Puppets and Puppets started as a sculptural project and has morphed into one of New York’s most exciting brands. For fall, designer Carly Mark took the high-contrast, medical aesthetics from David Cronenberg’s 1988 film “Dead Ringers” as an artful way to approach both the beauty and horrors in the world.
“Basically, it’s a mental breakdown movie about a set of twin doctors. I do feel like we’re still working through the pandemic and how that psychologically affected us. And at the same time, I’m involved in a world and live in a city that wants to go out and socialize and feel sexy and get back to work. It’s this push and pull between keeping yourself together psychologically, mentally, physically, emotionally and getting out in the world and feeling good about yourself,” Mark said.
It materialized in blood-red sequined dresses, a kind of tacky-chic gilded print one might find on silken pillows or in the carpets of an ’80s mansion, and in avant-garde dresses laser-printed with the likeness of Gaspare Traversi’s 18th-century painting “The Operation,” depicting Old World medical gore.
Mark has a long-standing attraction to the hoop skirts and corsetry of centuries past — but manages to avoid sending a historic reenactment down the runway. Prior to fashion she was a mixed media artist and understands the value of scenery and context — using every visual tool in her basket to help convey that her version of a suit is coming from a kooky, but highly considered place.
This season, that meant tempering some of her corsetry boning and ’80s high-octane glamour with a space that had a schoolroom checkered floor — strewn with food sculptures — and a collection that contained well-made, wearable clothes. But she maintained her signature elements of surrealism with resin roses or fried eggs affixed to shoes, bags and even over the nipple.
But Mark finally balanced this with her commercial ambitions, sneaking in numerous options to satisfy an ever-expanding global roster of stores. She relied on sharp suiting, relaxed evening dresses, and a new handbag shape — this one with analog phone or banana-shaped handles. There were suits with mesh sleeves for those living in warmer climates, wide wale corduroys, skintight python-print sets — disparate concepts that somehow worked together.
“We are leveling off of the quality of the clothes because, you know, for a while it was an art project. And I have spent the season editing, focusing and surrounding myself with people that can help me filter. I am so glad that things feel cohesive, because that’s been a major priority,” Mark said.