In a mega anti-fashion fashion moment, on Monday night Milwaukee, Wisconsin-bred designer Elena Velez sent one of her angry models stomping onto the runway wielding her CFDA statue like a deadly weapon “like she just bludgeoned her husband with it.”
“We thought it would be funny to abstract the award and turn it into something not quite so obvious,” Velez, winner of 2022’s Emerging Designer of the Year Award, said backstage.
It wasn’t an eff-you to the industry, but rather another layer to Velez’s delightfully deranged creative process, which dares to question elitism.
We need more of it, especially now when the attention monopoly of billionaire-backed European brands has brought so much formula. Fashion needs a revolution, and Velez is here for it.
For fall, she sent out a battalion of “wasteland heroines,” as she calls them, starting with a stumbling starlet in a deconstructed white side-laced corset gown.
The collection fused the feminine and feminist with workwear, rendered corsetry in salvaged sailcloth and simple canvas, and integrated scrap and spare parts from machinists, plumbers, electricians and others the Brooklyn, New York-based designer works with from back home.
Velez used some incredible materials, incorporating Latex and plaster treatments on dress bodices, and making use of exposed rivets, quilting and other things both familiar and kitschy. A cream corset dress had a chunky knit draped skirt reminiscent of a granny blanket; another stained glass bra cups that could have been a Saturday afternoon craft project.
“It’s recontextualizing what artisanal contribution can be made from the midwest,” Velez said. “We work with canvas, cotton, linen, edible things that feel radically plain. I want to capitalize on that, everything now is so synthetic, acidic and frenetic.
“The collection was inspired by tropes of characters of bygone Americana, wasteland heroines, women who are building a legacy in a place of impermanence, prairie wives, lot lizards, trucker culture — things that are deemed unglamorous by cosmopolitan standards and refracting them into a way that feels new and fresh.”
It was glamorous with some real salt-of-the-earth grit behind it.
There were pieces to wear, too, including a romantic sheer white shirtdress fashioned with a brooch at the high neck, a draped black robe coat that hugged the shoulders and waist, boned corsets and bodysuits, slouchy workwear pants and a delicate tank top that appeared tea stained, all suggesting Velez’s commercial eye is sharpening for customers who want to walk her walk.
Speaking of…”We told the models to be lumbering and boyish — to think about how boys, they get to go through life and be unperceived in the way women do,” Velez said. “We were not aestheticizing the walk at all.”