R13’s Spring 2021 women’s runway show combines American counterculture aesthetics, most notably punk, to challenge traditional and restrictive notions of femininity. The digital presentation is also a raucously fun tour of the communal creativity behind a runway show.
Creative director Chris Leba’s designs fuse the styles of punk (and its little sister grunge), cowboys, and bikers. The silhouettes are relaxed and roomy, with expansive denim jackets, sweaters, and flannels tucked into roomy jeans, which tastefully sag to reveal edgy undergarments – perhaps a small nod to hip-hop culture. Accessories make reference to punk fashion icon Judy Blame’s signature found-object technique, which was also recently explored by Dior’s Kim Jones, albeit in a very different context. These wider cuts and cultural codes which appear in ostensibly male-oriented social scenes, as well as the very distressed appearance of almost every garment, suggest a sense of aggression and power we might not typically associate with womenswear, or femininity. Even the power suit feminism suggested by the collection’s occasional shoulder pads seems eclipsed by the rest of its raw, leathery aggression.
But Leba disrupts this sense of aggressive masculinity through smart use of color and pattern. Alongside the check, olive drab, and leopard which have storied roles in the rock-n-roll canon, he introduces floral prints and soft pinks and lavenders. These softer elements combine with the roomy rawness of the garments’ construction to suggest a femininity which is characterized by an aggressive freedom of self-expression.
The show’s location is R13’s first and only retail store in Manhattan, where industrial lighting and red brick walls combine with futuristic LED-screen monoliths. Models stride purposefully down the long corridors of this space, which perfectly harmonizes with the film’s VHS-core style of production.
Interspersed with these runway shots is backstage footage of Leba and his models preparing for the show, which lends a sense of communal creativity and DIY philosophy – one of the principles at the heart of punk. A song by legendary psych-punk rockers Thee Oh Sees provides the perfect aggressively mind-melting music that the destructively kaleidoscopic experience needs.
The social, economic and political upheavals that have led us here have left their marks. The resulting changes have allowed us the space as a brand to self-reflect. It is from this place of newfound clarity that R13 strips itself bare and reclaims its roots with unwavering authenticity. Our SS21 collection is an expression of our profound new reality.
Leba and his creative team have accomplished a wonderful feat of listening: in deftly incorporating cultural codes of the past, and recognizing the urgent need of self-reflection in the present, they have created a beautiful expression of free femininity, an image of a woman ready to step boldly into an uncertain future.
R13 Creative Director | Chris Leba Photographer | Tiago Chediak Videography | Scott Brasher & Adrian Hurtado Hair | Rebekah Calo Makeup | Jamal Scott Production & Casting | R13 In-House