In Fashion, How Can You Rebel and Belong at the Same Time?

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A model from the Coach show; a model from the Creatures of the Wind show. Photo: Imaxtree, Getty Images

The bags Stuart Vevers designed for Coach this season were inscribed with things we’d all like to be: "Lucky" and "Happy." His show notes referenced “American originals,” “stars and stripes,” and “the charm of the familiar." But most interesting was the phrase “Defining one's identity, while belonging, being part of the gang." "Gang" was alluding, here, to an actual biker gang, based on the preponderance of Hell’s Angels leathers, accessorized with bad-girl bandannas and layered over filmy strips of black Swiss dot. Even the aforementioned stars and stripes got a B&W makeover that rendered them just a little bit goth — almost the negative image of last season’s pastel-heavy lineup. 

"Defining one’s identity, while belonging" is a tough trick to pull off in fashion, especially in the "It" accessories–driven world Vevers lives in. We all want to look like ourselves, even as we struggle to fit in. That quintessential American impulse to break off from the pack influenced two other labels yesterday — Creatures of the Wind, who channeled ‘70s music obsessives, and Ryan Roche, whose rustic, crafty knitwear evoked a long-past era.

“Psychedelic culture” was the stated theme of Creatures of the Wind’s show yesterday, and anyone unfamiliar with the brand's work might be forgiven for thinking ‘shrooms and paisley would be on the menu. Instead, the show began with sobriety: a mod little white shift, a plaid coat, buttoned turtlenecks — the stuff of a '60s schoolgirl. Then, in the way that teenagers do, things started to run wild. Ruffled sleeves were extended to ecclesiastical lengths, psychedelic prints turned up to the party, and everything ended in a storm of gilded flapper frocks, star-spangled stoles, and ruffled gingham.

See the full Coach fall 2015 collection here.

See the full Creatures of the Wind 2015 collection here.

See the full Ryan Roche fall 2015 collection here.

“It was mostly looking at music, as we always do,” said Shane Gabier, who designs the line with Chris Peters, backstage after the bacchanal. At first, they delved in the 1970s Deco revival, especially as seen on the music posters of that era. “But the idea was too singular, it was too much about one thing, so we started looking at other eras where that might have been an influence on some level.That’s where that really graphic blue and white and black '60s element came in in the beginning.” Basically, he said with a quick gesture, “it’s about mixing that psychedelic hard element with Deco-y swoops.”

The denim, gingham, and the broad-brimmed hats all felt like a Great Plains reference, but filtered, as always, through Creatures’ highly personal worldview. “We weren’t trying to think of broadscale Americana,” added Gabier. “It was more about our experiences with moments of culture — things we’d experienced ourselves, or watched ourselves, or listened to ourselves.” Soundtracked by Captain Beefheart and other oddball heroes of the era, the show felt like one of the personal communions you might have listening to a record all alone.

Idaho-born Roche drew on her rural upbringing for her latest collection of well-crafted knitwear and dresses, notably a ruffled beige frock that telegraphed simplicity, not dowdiness. One thought of hermetic groups like the Amish or the Shakers, who broke away from society not for reasons of rebellion, but for spiritual nourishment. Roche, who lives and works far from the madding NYFW crowd in upstate New York, said she arrived at that point by stripping away the unnecessary. “I have a tendency to kind of tip it over, and when I pull it back, I find that moment [where] it’s not too simple — it’s just that perfect moment in between that feels right.” Leaving her show and walking through the hushed courtyard of the High Line Hotel — a former theological seminary, and refuge for seekers of a different kind — felt much the same way.