Those looking for the beating heart of New York Fashion Week’s quirky next-gen could find it at the Ukranian National Home on Sunday night, where the show started with an amazing tap dancing performance and ended with designer Carly Mark emerging from the backstage curtain wearing a sparkly leotard.
What started in 2018 as a fine art experiment has developed into a full-fledged indie brand now carried by Nordstrom and Bergdorf Goodman, and this collection demonstrated its growth potential into categories like tailoring, knitwear and accessories.
“Because I was a fine artist, I wasn’t sure this lane would be where I was happy,” Mark said. “The first show was a one-off, art performance type show, and I loved it so much, I wanted to keep going. The more people notice, the more they want to be involved. That means buying products and being a part of the brand. I’ve found this comfortable way of straddling artfulness and business, and I found a passion for business I didn’t know I had.”
For fall, she got down to business by taking a tour through downtown prep, with a fab plaid intarsia boyfriend jacket and pants that read like a suit for the creative class; a wool boned corset top and trousers look, and a check wool minidress with sweater sleeves, all worn with court shoes.
She also upped the sex appeal, showing an ultraviolet-hued single sleeve, slinky turtleneck sweater dress, and sleek black leather skirt dotted with gold hand crochet details, paired with Mark’s own bra, natch.
The label is perhaps best known for Puppets intarsia sweaters, and this season’s was sequined (worn over pants with plaid side stripes) and for bags inspired by foodstuffs, like the amusing glossy leather apothecary bag with gear loops holding two raw carrots that came down the runway. Don’t forget to eat your vegetables.
There were plenty more moments of quirkiness — a puppy jacquard overcoat — nodding, no doubt, to the brand’s chihuahua terrier mascot, Puppet — and a silk brocade strapless “cobra dress” with stiff, oversize bows down the back like a fierce feminine hood flare.
While there was a lot of commercial clothing here, what was most refreshing was how much fun Mark and her team were obviously having, not taking themselves or fashion too seriously. We need more of that in New York.