Dash of Punk Opens Men’s Fashion Week in New York

Punk has always been good for fashion. Ever since the long-ago days of the Sex Pistols and SEX, the London boutique where Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood formalized a style to go with the music, punk has been a trusty ploy for designers looking to strike a subversive posture while also providing a fairly impressive soundtrack for anyone who gave a damn that the movement was about something more than a look.

So there was something bracing, if not altogether surprising, about the latest iteration of New York Fashion Week: Men’s opening with a posse of unaffiliated designers who took punk as their inspiration.

For the Krammer & Stoudt designer Michael Rubin, it was gutter punks, the tattooed transients sometimes called “crustys” and whose anarchic, live-rough ways were memorably chronicled by the photographer Mike Brodie in books like “Tones of Dirt and Bone,” and “A Period of Juvenile Prosperity.”

Dissect the collection — shown during New York Men’s Day, a showcase for new brands at its new financial district location in the cavernous Dune Studios — and what you got was a confident and commercial array from this fledgling label of roomy patch-pocket chore coats; snap-front Western shirts; vaguely pervy-looking belted trenches; cargo denims cropped to the length of capri pants; and carpenter’s dungarees with an intentionally Goodwill fit.

That was the commercial message. The conceptual one was accretive: layers piled on or slung over each other, shirts used to cinch overcoats, bandannas knotted on everything, including the tidily rolled up blankets that the models carried and that were a long way from the average dirt-encrusted “crustys” sleeping bag.

For the designer Kozaburo Akasaka, it was punk deconstruction that fueled a skilled first collection he created as an extension of his senior thesis project at Parsons and titled “Brutal Sensitivity.”

The shredded and barely sutured aspects of the collection (one jeans jacket looked as though the arm had been torn from the wearer’s shoulder in some unfortunate accident) was assured, though perhaps familiar. As with so many other forms of appropriation, Rei Kawakubo got there first.

More fascinating, and infinitely weirder, were the exaggerated proportions Mr. Akasaka devised for jeans so tight that one model was told he had gotten too fat to wear them after eating a slice of pizza for lunch; whose waists crested just shy of the models’ nipples; and whose flared bottoms, created using 3-D imaging technology, seemed to have a life of their own. Oh, and there were Johnny Thunders boots with monster platform soles.

Pausing briefly amid the backstage tumult before the doors opened on New York Men’s Day at 9:30 on Monday morning, the designer Tommy Nowels, 23, said that he and his business partner, Luke Tadashi, had found something kind of punk in the attitude adopted by pro-basketball players after Commissioner David Stern made the N.B.A. the first major sports league to observe a dress code back in 2005.

Doomed to sports coats with dress shoes on the bench, deprived of the freedom to express themselves with saggers and bling, players like Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony found stealthy ways to exercise their considerable style. Anyway, that was the premise behind a collection Mr. Nowels and Mr. Tadashi created for Bristol, a label based in Los Angeles and named for a street in Santa Monica where the two designers were raised.

Practically speaking, little they showed would have passed league muster — not the boiler suits, the plaid trousers hemmed at high water length, the handsome shiny track suits and trousers or the collarless short-sleeved prison suit in a color reminiscent of the now-defunct pantyhose hue called nude. But never mind. Too smart to take itself seriously, the Bristol collection — shown on models of diverse ethnicity and gender identification — had an impious, offhand quality about it that someone like Malcolm McLaren might have approved.

 

An article by Guy Trebay for The New York Times

Phot Credit: Ben Sklar for The New York Times