Monarch butterflies, during their 2,500-mile migration, rely on heat signals and the movement of air currents to reach their destination. A person on the way to a fashion show in an unfamiliar corner of Brooklyn calls up a similar set of tools: Google Maps and an Uber driver squinting and — if one particular passenger is prepared — a copy print a photo of the site’s entrance, hidden behind a dense multi-lane road and overpass. It’s 4:30 p.m. Friday, the first day of New York Fashion Week, and Collina Strada has summoned her lively crowd to the Navy Cemetery Landscape, off Flushing Avenue. Parables a lot. The site, formerly a graveyard adjacent to a 19th-century naval hospital, is now frequented by pollinators. A wide, wooden path winds through pleasant luxuriant foliage. Milkweed is the main attraction. The plant, known for its elongated, translucent shell, is the only thing the monarch caterpillars eat: the butter noodles on the butterfly children’s menu.
Behind the white curtain, a kaleidoscope of different flora and fauna is unfolding, at a softer pace than the usual backstage garden. A broccoli head, transformed into a small handbag with metal chains and metal trim, runs across a model’s wrist. Powwie, the gray Pomeranian of creative director Collina Strada Hillary Taylor, relaxing on a friend’s lap. Hari Nef, in an eco-certified acetate dress that reads “Got Milkweed?” (the collectname of), likening the runway to the boardwalk on Fire Island: “I was expecting a family of deer to come, but, no, just butterflies.” Ambient composition by Oyinda—A longtime friend and collaborator, also walking on today’s show — cast a balm-like spell, effectively muting the hum of neighboring cars. The hairstylist said: “Right now, with this music, I feel very relaxed. Evanie Fausto, responsible for the gorgeous, pastel braids that will be hitting the runway soon. “I feel like a cloud fairy coming down from the sky,” Aaron Rose Philip said in a button-down bra and skirt, “also a mermaid.”
That incredible sense of serenity, even as the fashion week machine spins into gears, brings home the sense that we’ve reached a threshold together: time and place and existential catastrophe. This wilderness compartment is one of such nominal spaces, a refuge that is oddly scaled against human spread. It’s the right site for a designer that brings a whimsical feel to the conversation around sustainability. This season’s knitwear, in partnership with Vitelli, reuses cotton-acrylic scraps. There are 3D printed jeans in Unspun denim, billed as zero waste for their one-of-a-kind fit, and Viron boots crafted from rubber and apple leather. The concept of fruit with potential wearable surfaces is elsewhere in the collection. A photo gallery — bananas, pears, oranges and apples, each carved by the artist Justin Hager and arrange into a smiley face — decoration tassel t-shirt; Orange fiber organza gives an excellent quality to the structured gown. “The look takes us from the bubbly caterpillar period to the butterfly’s all-blooming period,” the show’s notes explain, acknowledging “the fact that we’re all in the midst of a mysterious place.” It’s in our journey to do better by Mother Earth.”
Collina Strada, launched by Taymour in 2009, reached a new vision a decade later, when the up-and-coming label was named a finalist by the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Foundation. For last September’s Met Gala, the artist dressed in Taymour Kim Petras in an evening gown, incorporating the brand’s Sistine Tomato print (a combination of roses, putti, and late-summer fruit) with a 3D ponytail — an instant entry in the existing classic. (Gucci sponsored Collina Strada’s attendance; a few weeks later, the Italian powerhouse welcomed the brand into its online concept store, Gucci Vault.) Taymour’s work returns to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. this spring, this time on display in the Costume Institute’s exhibition, “In America: An Anthology of Fashion.” The Cardio bodysuit, from the fall 2019 collection, showcases her commitment to the material – here, sunny yellow daisy print lace. Not exactly active wear, it’s for those who care deeply about the planet while managing to hover overhead or frolic around, which is capricious news.
Such buoyancy is the mood behind the scenes, where the smallest model, Madeleine Mun, Dressed in a frock, wearing opera gloves, and jelly sandals, take part in a guessing game about your favorite Disney princesses. Ella Emhoff made friends quickly. “She really loves my little piñata,” said Emhoff, picking up her runway handbag. “And I am strangely good with children, despite my thoughts about having them.” Photographers Bella Newman, wearing petite lavender sandals made from sugarcane bioplastics (in partnership with Melissa Shoes) and a plain citrus dress, like this image by Collina Strada: “Even the fabrics, they just evoke childlike joy and comfort.” Through the clothes rack, I follow Rustee Engman, the caste’s resident model. “We’re a family – I can’t cry because I was, like all my things,” she said, gesturing to her makeup. her son, Charlie, is the runway show’s art director and longtime collaborator of the brand, as seen in his photos, hand-drawn prints, and last season’s. Collinas, a fashion video disguised as a reality TV spoof. In turn, Rustee is already a familiar face in the Collina Strada lineup, not to mention a presence throughout Charlie’s. portrait. “To end here, walking for this job, really means a lot to me,” says Rustee, her short hair brushed with gray-green clay. “The world is terrible, but we to be damned. We are making it a reality.”