Maria Jahnkoy, who was born Maria Kazakova, is Siberian but lives in Crown Heights, a neighborhood in Brooklyn that’s known for its Caribbean population. She attempted to re-create what she sees on a day-to-day basis with her debut presentation at New York Fashion Week: Men’s, which was a larger version of what she designed for the Parsons graduate fashion show last year.
Instead of staging a conventional runway show, Jahnkoy, which translates to “New Spirit Village” in the Crimean Tatar language, built a red-tinted set that called to mind any urban area across the globe. There were street musicians, the peddler selling his wares from a grocery cart, the activist spreading his message — “free press!” he yelled while passing out newspapers — and the hustler searching for a deal — “I’m looking for that two for five,” he repeatedly told the audience. This cast of characters was surrounded by world flags, caution tape and signs promoting cheap consumption.
Jahnkoy said “The Displaced,” the name of her collection, was a commentary on the fast-fashion industry’s production methods, which lead to excess clothes being dumped into Africa and the loss of artisan jobs.
The designer hopes to present solutions for this problem with her line, which was made out of recycled fabrics she sourced in her neighborhood, and was inspired by sports uniforms. She showed jerseys, a BMX outfit, track pants and other athletic apparel decorated with intricate beading, fringe and messaging.
Jahnkoy even collaborated with Puma on a series of looks and beaded sneakers. “I wanted to show how companies can work with local artisans to promote craftsmanship,” she said. The looks were layered, oversize and reminiscent of traditional cultural garb from around the world. There were references from Africa, India, the Middle East and Native Americans. It was a vivid line that stood out among the mostly commercial shows that take place in New York.
Jahnkoy’s message and execution were clear and noble, but one couldn’t help but think of Gypsy Sport, another culturally inclusive brand, when looking at her pieces. Maybe with time she will be able to stake out a clearer identity for herself.