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Psychedelia and sci-fi detectives: the pop cultural ephemera of New York Fashion Week

new york fashion week, inspiration, fall/winter2015
Getty Images/Ilya S. Savenok; IMDB
Designer Karen Walker was guided this season by the 1979 TV series Sapphire and Steel.
By Jenni Avins
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

For the past week, Quartz’s new fashion reporter Marc Bain and I have been attending shows at New York Fashion Week, both virtually and in real life. While we have seen many interesting clothes, some of our greatest discoveries have had little to do with fashion at all—at least on the face of it.

The designers who create the collections come with their own cultural touch-points. Sometimes those come out very explicitly in the clothes. (See: Rodarte’s Star Wars dresses from fall/winter 2014.) Other times, they’re included in a multi-media presentation, revealed in interviews, or referenced in notes distributed to the fashion show’s attendees.

This hodgepodge of cultural ephemera is a joy, and we’re finishing up Fashion Week ready to refresh our Spotify playlists, Netflix queues, and reading lists. Here, some of the songs, shows, movies, and books the designers of New York Fashion Week inspired us to check out.

Rodebjer: Psychedelia

Cuban Heritage Collection, University of Miami Libraries
Ochumare by Alberto Del Pozo

“With inspiration from The Orisha Drawings by Alberto Del Pozo, portraying Afro Cuban deities, each in their own minutely patterned universe, and the free-flowing, psychedelic paintings of Mati Klarwein, we have created our own setting of lightning, stars, moons, and waves,” stated the show notes distributed at Rodebjer’s show. You probably know Klarwein’s work from the album art on Miles Davis’ Bitches’ Brew, but his archive runs deep.

BFA/Dan Lecca
Rodebjer fall/winter 2015.

We also found ourselves Shazam-ing the music playing before the models walked out, and have now added tracks by Amon Düüll II, The Durutti Column and Ash Ra Tempel to our playlists. (This one is especially lovely.)

Karen Walker: A TV sci-fi detective from 1979

Kiwi designer Karen Walker is the queen of unearthing obscure pieces of pop culture, and translating them into clothes people want to wear. This season did not disappoint.

“An ode to time-travel—the remarkably together and tough Joanna Lumley in 70s sci-fi detective time-travel series, Sapphire and Steel, is the jumping-off point for the season,”stated Walker’s show notes. “A young Karen Walker watched in awe, as Sapphire guarded the order and integrity of time, all the while being a beacon of chic.”

Courtesy of Dan Lecca
Karen Walker, fall/winter 2015.

This Sapphire and Steel show looks utterly bonkers. There appear to be full episodes on YouTube and it’s available on Amazon.

Greg Lauren: The bar from Star Wars

Seventies nostalgia runs deep through fashion at the moment, but Greg Lauren won points for the specificity and weirdness of his reference; after his show he told Quartz that the bar scene from Star Wars was a particular point of reference.

You can skip to 4:15 in the video above, or just go ahead and watch the whole movie.

Aria Isadora/BFA NYC
Greg Lauren Fall 2015

Only, as Obi-Wan says, “Watch your step, this place can be a little rough.”

J.Crew: Artists and bon vivants of swinging London

A Checkered Past, by Peter Schlesinger.

“The women’s Fall/Winter 15 collection was inspired by Peter Schlesinger’s book Checkered Past,”said Tom Mora, J.Crew’s head of design for womenswear. “He captured his friends, including David Hockney, Tina Chow, Paloma Picasso, Eric Boman and Cecil Beaton in the 1960’s and 70’s.”

Indeed, there are the jaunty, multi-textural layers and strong lemon yellow repeated throughout J.Crew’s collection. Maybe mismatched socks like Cecil Beaton’s will be next.

Courtesy, J.Crew
J.Crew, fall/winter 2015.

This is a good reminder to return to the work not only of Schlesinger—who is a sculptor as well as a photographer—but also to the artists whose lives he documented. David Hockney, for example, has a new exhibition of his iPad drawings on display near Leeds, England.

Marc Jacobs: A fearsome and fabulous fashion editor

Marc Jacobs, whose show is the week’s grand finale, told that the late, legendary fashion editor Diana Vreeland was this season’s muse.

“She got the whole fashion thing,” he said. “Being decisive, being so excitable, and then being as passionate and dismissive about the very same thing the next day.”

Getty Images/Slaven Vlasic
Marc Jacobs, fall/winter 2015.

If you’re not familiar with Vreeland’s eccentric, inimitable, and powerful voice, now is the time. Jacobs said he’d been reading her book of Memos. The 2011 documentary about Vreeland, The Eye Has To Travel, will certainly make a welcome escape from our frigid New York winter.


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