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  • Writer's pictureLaura Rocha

Clothes that Belong in the Museum

You should know the Parsons MFA designers before the world becomes obsessed with them.

 


As models strut the runway at the Brooklyn Museum in the designs from the Parsons MFA in Fashion Design SS24 collections, the lines between fashion and art-making blurred. The fifteen designers who are likely to become the future of fashion looked for ways to disrupt the traditional; be it material, cut, proportion, or even which parts of the body are highlighted or covered, each designer reinterpreted what “clothing” means in evidently personal ways.


Sunny Ning showed eight looks worthy of award-season red carpets, with delicately-torn pastel fabrics. The collection includes gowns dripping over models’ heads, colorful pantsuits in playful asymmetric cuts, and a couple of fabulous hats. I wouldn’t sleep on these dresses if I were Cardi B’s or Tilda Swinson’s stylist.



Fabiola Soavelo’s collection reminded me of the Caribbean — yet a covered-up take on resort dressing: not for modesty, but for weather. Here is a Harlem Caribbean, with textures that emulate the sea and overcoats of exaggerated yet precise tailoring. I appreciated the contrast of the heavy fabrics against the models’ bare feet and ankle bracelets.



Next up came Siri, whose disruption focused on cut dualities — exaggerated, balloonlike clothes juxtaposed against drapey, slim items. Then, a surprise: Siri’s first looks highlight what looks like male genitalia (yet the whole collection seems to be a play on gender).



Hsiao-Han Kuo’s looks are thickly futuristic; it’s as if the models stepped off a spaceship to come show Earth what’s in vogue in galaxies light years away. With bubble moments and diametric textures, mixing knit and leather in unexpected ways, this is another collection that looks sculpture-like — yet alive with movement.



Daorui Story Si broke up the pattern with looks in all black and pops of neon green: a felt-looking matte black suit with a neon flower on the jacket pocket; then, a more casual look including a jacket with rips bleeding neon green. The looks then transition from gray to white with gold and lilac accents, and as the colors get lighter, so do the silhouettes. This is menswear for the modern fashionisto — someone who gets a thrill from the sheer thought of breaking the rules.



Anna Roth brought perhaps the most playful collection of all, with models dressed like cartoonish monsters. Big googly eyes and sea-creature tentacles aren’t perhaps what people imagine when thinking of fashion; it seems as if Roth’s success relies on leaning heavily on whimsy and playfulness. These clothes are full of joy and irony, in a way that seems very appropriate for someone who’s completing an MFA.



Nan Jiang also brought whimsy onto the runway, but with looks that lean more towards the primal, made for warriors from a fantasy land of ice. Again: here’s a collection that skews quite playful, with exaggerated gowns that have great red carpet potential.



Yu Gong is the ruler of menswear with proportion play. With billowing garments and the chunkiest boots I’ve ever seen, resembling blocks of barely-cut marble, sculptural textures are clearly popular in the Parsons MFA classroom. There’s a cartoonish aspect to these looks that highlights Yu Gong’s sense of humor, with traditional ties and jackets spraypainted over looser, more casual fabrics.



Similarly, Ying Kong reimagined menswear with bright color combinations and patterns we rarely see in suits and ties, if ever. With unexpected cutouts and items that show significantly more skin than what is traditional for menswear, the garments appear to be flirting with the bodies of the models — witty banter first and foremost. Ying Kong’s womenswear also participates in this flirtation, and maintains the color palette of cream, pastel blue, and pops of red and neon yellow.



Natsumi Aoki’s sober color story and heavy textures — rips and intense layers — brought a darker, muddier aesthetic to the runway. The colors of moss and light-wash denim, and accessories like protective goggles and hoods completing the looks, seem to speak to a more dystopian future, and harken to representations of climate change-addled landscapes.



Mel Corchado brought explicit commentary regarding the industry to the show, with a lilac knit dress dripping words down the front: “OUR INDUSTRY IS VIOLENT AND THERE IS SO MUCH WE CAN DO.” Other high-volume looks included a model wearing what appears to be fake blood painted on her torso for a top and a sequined skirt, and two looks comprised of chains constraining the models’ bodies.



Chang Liu’s garments reminded me of natural world surfaces recreated through knitwear: the depths of the sea, the dunes of the desert. Deep blues and beiges create waves and movements, and provide a cleansing balm between two intense collections.



Yamil Arbaje had a few more subtle, unassuming looks, later broken up by bright colors and the phrase EL PODER PRODUCE REALIDAD (Power produces reality), printed on a bright yellow t-shirt — then, over and over again on a pair of casual camel-colored pants. As the looks go on, Arbaje seems to also be deconstructing menswear, beginning with a more conservative look and later on introducing bolder colors, patterned cardigans, and purses.



Ren Haixi would best be described as the anti-Chanel, with a construction of deconstructed tweed. Ripping apart the traditional prep of tweed suits, Ren Haixi uses the traditional fabric in spite of itself.



Lorena Pipenco took proportion play to the next level, with a gigantic balloon asymmetrical dress, fuzzy boots, an inflated gown, and an even more swollen pair of shorts. However large you’re imagining these items — think ten times larger.


There is no doubt that the Brooklyn Museum is the perfect setting for this show, as it blurred the (made up, in my opinion) line between fashion and art construction. I will be keeping an eye on these names, and I suggest you do too. 🌀

 

You can view the whole collection here.


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