Six months ago, Area was all about playfulness. This season, that flippant joy has given way to something more aggressive, more punk. Yes, tonight’s show was glitzy and fab-you-loussss, but beneath that purple-to-pink fur and those rainbow crystal earrings are layers and layers of meaning. What does it say? Post show, codesigner Beckett Fogg summed up her and her partner Piotrek Panszczyk’s mission as, “It’s about these dualities: How can they live not in contrast but in harmony?” They riffed on contrasts of color, silhouette, era, genre, ethnicity, femininity—you name it, they had a take it on it.
The clash of it all made for a lively show, with guests wrestling over each other to photograph their favorite looks. It opened in mostly black and white, a basic palette for Fogg and Panszczyk to experiment with texture and treatment, like crystal-strewn cable knits that deconstruct into fringe trousers and a pied de poule–inspired houndstooth that morphed into an A monogram. A ’60s couture theme ran throughout, with several references to André Courrèges’s Spage Age shapes at his own brand and at Balenciaga. Then came the text, cut out of silver plastic as dangling belts and printed on scarves made of found phrases that evoke protest. Soon apocalypse. Power play. “We have quotes in the collection that are quite heavy, intense, almost like a protest song,” began Panszczyk, “but do we really mean anything with it? Maybe not.” He went on to riff that maybe the customer is actually a hippie-dippie activist, or maybe she’s just wearing that Photoshop-printed tie-dye, itself a mutation of ’60s couture polka dots, because she thinks it makes for a good selfie. Meaning can be found anywhere, but there is also an inescapable meaninglessness to our contemporary world.
There’s the rub. In attempting such a high-concept show, Fogg and Panszczyk became stuck, at places, in an echo chamber. Certain ideas felt so broad, like the trendy tie-dye, or so specific, like a one-off fluoro orange jumpsuit, that it was hard, as a viewer, to get one’s bearings, to make sense of it all. Maybe that’s the point. In its eclecticism and diversity, this collection felt like a big “F you” to the system, to the rules, to the right way of doing things. For a while in the recent past, Area listened to what other people wanted. This show was pure, unfiltered Fogg and Panszczyk, administered intravenously while Madonna sung “Shanti” over a sound system on a Wall Street promenade. It was so surprisingly, sophisticatedly weird, you just had to smile.