As I mentioned many times, my clothes shopping has evolved toward more indie designers, with some more mainstream pieces mixed in. While I haven’t entirely nixed the fast fashion, it is a very small portion of my wardrobe, mostly confined to the silhouettes I want to try but am not yet ready to fully commit to at designer prices (such as Zara sarong trousers below, which I really like, but not enough to buy the Celine version).
(I’ll explain the jacket in a just a sec).
So today I wanted to talk about some indie designers, all three from New York City. I will also do a post on Ratt soon (the label created by Rita Attala, an amazing Greek-Lebanese designer), but today I wanted to focus on the closer to home — especially since I just had a chance to visit NYC, on the day when several indie brands had a sample sale at the Textile Arts Center in Manhattan. Fashion heaven, that what it was.
I was very pleased to see Degen well-represented there. The playful and interesting knitwear by the brand founder, Lindsay Degen, has been on my radar for a while — mostly because, as their lookbooks amply show, this is the closest I’ve seen a knitwear line come to embody the very nineties DIY, zine, Riot-Grrl esthetic. I did get a nice tank, in a fairly subdued white, red and gray pattern (look, I’m almost 43) for a fraction of retail price, so bonus! No pictures though.. yet. However, I found an image of my tank at Of A Kind:
The standout of the sale however was Titania Inglis — of whom I somehow haven’t heard until Friday. Titania herself was present at the sale, gracious and friendly, dressed in a gorgeous black dress that was all its own while being just a tad reminiscent of Rick Owen and Ann Demeulemeester. The edgy, almost punky geometric look of some of her other pieces was well-contrasted with softer tea-stained blouses and sharply cut pants and skirts. There was a jacket of Japanese selvage denim that caught my eye right away, and I needed little persuasion to snag that piece. (The jacket is featured in all the pictures, because I just love it.) Here’s a closeup:
Needless to say, I also appreciated Titania’s philosophy of using deadstock and ethically sourced fabrics, organic dyes, and local labor. Garments produced ethically are not cheap, but the reduction in environmental impact and the wardrobe size makes it worth it. I will certainly be looking at more of her pieces (maybe one of those tea-stained blouses).
Finally, The Cut has recently profiled Peggy Tan of Mandarin & General. This is a brand explicitly built on incorporating elements of traditional Chinese dress into modern western garments. Fashion industry as a whole LOVES the “exotic” and tends to be at worst appropriative and at best tone-deaf about incorporating “cultural” elements: tribal prints, Chinoiserie, “Navajo” beading etc etc — the list goes on forever. Apart from the troubling tendency to treat traditional dress of non-Western cultures as costume, somehow separate from “Fashion” (it needs to be filtered through the eyes of the recognized designer in order to be accepted into the fashion fold, a la Duro Olowu and Nigerian prints), it is still heartening to see the interpretation done by the cultural insiders. Tan (who is from Taiwan originally) is clearly familiar with traditional Chinese dress (looking at you, Dior) and its significance and manufacture, as well as has a keen eye for the understated and yet striking.
Take for example this skirt:
It is black, flowy silk, with long slits down the sides but the panels are held together at the knee, preventing the wearer from flashing the entire leg a la Angelina Jolie. I love it when something so simple and basic as a long black silk skirt is made interesting by minimal and clever detailing. And everything is made in New York, just like Titania Inglis pieces! Seeing that on a label just makes my heart sing.
So here you have it: three cool designers, all doing different things to bring the Garment District back to its former glory. I know for sure that I will be on the lookout for the new collections by all of them.