Last year’s launch of New York Fashion Week: Men’s succeeded in many ways, but one was a resounding breath of fresh air. The week dedicated to men’s fashion allowed for many to step away from mainstay brands and focus more attention on emerging designers. Its second iteration—which took place last week—offered this once again, with an entire stage dedicated to eight of Council of Fashion Designers of America‘s (CFDA) emerging designers. Also for the second time, men’s lifestyle brand AXE was the official grooming sponsor and provided all hair styling for the emerging design stage. We partnered with AXE who took us behind the scenes of it all, where we witnessed the creation of each presentation as it unfolded.
One man witnessed the full extent of all eight designers and their vision. John Ruidant, the lead stylist for the emerging designers, quite literally had an impact on every presentation. This is Ruidant’s second season working with AXE and the emerging talent, who sent him mood boards and proposed ideas in advance. Together, they envisioned the hair for each show. “We used salt sprays, creams and pastes, all of which are from AXE,” he tells us. “We’ve gone from really wild braids that shot off the head to super-natural, where we gave the illusion that everything was untouched, perfectly.” Understandably, the breadth and depth of the hairstyling reflected the breadth and depth of the presentations. Of the exemplary crop, we went in-depth with three designers who we found especially engaging and material-driven.
Devon Halfnight LeFlufy
With punk aesthetics and DIY accessories, Devon Halfnight LeFlufy‘s presentation saw iPhone cables turned into belts and thick metal wire mesh tops. Conceptually, Antwerp, Belgium-based LeFlufy delivered high-energy, likable eccentricity. As the designer shares with CH, “For this collection, it was a desire to simplify my visual vocabulary.” Most notable was his use of yellow, which felt both unusual and powerful. “It references Jaques Derrida, and the thought that ‘Justice is deconstruction.’ Yellow is a dangerous color,” he continues. “It’s a difficult color to work with and I like that challenge.” The use of technology also manifests in many of his collections, but he says, “I wanted to appropriate a single symbol, trying to make it as simple as possible, and that’s where the cable came from.” Unsurprisingly, one of the show’s models used his belt to charge his own phone backstage.
The tone backstage for LA-based Second/Layer was rather playful. This is the case for two reasons. First, the show’s models are in fact non-model friends of the founders. Second, the collection is low-key, chill and wearability matters most. As co-designer Joshua Willis shared with us, “This is about what we want to wear and how we are feeling. Essentially, we design clothes for ourselves.” His partner, Anthony Franco, adds, “These are elevated essentials, and they’re something that should be easy to slip into.” It’s all in the name really: these clothes are supposed to feel like a second layer of skin. And with the use of brushed virgin wools, wool gabardine and oiled baby calf leather, the graphically-driven collection certainly felt good to touch.
One of the pillars behind menswear brand EFM happens to be modern movement—in fact, the name alone stands for engineered for motion. As an extension of that, the collection we viewed backstage and during the presentation “is about the evolution of the urban man,” founder Donrad Duncan says. “It’s about today’s lifestyle. It’s the culmination of thinking through that process and evolution. It’s about equipping people for a full day.” And while all the pieces were creative takes on staple items designed to be worn all day, the fabrics set it all apart. As Duncan—who designs his own fabrics—continues, “We work with various global mills and have our own manufacturing center that does weaving and fabrics. We approach it from a very technical lens in order to create a product that’s in support of the user.” Altogether, it’s a great balance of fashion and function, from the textile-forward brand.
Second image courtesy of Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for AXE, all others by Cool Hunting