Rachel Comey Spring 2022 Ready-to-Wear Collection

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What was most surprising about this rebooted fashion week after 18 months of pandemic is how little had changed. Sure, there were vaccination checks and masks and outdoor venues, but beyond the COVID protocols the runways looked much the same. Which is why Rachel Comey’s performance piece of on Saturday, with choreography by Beth Gill, was such a fun time.

Comey has often thought differently about the runway. A seasons-long run of dinner party shows at Dustin Yellin’s Pioneer Works stand out in the memory. They were deep in Red Hook, Brooklyn, when no one was showing in Brooklyn, and they required a full evening’s commitment, but if you went once you kept going back. Katja Blichfeld, the co-creator of High Maintenance, was a regular guest. “Rachel has an incredible instinct about people and you do see that when you’re at one of her presentations,” Blichfeld told me. “You look around the room and see people from the art world mixing with people from the dance world, downtown theater performers, journalists, rising stars alongside literal icons, and a bunch of her friends from the way back—and everyone just makes sense together.”

The designer cast her show, which was a 20th anniversary celebration (her first show was a men’s collection on September 8, 2001), like she curated those Pioneer Works guest lists. An intergenerational crew of dancers, artists, writers, actors, landscape designers, and stylists outnumbered models. And it was no up-and-back runway situation, either: Suit clad women scooted across the floor on Aeron chairs before sliding right out of them as if they fell asleep in a board meeting; a few people in workwear oversaw a gallery installation; a couple more slithered in and out of each other’s clothes; and Waris Ahluwalia, wearing denim separates, helped construct a table.

Much more happened besides, before they all assembled themselves and in unison tilted left and right like living metronomes. As they mirrored each other, the variety of the clothes came into focus. Clashing prints and jacquards was one storyline, as was sparkle for evening. Close watchers noticed pieces from past collections, like a circa fall 2019 pen and ink comic book print; that’s because Comey is launching a resale section on her website with the help of Recurate. Ahluwalia and co. were on the runway because she’s adding sizing options for men and gender-nonconforming people.

High fashion has always run the risk of feeling disconnected from real life, and even more so now as we make our way through this crisis. Comey doesn’t have that problem. “The real challenge of designing for the complicated, wonderful, difficult lives we now all live is what fuels our work.” It showed in her inspired presentation.

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