With Kenneth Nicholson, Chromat, and Wiederhoeft, New York Fashion Week’s Movies Get Real—and Unreal

Tim Teeman, Alaina Demopoulos
·5-min read
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Courtesy of Wiederhoeft
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Courtesy of Wiederhoeft

Kenneth Nicholson

Freed from the New York Fashion Week runway, designers like Kenneth Nicholson are reveling instead in forms like filmmaking. Grasp, an excellent short film he co-directed with Stefan Colson, introduces us to David (Dorion Wordlaw), who wakes up in his Los Angeles apartment after dreaming of himself as a small boy at church. That little Black boy spies a young white girl in a lemon-colored dress opposite him, and then imagines himself in the same pretty dress.

As an adult, he takes a walk in sun-dappled streets, and then takes tea—and we see him encounter a range of people wearing Nicholson’s beautiful clothes, which are as free in their use of color and structure as they are in their easy shucking off of gender rigidity: a panoply of florals, flares, intricate patterning, and gorgeous silhouettes.

A sequence involving Harper Watters, a soloist for the Houston Ballet, underlines the short film’s focus on the importance of art and beauty, even as the discontents of toxic masculinity stain all our worlds. The film does not forget about that little boy, who—despite being cautioned to be a proper man—grew up to be someone like David who not only enjoys art and beauty and wears it so handsomely, and also to be someone like Nicholson himself, who revels in sharing it with us through his clothes, and now this wonderful short film. Tim Teeman

Anna Sui, Badgley Mischka, Naeem Khan, and a Men’s Day at New York Fashion Week

<div class="inline-image__credit">Courtesy of Wiederhoft</div>
Courtesy of Wiederhoft

Wiederhoeft

We may not have theater right now, and we may not have many fashion shows to attend in person, but Wiederhoeft provided a most entertaining marriage of burlesque, fashion, and performance for their NYFW show. Your favorite characters from nursery rhymes have been restyled; Little Bo Peep, Old Mother Goose, Miss Muffet, the Spider tormenting Miss Muffet, Jill (but no Jack) and Henry Wadsworth’s “girl with a little curl” come decked in corsets, feathers, maxed-out baby doll nighties, tightly clustered bows, tutus, pom poms, and ballet shoes.

The creations are gorgeous—technically and visually. As a design house, Wiederhoeft—founded last year—says it is “obsessed with theatre, dance, and the magic of live performance.” Its virtues and muses are “Buffoonery! Bamboozlement! Mockery!” In the video showcasing their marriage of art and fashion, we also see a timely reminder of what the best fashion show thrums with: FUN. TT

<div class="inline-image__credit">Courtesy of, oak + acorn</div>
Courtesy of, oak + acorn

Oak & Acorn

Jeans have a uniquely American backstory; designer Miko Underwood began Oak & Acorn to highlight the Black and Indigenous people's history of denim. Underwood’s NYFW show was titled, “Red, White, & Indigo” and opened with an excerpt from Chadwick Boseman’s 2018 commencement speech at Howard University. Using archival footage, the film showed how sharecroppers, Civil Rights leaders, and Black female riveters all wore denim in their daily lives.

Then it was time to see the clothes; jeans made in Harlem with recycled cotton that are compostable and biodegradable. Perhaps best of all, the clothes look comfortable, especially a pair of parachute-type men’s jeans with exposed, wavy seams. “The Future of Denim is Oak & Acorn,” the film’s last graphic read, and we can only hope so. Alaina Demopoulos

<div class="inline-image__credit">Courtesy of Chromat</div>
Courtesy of Chromat

Chromat

Over the past decade, Chromat shows have become one of the most joyful expressions of creativity—and inclusivity—at NYFW, an institution not necessarily known for a come-as-you-are attitude. It's hard to recreate the high-octane energy of one of Becca McCharen-Tran’s runways in a video.

But the Chromat team did their best, enlisting the artist and activist Tourmaline to direct Joy Run, a fashion presentation/short film about Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood, two transgender high school track and field sprinters from Connecticut who were the target of a lawsuit intending to block them from participating in girls’ sports.

“We had to fight for our womanhood, and I like that,” Miller said in the video.

Though Miller and Yearwood were not on the same team, they admitted to building camaraderie at track meets. “I think our trans-ness is the best thing in the world, because it makes us who we are,” Yearwood said.

Terry finished the video by saying, “Listen, I do track, but off the track—I’m that girl.” AD

<div class="inline-image__credit">Courtesy of Aknvas</div>
Courtesy of Aknvas

Aknvas

The belts of Aknvas deserve their own special mention; variously tasseled and roped for men and women, they hang like sashes from the sides of trousers. I last saw one on Mrs Gardener, my second form teacher, in 1980. Aknvas, a women’s and men’s brand founded by Danish designer (and present Hervé Léger creative director) Christian Juul Nielsen in 2019, proves conservatively mischievous when it comes to shapes and structures: men can enjoy both yellow jumpsuits, chunky blousons, and hot pink shorts with—yes—those tassels and ropes.

If the Aknvas men look like posh Scandi-pirates, the tassels and ropes on the womenswear seem even more playful and fey. Dresses and long shirts in pastels and gentle blues and mint jostle alongside oversized striped shirts and splashes of hot pink and forest green on shorts. The vision behind all this clean boldness? “Inspired by Hope, looking to the future where Scandinavian minimalism meets a Caribbean island vibe. Freedom, color, life…” TT

<div class="inline-image__credit">Courtesy of Claudia Li</div>
Courtesy of Claudia Li

Claudia Li

The pandemic changed how everyone dresses virtually overnight, forcing many designers to get realistic about what their audience wants to buy right now. Some have adopted to this cozy new world by offering roomy sweaters and elastic waistbands.

Not Claudia Li. She just dropped one of the least-wearable wardrobes for an existence spent in quarantine, which is to say, it is so, so pretty.

Where would one wear an iridescent trench coat layered over a sequined minidress these days? Nowhere except our imaginations. That’s where Li’s lineup lives, stubbornly and gloriously. It makes sense the collection would be titled, “‘Til We Meet Again. . .” At the first party after all of this is over, I call dibs on the long, crystal duster she paired with a purple minidress. AD

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