A Play of Contrasts at Area and Dion Lee

Yesterday morning members of the fashion industry gathered all the way uptown in East Harlem at The Africa Center for Area’s autumn-winter 2020 runway show. Though it was a far trip from my apartment Brooklyn, it was a nice respite from some of the more typical NYFW locations downtown. The site was intentional, as the brand’s founders Beckett Fogg and Piotrek Panszczyk are embarking on an exciting new partnership with The Africa Center.

According to the show notes, the brand will be supporting the centre’s aim of transforming the cultural understanding of Africa through art, business, and policy while also supporting its mission to highlight the influence of people of African descent in the world. This season Area’s collection also includes a collaboration with design firm Crosby Studios on their new luxury lifestyle brand #MYREALITY — Area will then be donating proceeds from the partnership to The Africa Center.

It was nice to see the brand using their show as an opportunity to announce this new initiative while the clothes that came down the runway incorporated some African techniques while drawing inspiration from a variety of places including, “Japanese tropical postcards they found in France, the pleating and draping of Madame Grès, leather costumes by Eiko Ishioka for Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula, interior design by the New York-based duo My reality, and Romeo Gigli’s heart motifs,” according to Vogue.

The Area show had everything; there were chunky, gradient sweaters with rhinestone details, going out-style tops entirely made from crystals and coloured metal pieces, a hot pink plaid suit, a metallic tropical print halter dresses and suit, dresses made from straw, and wood printed coats. There were suit jackets that looked like corsets, a red moto-style bodysuit, a series of clothes (a peacoat, a shirt, trousers, and so on) that had holes in them lined with crystals, almost like a new camouflage. And of course, there were voluminous dresses with shapes that resembled hearts and mini skirts. My favourite element of the show? Rhinestone chairs with a strap that were worn as crossbody purses (there were some mini versions hanging from models’ ears). The show was full of glamour and construction techniques that wowed the crowd and kept me wanting more.

A day later, Dion Lee presented his autumn winter 2020 collection also at a cultural venue in a space called The Shed, which is a recently built art center located in the newly renovated Hudson Yards. Known for its experimental construction techniques, Lee takes a minimalist meets maximalist approach to fashion, an aesthetic that has been lauded by the industry.

This time, suits were updated with structured bodices, and cut outs with netting. Chains were added to flowy dresses, skirts, and turtlenecks. There were ribbed knits and cinched skirts along with sculptural corsets. Tie dye made a rare appearance (at least for Lee) with navy and white tie dyed pieces in addition to orange iterations. Burnt orange was the stand out color from the collection, which took the form of silky trousers, a suit dress updated with clasp details and a halter-like top, and long sleeved crop tops and with loose fit trousers, both with cut out details. The collection was a successful evolution of the designer’s affinity for ‘90s minimalism, showcasing pieces we’re sure to see on fashion fans and celebrities alike.

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