BROOKLYN — Heron Preston may have been born and raised in San Francisco, but it’s New York City that truly inspires him.
That’s the reason he returned after showing for several seasons in Paris and will host a show in his adopted city on Saturday. This will mark the first official runway show as part of New York Fashion Week for the buzzworthy designer, who attended the New School’s Parsons School of Design, created a breakout collection with the NYC Department of Sanitation and served as a creative consultant for Calvin Klein.
“The first fashion shows I ever went to were in New York,” Preston said during a casting and preview of his fall collection at a studio in the DUMBO section of Brooklyn, New York, earlier this week. “That was before I was even getting invited to fashion shows — I had to sneak in. It was early 2004-2005 when shows just felt so raw. They weren’t so overproduced. I miss that kind of rawness, so when you come to my fashion show, it’s going to feel like that old New York that I remember.”
His show, which is titled “Anything Goes,” will offer up Preston’s distinct take on fashion — an aesthetic that includes everything from streetwear staples such as graphic T-shirts and hoodies to tech-worthy pieces such as 3D-printed sneakers and Tyvek suits. There will be plenty of New York City references; classic Americana and workwear pieces, such as varsity jackets and patchwork denim, plus silk dresses juxtaposed with barbed wire details and chainmail shirts.
“I grew up watching all these New York movies and I just wanted to live here,” Preston said. “That really called me. I’m like a sponge; I just moved here and started absorbing the culture and the texture. I looked at the city like layers of materials and that’s what this collection is about. It’s about found objects contrasted with all these different materials — from the chainmail to the barbed wire pieces.
“It’s about taking a little bit of what we’re familiar with and then twisting it,” he continued. “That’s kind of my thing. How many times are you going to design a T-shirt or a hoodie or a pair of pants? So it’s about elevating these core pieces through the DNA of the brand that I’ve been developing over the years.”
He said the show will explore the boundaries of this world he has created and expand it. “I feel like I’m at a point in my career as a designer where I can start to build on what I’ve established,” he said.
One recurring theme for Preston has been sustainability. For his show, he sent out 400 one-of-a-kind invitations that were created from trash he collected from around New York. The invitation reads in part: “Less new paper. Less new material. Less environmentally destructive. In my book, less is more and circularity is cool.”
He explained: “It’s supposed to represent extending life and circulation, reclaiming what already has been made and still exists in perfect condition.”
He said fashion show invitations are not functional. “Most of the time, they end up in the trash. So I said, why don’t I just go to the trash and find stuff that is in perfect condition and can still be used? I was looking for clean, flat surfaces that could hold all the details of the fashion show.”
He said it was like “this big scavenger hunt, walking through New York City, Brooklyn [and] Chinatown. I would pick up things and walk with them. And sometimes when I would look closer, I would see dog pee, so I would drop that. It was definitely a process.”
The invitations were then sent out on pieces of shoe boxes, egg cartons and other items that weren’t fouled by urine, turning them into treasures that can be keepsakes, he said. “But if they end up back in the trash, that’s a win too, because that’s where it came from. It’s a less-is-more approach.”
Although he’s keen on what he has created, Preston is perhaps most excited about finally being able to share his collection with his community.
“I live here, it’s my home turf, and I started presenting ideas to the public in New York City,” the designer said. “I really missed the people here and it’s going to be like a reunion — seeing the fashion crowd and the sanitation crowd and all these different mixes of people coming together. Life doesn’t really have meaning until people start to engage with your work and your product.”
Preston said the show will be a “full-on family affair” for him. “There are people who don’t ever come to Paris — people who may not even work in fashion,” he said. “There are a lot of friends and family who have been following the brand and who last saw me in 2016.”
Because his retail accounts such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom and Ssense only carry a small selection, the show will also allow his posse to see the full breadth of what he does. “I was like, ‘Guys, I do so much more. You just have no idea because you don’t get to come to Paris, you don’t get to come to the show.’ So that’s why I really wanted to come back to New York.”
During his break from the runway, Preston continued to hone his skills by working at Calvin Klein and partnering with other companies such as Mercedes-Benz and Levi’s.
He said his time at Calvin Klein was especially useful because he learned so much about the history of fashion and designing to a variety of body types. “It was a really interesting point of view when you start looking at very basic clothes,” he said. “It’s not necessarily fashion anymore. It’s more about comfort and fit and shape and sizes. I had to define that and I was excited to make something I knew people would wear every day.”
Eschewing the traditional fashion rat-race where things need to change every season and shows have to be Instagram-worthy will also be evident at Preston’s show. He said the setting will be “very stripped down — minimal” and will embrace the “rawness of the space.”
“It’s different,” he said, “but that works for me. Remember, anything goes.”