Two female designers, Chitose Abe and Emily Adams Bode display very different perspectives but equal strong points of view on men’s dressing
“Love is the Message’ the classic 70s house music song by the Philadelphia-based music troupe MFSB (Mother, Father, Sister, Brother) not only rocked Chitose Abe’s men’s and women’s pre-fall collection runway for Sacai, it really was the message.
In fact, the designer and her brand elicit a cult-like passionate devotion to her particular brand of hybrid clothing born from a Japanese perspective. No one has come up with more fascinating ways to reinvent a military bomber jacket, trench and other wardrobe staples, especially when it comes to outerwear. Most in the business agree, she owns the hybrid clothing genre.
While the military is always a theme for Abe, this time it actually seemed more so with an army of girls in caps marching out in reworked uniforms popular with the enlisted type. The barracks’ attitude was felt on the raw set made from cinder blocks and wood palettes bound together by colorful construction safety straps. Initially, the message sounded more ominous even though it was actually Albert Einstein relaying a positive message he was sending to Gandhi in support. “Try not to use violence; don’t participate in anything you believe is evil,” as if the audience was given their marching orders to do good. The heavy dance music soundtrack handpicked by Abe and runway music maestro Michel Gaubert placed against the raw set and military vibes also gave it a post-Wall East German club feel when positivity (hello Love Parade!) prevailed in the former military zone.
The military looks which were spliced with boiled wool plaids, leopard prints and denim entered the combo-trench world in a fresh way for Sacai. This tough love gave way to softer hues on both men and women like mauve and baby blue and came in compass themes on bandana scarf prints imagined by regular collaborator Dr. Woo of tattoo fame continuing the globe prints of last season. Signature chunky knits and collegiate sweaters; sweeping a-line puffers with recycled material stuffing; teddy bear hoodies but cool and a reworked men’s tux-cum-gown rounded out the pieces. All somewhat familiar but equally covetable.
Backstage the designer spoke to journalists (through a translator) who were equally jazzed after the show and music that ended with Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” and had Abe feeling it too. She gave credit to the journalists whom she calls “family” who have followed her career so closely. She also explained the one-off Albert Einstein t-shirt on a men’s look, signature to her knack for random Western pop culture imagery. She was reminded of his advice when approaching the collection paraphrasing the genius, “Following your instincts is the best way to create new designs.”
Emily Bode of Bode was drawn to the upbringing and education of Benjamin Bloomstein of Green River Project LLC for her Fall 2020 collection for men. Popular with the fashion set, this minimalist eco-friendly furniture company has created quite a buzz in their East Village gallery.
Perhaps even more fascinating is the organic nature of Bloomstein’s, 31, life in upstate New York that when read on the show notes almost sounds like it was someone from another century. He lived in an old Shaker Village and went to the Mountain Road School. As a young boy, he removed pant hems; elastic waistbands, labels and even removing his boot collars in the name of comfort. He also was schooled in biodynamic farming, wrote poetry, fished by hand and spent time in Switzerland at 16 to watch cows descend the mountains.
It was these elements that guided Bode this season. The inspiration felt very personal and in reading show notes realizing that indeed Bloomstein is of this century, a Google search also explains that he is also the business partner of her fiancé Aaron Aulja.
The set was naturally (wink, wink) created by Green River Project and featured beaver-smoothed wood columns, beautiful dried aka dead hydrangeas set on a wooden slat runway with a painted green backdrop. Set within a courtyard of a random building in the 16eme with curious neighbors grabbing a peek at the scene from their windows, show producers thanked the good fortune of the sunny skies above.
A collegiate/schoolboy theme ran throughout naturally being inspired by “BB” as his initials appeared here and there in the collection. Suits and overcoats bore messaging a la Green River Project LLC cushions and or sourced vintage OOAK equestrian championship blankets from various years in the 70s. Patchwork appeared – signature in the collection on sweaters and pants; a Boy Scout patches bedecked a red corduroy suit. A retro bowling shirt was embroidered. A green suit was covered in gold circular medallions. A crochet “housecoat” was made from 100 individually crocheted fleurettes. A black tailcoat was inspired by a grandfather. The models wore new Moroccan-slipper-like shoes, a first for the label.
Upcycling and sustainability are a part of the ethos of the brand, though how that works in a production sense still has civilians wondering. Those OOAK pieces probably explain key retailers making a bolt for the backstage post-show to secure one for their stores. However she does it, Emily Bode sure makes old look new and charming.