NYFW Day 1: Bella Hadid Walks Proenza, Elena Velez Start

Remember last fashion month, everyone could ask, “Where’s Bella Hadid?” In fact, her absence from the track was so obvious that theories began circulating as to why she jumped (mainly the alleged anti-vax guy).

It will therefore please many of the model’s fans to know that she made her return to Fashion Week last night at the Proenza Schouler show, likely the first of many this month. (His last runway outing was for the Jacquemus show last summer.)

Either way, there was already buzz surrounding the Proenza show with or without Bella’s appearance. The brand’s designers, Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, graduated from Parsons 20 years ago (19 years in business, having officially launched their company in 2003) and were fresh out of a prominent role in the fashion company which chronicles their many ups and downs.

Proenza Schouler Fall 2022 (Courtesy of Proenza Schouler)

They were also one of two brands to hold two slots on the NYFW schedule this season (the other being Peter Do), and you could see why because the square venue – inside the Brant Foundation in the Lower East Side – was tiny! The intimate vibe was appropriate though; no props or gimmicks, just an Earthheater violin quintet for the soundtrack.

Garments were largely defined by exaggerated bias cuts and twists that hug and sculpt the body. The waists were cinched while the hips and skirts were full. Some looks had an almost monastic quality, something the Row and Loewe teams often experiment with. In a nutshell, it was an exercise in “control and release,” as the show’s notes put it, but one that could also be used to describe their journey two decades later.

The mood was almost 180 at Christian Cowan’s show afterwards, held at the very top of the One World Trade building in what was billed as the highest fashion show ever held during NYFW. With sweeping views of the city landscape, it was an ideal location for the designer who is often associated with dressing the partygoers and glamorous downtown crowd.

Christian Cowan Fall 2022 (Photos via Getty)

After nearly an hour of starting, his models came out at an electrifying cadence with old-school track turns and over-the-top gestures. Sparkly ’80s jumpsuits, feathered mini dresses and candy-colored separates dominated. There were also more “adult” prom dresses than we’re used to seeing. Dorinda Medley, seated in the front row, was eating.

Less glamorous were the constant wobbles and drops that models took in their impossible-to-walk shoes. Many simply had enough and threw them, and at one point the track was a graveyard of thrown heels.

The evening was closed by Elena Velez, the Milwaukee designer who showed up at a presentation last season but made her runway debut on the official NYFW program this time around. Her “aggressively delicate” and deconstructed garments, most of which use artisanal techniques from the American Midwest, caught the eye of fashion critic Cathy Horyn last year who hailed her work as “bold”, “new” and “scalable”.

Elena Velez Fall 2022 (Photos via Getty)

Once again, she worked with collaborators from her hometown on certain textiles, surface treatments and raw materials. A few models from Milwaukee were flown in and her family also came out for the big reveal. The only child of a single mother who worked as a ship’s captain on a Great Lake, she had formative ideas about beauty and femininity in her youth, and this tension is still something she explores in her work today. .

“This collection is a bit more of a conceptual storytelling about our woman and her relationship to femininity, motherhood, and obligation,” she told me before the show. Her cast reflected this concept: there was the “American Gothic” woman, the “Belle Epoque prostitute” and the “certified forklift girl” who is more equestrian and industrial. But tying them all together is that feminine tension, which came to a head when the final model stepped out with a baby in one arm — a no-doubt callback to Velez’s own journey.

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