing female voices rose up from the crowd, and a dreamy melody (created by Devonté Hynes, aka Blood Orange) floated over us.

A beautiful singing woman with a head full of curls and a mic pack in the back pocket of her blue jeans stood directly across the runway from me. I could only make out a few words: feeling, comfortable, surroundings. I’ve since learned that she was singing, again and again, “feeling the comfort of sadness in a new set of surroundings.”

I was feeling a bit melancholy myself, and it felt nice to be bundled into the crowd, taking in the music and watching the runway.

The bass kicked in, and the melody became a song—Was someone playing a saxophone?—and the models began to walk out. There were maroon cutout sweaters, cropped grey pants, a mauve pullover shirtdress.

Courtesy of Eckhaus Latta
Hammering away at Eckhaus Latta.

After she walked the runway, a model in a grey pullover with zippers at the neck and sides picked up a hammer and began to bang it against a wall, keeping the rhythm of the song. Soon, a dent appeared, and not long after, a hole. As the models continued their casual march, the grey-shirted model occasionally struggled to free the hammer from the wall, taking chunks of drywall out with it. The dust lit up in sunbeams, and the singing continued.

Then, a male model emerged wearing a floor-sweeping cape that was cropped in the front to expose his belly button. It dipped at the sides, sweeping the floor behind him. From the front it looked tattered, in a beloved, Velveteen-Rabbit sort of way. The back was woven of wide shreds of dusty pastel and grey fabric, with big printed roses at the sides. It looked like a garment a child might fashion himself from an old comforter or flannel-lined sleeping bag. It was a little bit regal, a little bit nostalgic, and very beautiful.

Courtesy of Eckhaus Latta
The comforter cape.

I left that day feeling rewarded for having shown up—much the way I feel after visiting a powerful art exhibit, or taking the trouble to see a great band play live. Just as the costumes help to complete a film, or lights can contribute to the impact of concert, the live performance contributed to the feeling of Eckhaus Latta’s clothes.

I doubt I’ll be wearing that magical blanket-cape anytime soon, but something about it reached me. It looked like an old comforter, and I actually felt comforted by it. It may not have been the most glamorous, fun, or accessible look of the week, but it had an ineffable force.

I suppose that’s the thing with taking a step out with a creative presentation, and inviting people into a world that’s a little offbeat, a little weird. Sometimes you reach people; sometimes you don’t. Last season, Eckhaus Latta’s show didn’t do a lot for me personally, although I understood that the wider fashion community approved.

But this season, for whatever reason, it made me feel connected. And that’s what great art does.

Subscribe to the Daily Brief, our morning email with news and insights you need to understand our changing world.

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.