Monarch butterflies rely on thermal cues and changing air currents to reach their destination over the course of a 2,500-mile migration. A person en route to a fashion show in an unfamiliar corner of Brooklyn pulls up a similar set of tools: Google Maps and a cross-eyed Uber driver and — if a passenger is particularly prepared — a photo print of the venue’s entrance, the one behind hidden in one is a thicket of multi-lane roads and overpasses. It’s four thirty on Friday afternoon, the first day of New York Fashion Week, and Collina Strada has called his boisterous crowd to the Naval Cemetery Landscape near Flushing Avenue. Metaphors abound. The site, formerly a cemetery next to a 19th-century naval hospital, is now a meeting place for pollinators. A wide, wood-planked path meanders through pleasantly unruly foliage. Milkweed is the main attraction. The plant, known for its fluffy, elongated pods, is the only thing monarch caterpillars will eat: the buttered noodles from the butterfly children’s menu.
Behind a white curtain, another garden of kaleidoscopic flora and fauna unfolds at a gentler pace than the usual backstage grind. A head of broccoli, transformed into a tiny handbag with a metal chain and rhinestone fringes, passes on a model’s wrist. Powwie, the gray Pomeranian by Collina Strada Creative Director Hillary Taylor, relaxes on a friend’s lap. Hari Nef, in an eco-certified acetate slip that reads “Got Milkweed?” (title of the collection) compares the catwalk to the Fire Island boardwalk: “I almost expect a deer family to come, but no, just butterflies.” The atmospheric one The soundscape before the show, improvised by the band Low Noon and Canteen Killa, enchants like balm and effectively dampens the rumbling of the neighboring cars. “Right now I feel so relaxed when this music is on,” says the hairdresser Evanie Fausto, responsible for the fantastic, pastel-colored braids that will soon be making its way down the catwalk. “I feel like a cloud fairy from heaven” Aaron Rose Philip says in a chrysanthemum bra top and skirt, “and also a mermaid at the same time.”
That incongruous sense of serenity, even as the fashion week machinery kicks into gear, drives home the feeling that we’ve arrived together at a cusp: of time and place and an existential catastrophe. This wilderness is one such frontier, a scenic sanctuary that resists human-induced urban sprawl. It’s a fitting place for a designer who brings a trippy sense of whimsy to the conversation about sustainability. This season’s knitwear in collaboration with Vitelli repurposes cotton-acrylic waste. There are 3D printed jeans made with unspun denim, described as zero-waste for their unique fit, and Viron boots made from upcycled rubber and apple leather. The idea of fruit with wearable potential reappears elsewhere in the collection. A photographic assemblage – banana, pear, orange and apple, each carved by the artist Justin Hager and arranged into a smiley face – adorns a fringed T-shirt; Orange fiber organza brings a see-through quality to the structured dresses. “The looks take us from the funky caterpillar era to the full butterfly glow,” the show notes explain, acknowledging the “reality that we’re all at this mysterious sticky in-between point on our journey to make it better from Mommy Earth.”
Collina Strada, who launched Taymour in 2009, achieved a new level of visibility a decade later when the up-and-coming label was named a CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist. Taymour dressed as a musician for last September’s Met Gala Kim Petras in a dress with panniers, paired with the brand’s Sistine Tomato print (a mashup of roses, Putt, and Late Summer Fruits) with a 3D horse head bustier – an instant entry into the canon out there. (Gucci sponsored Collina Strada’s attendance; a few weeks later, the Italian powerhouse welcomed the brand to its online concept store, Gucci Vault.) Taymour’s work returned to the Metropolitan Museum of Art that spring, this time in the Costume Institute’s exhibition. “In America: An Anthology of Fashion.” The cardio bodysuit from the Fall 2019 collection showed her commitment to deadstock materials – here lace printed with a sunny yellow daisy motif. Not exactly activewear, it’s for the person who cares deeply about the planet while still managing to float or frolic over the sad news.
The mood behind the stage is so exuberant, where the smallest model, madeleine moon, Wearing a slip, fingerless opera gloves and rubber sandals, she takes part in a guessing game about her favorite Disney princesses. Ella Emhof made friends quickly. “She really loved my little piñata horse,” Emhoff says, holding up her runway purse. “And I’m weirdly good with kids, even though I’m thinking about having them.” Photographer Bella Newman, Wearing squishy lavender sandals made from bioplastics made from sugar cane (a collaboration with Melissa Shoes) and a citrus-colored slip dress borrows from the Collina Strada fantasy: “Even the fabrics, they just evoke joy and this childlike comfort.” Over by the clothes racks I spy Rustee Engman, the resident matriarch of the cast. “We’re family — I can’t cry because I’m pretty much into my stuff already,” she says, pointing at her makeup. Her son, Charlie, is Art Director for the runway show and a longtime collaborator with the brand, as evidenced by his photographs, hand-drawn prints and those of last season The Collinas, a fashion video disguised as a reality TV parody. Rustee, on the other hand, was a familiar face in the Collina Strada cast, not to mention his arresting presence in Charlie’s portraits. “Landing here and walking for this job just means so much to me,” says Rustee, her short hair caked with slime-green clay. “The world sucks, but we do are the shit. We make it possible.”
https://www.vanityfair.com/style/2022/09/collina-strada-spring-2023-backstage-report In Collina Strada’s Butterfly-Sprite World, the Medium Is the Message