New York Fashion Week has barely begun and Kanye West's Yeezy Season 4 show has eaten up all the headlines—including on ELLE.com. And almost none of them—on ELLE.com or elsewhere—have anything to do with the clothes. Instead it's about Kim, Kendall, and Kylie in the front row; how editors were shipped there by the busload and the ordeal took over four hours from start to finish; how that one model couldn't walk in her broken heels; and, most distressingly, that the models, forced to stand in the sun for far too long without water, suffered: one fainted, at one point 17 were sitting.
When it's stunts and antics like these that create the most buzz, it's easy to think that there's less and less space for just presenting good fashion for real people. But before Yeezy, that's how the first day of fashion week started.
Yesterday, Rachel Comey celebrated 15 years in the business with an intimate and emotional show that paid homage to her first one, presented on a New York City street featuring her friends as models. And so it was with this show: the models—a mix of "agency girls" (a.k.a women who make a living modeling) and Comey's extended network of friends and shop girls—walked down the sidewalk in front of the Crosby Hotel in Soho. Comey didn't want any blockades, so passersby strolling down Crosby Street inadvertently wandered into the show. No gimmicks. No artifice. Just fashion.
"I don't feel like I'm even in the same business as Kanye West," Comey tells me the next day when we speak by phone. "Fashion week is occupied with so much spectacle—and I can appreciate a spectacle—but in terms of what's right for us, I know that there are a lot of great and fascinating customers who are capable of appreciating a show like ours. It's respect for the audience that I try to spend some time on."
Bill Cunningham, one of the greatest documentarians of fashion who died earlier this year, famously said, "The best fashion show is definitely on the street. Always has been, and always will be." Comey knows this. Her spring/summer 2017 collection, which, for the first time in over ten years, included menswear, built upon core Comey staples: variations of the wide-leg, frayed-hem Legion jeans that every fast fashion brand has copied; structural jumpsuits; light trenches; shimmery cocktail dresses. "One of the things I've learned over the years is that our customer is capable of seeing different silhouettes in the same season," Comey says. " I don't have to deliver one perfect packaged idea because that seems marketable that people understand quickly and then you grow your business fast because you become known for the blah di blah....We want to believe in what we're doing and grow as designers by focusing on the things that are interesting to us—which ultimately gets translated to the customer.”
Presented on these "real people" models (who ranged in age, gender, size, and color) simply walking down the street, the clothes became approachable and desirable at the same time. To drive that point home, Comey asked her models where they would wear their outfits. Their answers, which Comey listed on her show program, were wonderfully mundane—"to pick up the kids," "coffee with ex," "jury duty," "to the airport," "some errands." The point is, if you saw one of these Comey-clad creatures running errands or at the airport or having an awkward coffee, you'd stare a little too long and think: that person looks so cool; I want that.
I mean, look at Parker Posey and her dog taking it all in: they want it. They get it. They are it.
I went into fashion week with a bit (ok, a lot) of dread about all the spectacle and social media that now just seems part and parcel of the industry. (And don't get me wrong, like Comey, I also enjoy a good spectacle—Yeezy Season 3 at MSG was pure-IRL-Internet magic.) But Comey's show reminded me that fashion for fashion's sake is enough when it's good and genuine. (It may have also helped that I skipped the five-hour Yeezy Season 4 hellscape. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ )
This story was first published on ELLE.com.