Vaquera’s Handmaid’s Tale Collection: Fashion That Empowers & Oppresses

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Photography: Michael Hauptman for Vaquera

Inside an eerie Lower East Side chapel and seated across from a woman in a chunky red leotard, moody noises began composing an ethereal soundtrack. We knew we were in one of two places: the scene of a high fashion cult sacrifice or the runway of Vaquera’s Handmaid’s Tale capsule collection.

When the NYC brand—composed of Patric DiCaprio, Claire Sully, Bryn Taubensee and David Moses—announced they were teaming up with The Handmaid’s Tale for a special project, we had very high, bonnet-filled hopes for what outfits might result. Our expectations were surpassed by the show we witnessed at the Angel Orensanz Foundation—a place that likely hadn’t seen such energy within its walls since Sarah Jessica Parker married Matthew Broderick there in 1997. The capsule delivered on thoughtful silhouettes, textiles and intentions, but above all, stayed true to Vaquera’s ongoing mission: to create characters.

“It’s something that’s at the core of our collections,” DiCaprio told OUT. “We do work about people that are oppressed, and we like to talk about a person’s individuality, and create these characters, which is the opposite of what’s happening in The Handmaid’s Tale. We’re very focused on the personalities. Once you put a piece of clothing on someone who has a great personality, it evolves and becomes something so much greater.”

Personality certainly took the spotlight on Vaquera’s runway: two models in red tunics and bonnets planted kisses on each other as they took their place center stage, while another stormed around the room chucking ripped up flowers at audience members with all his might. One look featured a woman in a thong and bra holding a pearly white umbrella over her heard, with a cocoon of silvery gauze shielding her body from the outside world. Another model ate a bag of oranges as he walked, letting the peels scatter behind him on the runway.

“We were all fucking weird kids,” DiCaprio said. “So I think doing something that speaks to oppressed people, or people who are weird comes naturally to us.”

In true Handmaid’s Tale form, the collection was grounded in stifling imagery that reflected a history of female marginalization: bound hands, a dress with the words, “Votes for Women,” emblazoned on its chest and a model dripping with sewn-together cone bras.

“The original theme for us in this was empowerment versus oppression,” Sully said. “We were talking about how, throughout the collection, as we worked on it, we realized that every look could be either empowered or oppressed, depending on the way you, the wearer, is wearing it. And so the cast was really important in that. And that individuality coming through with the way that they were acting, and the way that they walked, was really important to us.”

An eccentric, inclusive cast was essential for conveying the wide variety of identities being communicated at the Angel Orensanz Foundation. To accomplish this, the brand collaborated with Midland Agency‘s Walter Pearce, who’s known for discovering and championing unconvential beauty—especially through his work as Hood by Air’s longtime casting director.

Vaquera’s most recent fall ’17 collection tackled American identity, from long gowns constructed with American flags to cocktail dresses fashioned as oversized Tiffany’s bags. Through their collaboration with The Handmaid’s Tale, the burgeoning label continues to explore what it means to be a member of the United States.

“The election has obviously changed this country,” DiCaprio said. “We don’t need to say it. But America has a long history of oppression, and it was built on that. It’s sad to say, but it’s true.”

Moses underlined the importance of working with intent in fashion today: “I feel like we always talk about putting clothes out in an oversaturated market, and how it’s really important for us to have a strong message behind what we’re putting out there,” he said. “So this worked out very serendipitously.”

The individuality of each Vaquera look—a gown made from a wildly oversized hoodie, a high-low tunic incorporating seat cushions—comes from the designers’ understanding that fashion is a vehicle for telling stories about the wearer and the larger cultural context that individual is living within.

“I made a lot of looks with bras this season, so I feel like that must say something about me,” Taubensee said. “I was really interested in sexuality, and—I don’t know, it sounds cliché, if bras are empowering or not, but I guess the bra was somehow very poignant to me, and I guess that would be my personality this season. It’s hard to say exactly why.”

DiCaprio echoed Taubensee, adding that Vaquera likes to use clichés to raise questions, in this case, asking why femininity equates to bras? “You can make a simple answer to that, but if you think about it, it’s pretty complex, and cool to talk about,” he said. “Why can’t women show their breasts? Does that mean something? A nipple is bad, but you can see other things.”

With all these deeply complex conversations at play, Vaquera’s collection certainly felt cathartic, like something inside the designers’ minds had been bumbling around, desperate to escape into reality. And through their Handmaid’s Tale capsule, that something finally has:

“In middle school, I was dying to paint my nails black, and dye my hair, and wear tight pants, or whatever, but when you’re doing something like this, you put it outside of yourself,” DiCaprio said. “And I think that’s why people become designers—that’s at least why I do. I felt so much of that was like, “Get out,” And now it’s on the runway, and I feel relieved. [Now] I can wear jeans and a tee shirt every day.”


Pedro Almodóvar is Prada’s New Muse

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Photography: Willy Vanderperre for Prada

Pedro Almodóvar, the famed Spanish film director and writer known for such works as Bad Education and Julieta, has now embarked upon another career, this time on a different side of the camera: supermodel. He’s been tapped as the new face of Prada’s F/W 17 campaign, rather fittingly titled “Auteur.”

“One of the few remaining auteurs in contemporary filmmaking, the cult Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar is universally celebrated for his unmistakable creative imprint, distinct aesthetic and unique, ‘Almodóvariano’ point of view,” Prada said in a statement. “He is an embodiment of iconoclasm, across all disciplines.”

The campaign photos and film were done by the incredible Willy Vanderperre in Prada’s headquarter F/W 17 showspace.

“Each image is loaded with an implied narrative, its own backstory,” Prada continues. “The resulting visuals play out like stills from a film that has never been made.”

Take a look at the film and images below:

Kenzo Just Cast Our Dream Film: Macauley Culkin, Fred Armisen, Maya Rudolph, and Leslie Odom Jr.

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Photo: @Kenzo on Instagram

Huge cinematic news: Kenzo’s upcoming fashion film will star literally the most iconic assemblage of actors we can imagine off the top of our heads right now. Oh, and the film is written and directed by the fiery and fantastic Natasha Lyonne, so you know it’s going to be amazing and freaky. They announced the upcoming project through this Instagram post, which leads us to believe there will be a circus-y vaudeville vibe to the whole experience:

For starters, there’s Macauley Culkin, who we’ve been begging to enter the fashion sphere ever since he served us pom pom hat realness in Home Alone. Maybe he’ll play a washed up clown smoking cigarillos in a corner backstage.

Then, naturally, there’s Maya Rudolph, the Queen of All Things, who looks fabulous, by the way, in a furry jacket and neck bow. We’re imagining her to be the uproarious hostess of the show, who maybe is also a tap-dancing sensation?

Fred Armisen is here, too, and likely playing a mime of some kind, based on his makeup. Rounding out the cast are British comic Matt Lucas, Waris Ahluwalia, Greta Lee, James Ransone, and Leslie Odom Jr. And if Kenzo’s past films are any indication, this is going to be a new masterpiece.

I mean, anyone else still watch this every day before work?


Topman FW 17: Minimal, Boxy, and Sophisticated

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Photos: Topman F/W 17.

Topman’s new season is bold and elegant, representing a strong turn away from skinny jeans and into wide, unfitted silhouettes. The collection also features bold, black-and-white prints, interesting zipper details, and patchwork, slightly log cabin-y vibes in some of its jackets. There’s also a plethora of stripes and the incorporation of several chunky, colorful scarves. Quite the departure from it’s previous skinny suits and floral shirts.

Expect a lot of amorphous blob-like looks in upcoming street style galleries. Models for the Topman lookbook included Lennon Gallagher, the son of Liam Gallagher of Oasis.

Enjoy the collection in the following slides.

Raf Simons Wins CFDA Award for Menswear and Womenswear in the Same Year

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Photo: @CalvinKlein on Instagram

Last night was a big night for fashion: the 2017 CFDA Awards drew New York City’s most elegantly-dressed into one room, the Hammerstein Ballroom, to honor the minds that have shaped the year’s clothes. Raf Simons made history as the second designer ever, and the first since 1993, to take home Designer of the Year in both Menswear and Womenswear categories. Of course, it’s probably time to start thinking about taking binary gender out of fashion, but that’s an argument for another time.

Simons won the awards in his first year as Creative Director of Calvin Klein, and, fittingly, the previous person to win both was Klein himself, 23 years ago.

“I — we — came to America because America, and you, its people, are inspiring to me…are inspiring to us,” Simons said upon accepting the first of his awards, for Menswear. “If this means we can do something back, and we can inspire, then we are more than happy at Calvin Klein, and thankful at Calvin Klein. It feels like a big welcome.”

Simons has been in his post at the iconic brand for under a year, but already done much to rejuvenate the label’s image. He unveiled a new logo in February and had an incredible Americana-inspired runway show featuring his collections for both sexes on one catwalk. Some of our fave looks from that Ready-to-Wear line:

Look 33, Calvin Klein Fall 2017 Men’s + Women’s RTW. Watch the show at #CALVINKLEINFW17

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Look 54, Calvin Klein Fall 2017 Men’s + Women’s RTW. Watch the show at #CALVINKLEINFW17

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Take a look at the full list of winners below:

Menswear Designer of the Year:

WINNER: Raf Simons for Calvin Klein

Robert Geller

Thom Browne

Tim Coppens

Todd Snyder

Accessory Designer of the Year:

WINNER: Stuart Vevers for Coach

Irene Neuwirth

Rachel Mansur and Floriana Gavriel for Mansur Gavriel

Paul Andrew

Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen for The Row

Swarovski Award for Emerging Talent:

Laura Vassar and Kristopher Brock for Brock Collection

Gabriela Hearst

WINNER: Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia for Monse

Virgil Abloh for Off-White

Sander Lak for Sies Marjan

Womenswear Designer of the Year:

Joseph Altuzarra

WINNER: Raf Simons for Calvin Klein

Marc Jacobs

Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez for Proenza Schouler

Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen for The Row

Inaugural Swarovski Award for Positive Change

Kenneth Cole 

Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award

Rick Owens

International Award

Demna Gvasalia for Vetements and Balenciaga

The Founder’s Award

Pat McGrath

Board of Directors’ Tribute

Cecile Richards, Gloria Steinem and Janelle Monáe

Fashion Icon Award

Franca Sozzani, Italian Vogue editor-chief, posthumous

IMAGES FROM PARIS: Colette Party for the Launch of Sofia Sanchez’ New ‘CHUFY’ Collection

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Sofia Sanchez de Betak has been a busy girl. The jet-setting stylista has long been a style influencer – but last night in Paris she made it exceedingly official, launching her own fashion line CHUFY, in conjunction with her new Assouline book Travels With CHUFY.

On hand at to celebrate at Colette were the famous and the fabulous, including  Natalia Vodianova, Peter Lindbergh and Jean Baptiste Mondino.




HOPE Stockholm Co-Founder Ann Ringstrand Launches New Brand in NYC

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Last night in Soho, the co-founder of iconic Swedish brand HOPE Stockholm, Ann Ringstrand, launched her eponymous new collection to raves. The line features three exquisite blends of scents she developed with her Paris team and gemstone jewelry which marries 60s Scandinavian style with native mala beading.

From black tourmaline to white howlite to dark red jasper, each energetically charged piece was locally sourced and hand cut into uneven beads by artisans in Brazil. The fragrances and oils are meant to compliment the jewelry, with scents designed to linger on the gemstones and keep you connected to yourself while you navigate the rigors of the modern urban world.

“The story is that I have always created designs and concepts that reflect the time we live in,” she told us. “My path has travelled through the field of fashion towards this lifestyle concept that touches our senses. During my 25 years as a designer, I have constantly lived my life in the fast lane, focusing on the future. The now has never been on my agenda. Neither have goals been described as feelings.”

But with these new projects, she explained how she is attempting to slow things down, to be more reflective and inward-looking.

“I finally came to a point where I was missing the feeling of present life,” she revealed. “I started searching for tools to support my need to be in the moment. I discovered that a fantastic way to get in contact with myself was to include my senses. My new brand actually carries both native wisdom from the world of spirituality and a design for urban life that matches my aesthetic style.”

For the opening event, she collaborated with her former Lower East Side studio mate, sculptor Maria Moyer, to create one-of-a-kind sculptures and fragrance diffusers inspired by – and made specifically for – the new brand.  All were exhibited in the showroom of their third studio partner, lighting designer Lindsey Adelman. Together they created an atmosphere that eloquently exuded the ultimate essence of Ann Ringstrand.




Janelle Monáe Gives A Powerful Speech at the CFDA Awards

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Photo: @SaintAngeles on Instagram

The CFDA Awards last night saw political statements from a score of fashion’s biggest names. Founder’s Award winner Pat McGrath said “Fashion is an industry where the real insiders are all outsiders,” and in accepting the award for Swarovski Award for Positive Change, Kenneth Cole said, “Thank you for recognizing a socially conscious business model and platform that I believe is so important in this time in which we are living.” But the real speech MVP of the night? Miss Janelle Monáe.

Accepting the CFDA Board of Directors’ Tribute for her contributions to February’s Women’s March on DC, alongside feminist legend Gloria Steinem and Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, Monáe quickly steered the conversation out of stilettos and into solidarity.

“As human beings it is going to be our responsibility to take care of one another,” she began. “Women’s rights are human rights. LGBTQ rights are human rights. Poor folks’ rights are human rights. Immigrants’ rights are human rights. Minorities’ rights are human rights. So as human beings let us never forget that none of us are free until we are all free. I ask you tonight—the dreamers… the students up there, I see y’all! We’re here. We’re all here. And we’re artists.”

She continued, “I never wanted to be a politician because artists get to be honest. We get to tell it like it is through our work. And I ask you guys tonight to stand with me. Let’s continue to speak out against the sexism, the racism, the homophobia, the Islamophobia, and all those things that are constantly trying to divide us. In these moments of turmoil, I know we see it, and we’re tired of it—we must choose freedom instead of fear.”

Take a look at the speech, below:

Celebrities and Friends Offer Thoughts on the Death of Downtown Designer Benjamin Cho

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Photo: @RyanMcGinleyStudios on Instagram

Just as news breaks of the death of Spanish designer David Delfín, another fashion staple has been reported deceased: Benjamin Cho. The downtown DJ, designer, and artist had been known for his crafty, DIY looks and, more recently, his Morrissey/ Smiths nights at the club Sway.

The designer was known for bucking trends and refusing to go commercial with his ideas. In 2007, he told The New York Times that “New York fashion has really become synonymous with clothes that are like chic picnic dresses. I think people are sick of everything basic and safe.”

And in Vogue in 2000, just as his career began, Cho said, ““I’m not into retro, I’m not into ethnic. What I am interested in is being aggressively modern and progressive, and redefining what I feel is sexy and pretty.”

Details of Cho’s death are yet to surface, but his wide circle of famous friends, collaborators, and admirers have chimed in online to offer their condolences:

Chloë Sevigny shared a photo of a flower with lyrics from Morrissey’s “Late Night, Maudlin Street:”

Musician Cat Power shared this poem dedicated to the designer:

🌹 #benjamincho Crossing this sea The sun is only casting its ray on a certain spot A rumble underneath Could it be a whale Could it be fish boiling underneath Could it be your mermaids magically singing I saw this spot of light Coming right down from the sky Shining deep onto the sea Opening its lid A portal mirror of light’s reflection A balance opened. It had a sound A swarming beautiful sound I could see It was a flowing circular spiraling free feeling In between earthly things and all mystery Of love and purity. You are everywhere now 🌹 We are here Watching So much love I could cough the stuff up and keep on keeping on We love you Ben. There are loved ones who embrace you with peace and safety, love and light, as we here let you go 🌹 Until we are passed on to you and all things you now know🦋 Endless love. You are the sweetest person I have ever met. “To all my friends” swells so bittersweetly in my heart out through my eyes🙏

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Creative Director of Opening Ceremony and Kenzo Humberto Leon:

Photographer Ryan McGinley:

🖤 #BenCho 🖤

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Model Tess Brokaw (in one of Cho’s designs):

Cory Kennedy (in another):

🥀Rest in Peace Ben Cho #35mm #nyfw #2007 #bencho

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The DJ Junior Sanchez:

#RIP #BenCho 🙏

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Tara Subkoff: