A utilitarian vein ran through Spencer Phipps’ second runway show, which churned out a lineup of diverse cowboys in braids and bushy mustaches who paired Stetsons with hiking boots and silky, sleeveless shirts. Phipps further equipped them with stainless steel water bottles and crystals — the real, chakra-cleansing sort, sourced from a woman in Texas.
The ecological bent of the up-and-coming designer — a finalist for this year’s LVMH Prize who earned his chops in the design studios of Marc Jacobs and Dries Van Noten — leans heavily toward survival. Frontiers are blistering, unholy places these days but, as Phipps points out, that’s nothing new.
“Everyone was killing each other and fighting and dying of starvation in the desert,” he said, noting, with irony, the savagery of the Far West’s 19th-century notion of Manifest Destiny, one of many ideas on his mind this season.
Flash forward to current times and streetwear is moving into practical territory. “It’s a natural progression, it’s about nature and useful stuff — I always go back to the word purpose,” Phipps said. He ticked off the list: chaps, hiking jackets, sleeping bags — here, they took the form of a coat, printed with the planets, in keeping with the new age-y vibe. The chaps were worn with shorts — breezier than jeans, he suggested. With added pockets they became more like utility belts that crept down the leg. There was also tailoring — one of the stronger points, a handsome brown suit jacket was worn with long, unhemmed shorts. A partnership with French outdoor brand Millet added hiking pants, windbreakers, fleecy pullovers, snug backpacks and chalk climbing bags — a fresh alternative to the bum bag?
For anyone who grew up in the American West, the characters were familiar, all right. One of the younger folks in the audience remarked that it brought back memories of some cringe-worthy looks from her dad — are we heading back to fugly territory?
There were a lot of competing forces in the collection — was it a fashion invasion of the outdoors or the other way around? Hard to tell, but with added focus, there could be gold in them thar hills.