Income inequality may be one of the biggest political issues of our time, but there are precious few fashion provocateurs taking it on. Vaquera is one. Money has been a fascination for the art-fashion collective since their debut New York Fashion Week collection was shown in February 2017, when they famously sent a human-sized Tiffany & Co. bag down the runway, juxtaposed with blue-collar workwear.
For fall 2019, the collective of Patric DiCaprio, Bryn Taubensee and Claire Sullivan again turned its subversive gaze to surface trappings, this time home decor, with an inspiration statement that read like a parody of a shelter magazine — or maybe a description of Mar-a-Lago. “Off the double-height foyer, replete with Corinthian columns, you’ll find a charming bathroom in the style of the Petit Trianon. Walking through the entertaining rooms, one is struck by the use of chintz.”
There was chintz in this (literally) off-the-wall collection — and curtains and decorative fringe, too. The whole wacky lot of it brought to mind Talking Heads’ “Once In a Lifetime” in its questioning of the obsession over a well-kept home (and wardrobe), a sentiment explored through exaggerated showpieces, including a Marie Antoinette-style high-low gown made of white toweling, a human-sized hostess gift with bow, a duvet bedding stole and lampshade dress.
“Home decor can be a wonderful thing or a way of covering up your insecurities,” said Taubensee, explaining that riffing on clichés of love and marriage, like a ring-bearer pillow over panties and garters, or a child’s sailor suit, was another way of reflecting on societal expectations. “We’re always interested in exploring American tropes, and how you define your home is how you define yourself.”
The designers have noted provocateurs Miguel Adrover and Martin Margiela as personal heroes, and with the addition of more accessible pieces like sweatshirts and T-shirts monogrammed with the cursive initials “WHY,” as well as charmingly awkward wide-wale corduroy drop-waist skirts and utility pants, this collection seemed to offer more ways to buy in to what Vaquera is selling.
Held in the banquet hall of a Ukrainian restaurant on the Lower East Side, the runway experience wouldn’t have been complete without the models’ signature stomping, a giant middle finger to the industry-standard strutting. “It’s sort of aggressive, but we like the aggressiveness,” Sullivan said. “We are not totally angry but more discontent with the state of the world.”