NYFW 2023’s Biggest Music and Culture Moments
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It’s undeniable that fashion is taking its current lead from music, and NYFW 2023 found itself at the center of this catalytic phenomenon. Apart from the celebrity level talent that’s been in attendance for over a decade now, Ice Spice, Lil Nas X, and Orville Peck were among some of the front row inhabitants this season, and the obscured style codes and experiences that have defined certain bands for years are now in full view.
Take Dion Lee’s 2023 collection, where the designer uses the vivid intimacy found in rave subculture to create a line that feels almost rhapsodic. The crowd was tightly packed, with music booming from the ether, accompanied by a light show that overwhelmed the senses leaving nothing but a mixed perception of shapes. Is this a fashion show or are we at a party? Or ADEAM hosting a guitar solo by MIYAVI that shook paint off the wall mid-show, followed by a collection that amplified everything we love about Billie Joe Armstrong. In either example, it’s an emotional response unlike any other.
In this recap you will not find cheap thrills. This is a first-hand recount about music and culture — just with a little style mixed in.
The 718 Princess Shuts It Down at MEFeater
Where: Downtown Brooklyn
After an array of looks trek down the runway at MEFeater’s second annual Galentines show, the first few light lyrics to Lola Brooke’s single “Don’t Play With It” sound over the speakers before the Brooklyn rap princess jumps from behind the stage and onto the runway. She gets the first few words out, “Don’t play with it, don’t play with it,” before the crowd, who knows the lyrics by heart, join her to the song’s completion. Phones quickly emerge in the hands of showgoers (more than the average show, I might add) as they cascade the runway capturing every moment of Brooke’s performance. Before the night ends, the cofounder of MEFeater, Gabrielle Williams, takes a bow and thanks the crowd before announcing there is an afterparty at The Bowery. Artists like Maiya The Don, Cleotrapa, and Kidd Kenn all show up and perform — a brilliant meeting of fashion and music’s blooming culture in the heart of Brooklyn.
Mouth Full of Golds With Eddie Plein and Lyle Lindgren
Where: Dover Street Market
“There is nothing cooler than a mouth full of gold,” someone yells from the crowd, though there is so much buzz and music only ears within an arm’s reach can hear. Cheekily, Mouth Full of Golds is the name of Lyle Lindgren’s second book which documents the evolution of grillz, and is currently debuting in one of New York’s fashion and culture hubs, Dover Street Market. With Eddie Plein in attendance as the purveyor for grillz, which have become definitive amongst their growing cult following, crowds of fashion-forward youth and heroic-style figures circle Plein as if in worship. In some regards, he is viewed as a style god, and these are his disciples.
“Eddie created this integral part of New York,” Lindgren blushes in tribute as we escape the growing crowd. “He weaved [grillz] into the fabric of hip-hop and music. That was his gift to the world.” From Eddie’s work sprouted the next collective of grill makers and collectors, and in this single moment on the corner of 30th and Lexington, it’s clear how important his work means to the culture.
MIYAVI and the Punk Revival
Tucked away in Chelsea’s westside terrain, absent of life besides a barrage of photographers waiting for the perfect look and showgoers poised for their moment, is the collection from ADEAM. “It started with the music,” creative director Hanako Maeda tells me from the war room three floors above. She throws out a decoction of references from Blink-182 to Green Day —“bands from my youth” she notes. The metaphorical concert showcased leather harnesses, tartan, ripped sweaters, and fashion’s favorite shoe, the Dr. Martens. “I was thinking about punk as a culture, its resurgence in fashion history, and wanted to use a lot of the references from that.”
But the main attraction, delicious in its abundant cool factor, was a guitar solo by MIYAVI. From the dark, he appears from behind a curtain, draped in the collection, hair up on end, and playing echoes of chords that vibrate the room one after the other. He stands center before going into complete overload as beams of light dance across his silhouette to the rhythm of his genius. “I never imagined playing the guitar on the runway,” he regales to me after the performance, “but I felt like there was some sort of spark or chemistry here, so I agreed.”
Mykki Blanco Gets Personal at the Acne After Party
Where: The Bard Room, Hotel Chelsea
Steeped in history, whose past residents include titans like Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, Jimi Hendrix, Sid Vicious, and the Grateful Dead, the Chelsea Hotel walls still vibrate with an intoxication that can only be described as euphoric. The ambient light turns everything into an intimate affair while Ice Spice’s hit “Munch” echos in the background and drinks slosh in the hands of fashion week groupies (myself included).
After an energizing performance from Mykki Blanco, where they took over a small mirrored stage that overlooked the tightly-packed crowd to perform “Carry On,” Blanco’s sweat probably still damp on the clothes of the front row, we sit in the Lobby Bar to discuss what just happened. “I want people to understand this isn’t just about fashion,” Blanco notes intently. “We are here honoring the legacy of someone.” The Acne Studio party was, in fact, a dedication to the work of Larry Stanton, a portrait painter who unfortunately passed in the Eighties from AIDS. It’s evident through the long pauses between my questions and Blanco’s responses that this performance hits deep. “At some point, you have to ask ‘Who am I doing this for?’” Indeed, who are we doing this all for?
The Witching Hour With Glasser
Where: Saint Mark’s Church
St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery lends itself perfectly to the aesthetic of Zoe Gustavia Anna Whalen. The worn architecture from centuries of weathering reflects the sculptural and deconstructed looks that have defined the brand since its beginning. And layered in the mix of this modern occult style are the haunting sounds of Boston-born singer Glasser. As the models take their last stroll, collectively gathering around a tarp engulfed in a dirt spiral, something magical fills the space. Perhaps it’s Glasser’s melodic vocals as they echo in the expansive hallowed entry of the church, or perhaps true witchcraft is a play.
Dion Lee Sheds His Skin
On display to the outside world as glass windows stretch along the face of the imposed showroom, fashion fiends gather to catch early glimpses of the show. The models, half-dressed in their looks, take a final lap through the space as guests slowly gather inside to gossip and snicker. Then a mirage of light flickers and refracts off the industrial runway, before waves of techno bombard the crowd of A-Listers who sit front row, Ice Spice, Julia Fox, and Richie Shazam being the toast of the evening. Then, the show begins.
As his work tromps down the concrete, there is a clear connection to rave culture and style, denim pants ripped down the front and almost translucent sleeveless compression tops, allowing the skin to breathe underneath. “I love live music, techno, dancing, and find it a meditative way to disconnect from the high-frequency lifestyle I lead,” creative director Dion Lee notes to me after the show. To this point, the collective intimacy and belonging music can bring felt everpresent. As Lee puts it, “because of the evolving landscape of technology and of Covid, time connecting with other people feels like one of the greatest luxuries.”
Converse Unvails the Next Brand To Watch, Human Nature Worldwide
Where: Converse Flagship Store
It’s late in the evening as crowds start to form in front of the Converse flagship on Manhattan’s busy Broadway street. Security line the front door as one announces “we are at capacity and not letting anyone else in.” This is clearly the place to be tonight.
On the main floor, drinks are shared, and laughter is abundant. But as word spreads that Malachai Spivey, founder of Human Nature Worldwide and Converse’s guest designer, is showcasing his collection in the basement to select guests, it’s a bum rush to gain access for exclusivity and status. “This is all still so surreal to me!” Spivey later reflects. “From this being my first showing ever to having the opportunity to work with such an iconic brand and with a lot of my close friends. It’s all been a blessing.” Below the main floor, the models stand with attitude and distinction, their makeup clearly reflective of looks pulled off by Julia Fox and their clothes a blend of cowboy and rockstar flair. The shoes? The latest Converse, of course.
Hyoyeon Kim Turns Concept Korea On Its Head
Where: Magic Room at The Ned
At the close of Concept Korea, a South Korean-run fashion program that supports emerging designers from the country, it’s announced that Hyoyeon Kim, one of K-pop’s earliest architects and members of Girls’ Generation, will be hosting a private DJ set at The Ned later that night. Though Kim’s personal IG account has documented her years DJing to 6.4M followers, it still comes as a surprise to some spectators that she ebbs and flows between techno and house when not releasing singles. “How media portrayed me as a K-pop star, people didn’t expect me to also play techno and house music as a DJ,” she admits during our brief conversation in a private room to the left of the venue space. “But I’ve had this soul from the beginning. I’m just being myself.”
No Better Place Than With The Blonds
Where: Spring Studios
As I sit front row, a quick glance at the attendees before the show reveals this is not your traditional cast of fashion fiends. To my left, regulars, like the famed Mugler model and New York socialite Dianne Brill, sit attentive and ready. To my right, last-minute show-goers cram in, sitting folded on the floor and wide-eyed like kids. Across from me, in what can only be described as pure splendor, is former WWE wrestler CJ Perry, teetering on the edge of her seat with phone in both hands. She was clearly ready and not missing a moment of this.
As the show begins, rows of models slink down the runway embued with 60s elegance and glamour. Then, the crowd erupts as Dominque Jackson, famed for her role in the Hulu hit series Pose, arrives to close the show. “Dominique is the most powerful when it comes to presence,” David Blond says surely in our post-show recap. “When we thought of diamonds, we thought of Dominique. Indestructible.” Draped in white faux fur, her hair touching the sky and torso encrusted with a giant mirrored crystal, she takes her time to pose and exude her brilliance in front of an enamored crowd. “It felt amazing to be seen,” she tells me without apprehension. “When they told me I’d be closing the show I wanted to cry. It feels amazing to be trusted with that. As a Black trans woman and immigrant, all the things I’ve faced in life, I still stand here indestructible and unapologetically me.”