This Week's Wow: The Next Generation of Fashion Stars Bend Gender Rules

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In this weekly feature, InStyle’s fashion news director Eric Wilson shares his favorite fashion moment of the week, and explains how it could shape styles to come. Look for it on What’s Right Now every Friday.

The Moment: Is there something funny in the water at Pratt Institute? Sixteen graduating seniors from the school’s fashion department presented their collections at a runway show on Thursday evening, and almost all of them were very strange, indeed, but in the best way imaginable. One student, Landry Low, presented a model wearing a short furry pullover with a half-eaten, brown-spotted banana sticking out of the pocket. Stephen Isban’s men’s wear collection was a study on exceptionally feminine pink lace and ruffles. There were lots of examples of shirts with comically long sleeves, from Kit Woo and Giovanna Flores, the latter of whom also showed a top with a large square of yellow foam affixed to the chest that resembled nothing more than an aging slice of cheese (all pictured above, from L-R).

Now and then, I like to check in on what fashion students have to say about fashion, namely because their work is often uninhibited, creative, and, likely for the only time in their careers, free of any concerns about commerciality. And they also offer a little glimpse of the future.

What was striking about these examples was that they reflected a more fluid thinking among this generation about gender, because theirs is the first to mature at a time of great societal changes in regards to race and sexuality. “Plurals,” as they have been called, are the most ethnically diverse generation to date. Growing up with gay parents and mixed-race families and mothers as breadwinners, it is perhaps more natural for them to set aside, or reconsider, the old notions of gender-based clothes.

Why It’s a Wow: Claire McKinney (whose work is pictured below), a student from Oregon who received a prize for her collection from the Liz Claiborne and Art Ortenberg Foundation, said she was thinking about the concept of workwear with cotton canvas and denim designs that were both conceptual (a pair of oversize jeans had been reduced to its bare outlines) and surprisingly wearable (a wide-leg pale denim jumpsuit looked very fresh). She said she wanted to combine men’s and women’s clothes “to create a medium space.” It’s a subject many of the students talked about throughout their coursework.

“Figuring out what makes sense between those two things is what’s current today,” McKinney said.

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