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Fashion Week Highlight: Survivalism With Rad Hourani

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A model walks the runway at the Rad By Rad Hourani Unisex Collection.
A model walks the runway at the Rad By Rad Hourani Unisex Collection.
Dario Cantatore/Getty Images

"This is kind of a celebration," designer Rad Hourani told Rolling Stone Tuesday night after presenting another dynamic collection. "Fall 2012. I've been doing this five years now, and it keeps getting better." He offers Howard Roark, protagonist of Ayn Rand's Fountainhead, as a compelling literary twin: "we both embraced the idea of Nothing and made it something."

It indeed is something of a victory for a designer who famously "came from nothing and nowhere" to come this far, especially one whose rejection of conventional sartorial mores risked alienating the gatekeepers of New York fashion. But Hourani has a cult of admirers, usually exquisitely androgynous, severe and dressed in black – the cornerstones of the designer's sinuous aesthetic.

But with Rad by Rad Hourani, the newer, slightly more accessible line he's presenting at Fashion Week, he's been branching out, experimenting with color and cutting-edge agency. An undeniable whiff of military influence resonates from the green and black unisex clothes, though Hourani's regiment of lookalike models always lend an air of imposing, impressive conformity to his shows; it's an extremely powerful way to convey an aesthetic. Yet the designer explained it was "the forest" that inspired the verdant-touched looks – more specifically, the tension between ancient and modern ideals. Indeed, a certain survivalist streak underscores Fall 2012. It's a fitting theme, given the designer's own hard-won viability in his industry.

"I took my two favorite shades of green and put them in the collection, and used it on key garments. It's so hard to find a perfect puffy jacket, let alone one in green," Hourani says. He's also explicitly conscientious about creating highly convertible looks. Who knows what situation you may find yourself in? "My collections are always about transformation and about how you can evolve within the clothes. Everything I show is reversible," he explains, noting the straps, suspenders and zippers prominent in the show all have utility in mind. "The backpacks can be a handbag. There are belts everywhere, so you have options." Thrillingly, these are clothes encrypted with secrets and hidden invention.

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