NEW YORK CITY: A bawdy crowd of scantily-clad teens were protesting outside the Rag & Bone show on Friday evening. For the first time in a good while, the weather had turned icelandic, the way it should be in February in New York. For context, it has snowed just twice this Fall and a couple of weeks ago, temperatures sat at -3 degrees Celsius on a Tuesday and 18 on a Sunday. Like Australia, who are currently experiencing bushfires and flooding, the extreme weather patterns are surely a sign of climate change. One protester called out the fashion industry for not practising sustainability – and they honestly couldn’t have chosen a more eco-conscious show to protest at.
In the lead-up to the show, designer Marcus Wainwright had spoken about the world’s collective contribution to eco-side. “I want people to think about what’s going on in the world, quite honestly,” he said. “And maybe that’s got nothing to do with fashion. And maybe fashion’s an escape. But maybe it’s not. Maybe we’re all in this together. We need to think about what we as the human race are doing to the planet. I think that’s quite poignant for me.”
Poignant indeed. As I walked through the huge industrial space at 300 Vesey Street in Manhattan’s Financial District, beers and water were served, in metal kegs and cardboard cartons respectively. There was no plastic in sight at what felt like a space reserved for a Berlin-rave-come-Brooklyn-warehouse-party. The invite had already forewarned a departure from the traditional approach to a show “with a technical audio-visual experience”.
Models began walking down the runway – in sleek deconstructed trenches – in front of a huge, panoramic screen. Footage of city skylines (Manhattan, is that you?) beamed before us and felt as though the models were flying across the rooftops and monuments. All of sudden, however, the buildings appeared to uproot and collapse in on one another in what can only be described as a mix between 3D mapping and the tidal wave scene from the 1998 film Deep Impact. Was this what would happen to our planet if we didn’t look after it?
Season after season the brand fuses its English heritage with New York sensibilities by presenting deft updates to its classic workwear. There were teddy coats – including one in faux Mongolian shearling and another, a robe-style in a butternut squash. The aforementioned trench coats in military greens, creams and beiges were completed with double ties. And if you double-took it once, Candice Swanepoel – in a faux leather look – reinforced the two-timing tie a second time.
Non-traditional winter layering saw short knitted shifts styled over the top of long pleated skirts (give or take a Milla Jovovich Leeloo-inspired neon orange wig). Another look saw a grey woolly hoodie styled underneath an olive oversized shirt.
The barely-there slip dress came sheer and embellished with dark florals but it was the two longer, black cut-out versions which took my eye, both giving Dion Lee a run for his good pair of scissors.
Wainwright wasn’t reinventing the wheel. But he was making a clear statement. As the show concluded, the designer left us with one final thought as the following words were splayed across the large screen in green: “this plastic ON key will outlive us all. Is any of this even real?”
Someone tell the kids out the front they got it wrong.