In 2017, Shane Gabier and Christopher Peters, designers of Creatures of the Wind, decided to shift their business to a project-driven, rather than season-driven, model. Like many designers trying to figure out how to survive the shifting industry tides, they did some soul-searching, which could well be fall 2019 New York Fashion Week’s biggest trend. It brought them to Tuesday night, when they presented their first runway collection in a year at the Pratt Institute campus in Brooklyn, where Gabier is a visiting professor in the fashion department.
Instead of a soundtrack, they tapped trend forecaster Faith Popcorn to deliver a short lecture about the realities that got them to this point — the planet in peril, the new gender-fluidity norm, buying based on social values — as models paraded around the school auditorium in upcycled looks made of vintage or deadstock.
“There are so many parts of the process of making and selling clothes that we’ve never totally been comfortable with,” Gabier said before the show, recalling a moment when the designers looked at an endless rack of black pants at their distribution warehouse that made them feel “sick to their stomachs.” “That…didn’t feel like luxury,” Peters added. “We felt like we were just doing [fashion] the way that the system perpetuated.”
Whatever reason they had for pulling back — which let’s face it, probably included some hard financial realities after patina of the CFDA Award, Woolmark and LVMH Prize nominations wore off — their ideas about how fashion can move forward are interesting. To demonstrate, they showed a handful of styles with differing modes for reproduction and distribution.
Much of it was one-of-a-kind, including a Forties-era French mouton coat, hand-painted and embroidered for an earthy luxe, and layered over a ruched T-shirt, cotton dress and black pants. Denim tricked-out with rows of subtle fringe will be offered in quantities, using deadstock Wranglers and other vintage options. (Creatures of the Wind lists Dover Street Market and Just One Eye among its handful of retail collaborators.) The same goes for the cool-looking pastel tie-dye T-shirt dresses (made with environmentally friendly dyes) that ended in swinging white fringe skirts, or were fused with romantic nighties.
A third collection category has the designers selling their concept. “So you know you are buying a Forties Japanese military coat and Sixties blazer that will be fused together, an XXXL men’s Eighties suit turned into a giant trenchcoat, or a tuxedo jacket turned into a top, but you won’t necessarily know what color or combination,” Peters said. (The collection included pieces from CDLM, Peters’ solo outing launched in September, though the designers didn’t distinguish it from Creatures of the Wind on the runway or in the show notes.)
“We’ve really diversified this year and found lots of ways to support ourselves so we can make this a really creative to endeavor,” Gabier said. “In some ways, we’ve taken it back to [where] we started, which was more impulsive, instinctual and organic. And it’s so much more joyful. As soon as you start to figure out how to scale, it changes the entire design process.”
Thinking small, thinking special, thinking sustainable — sounds elementary.