by Alexis Romano

submissions magazine, submission fashion magazine, online fashion magazine, fashion magazine, fashion magazines, jute magazine, jute fashion magazine, style, fashion, editorial, model, New York, NYC, New York Magazine, NYC fashion magazine, New York fashion magazine, designer, SS18, Nyle Cmylo, Alexis Romano, Chelsea Hotel

Following the 2017 inauguration, rage and tension permeated NYFW in February, prompting action on the catwalks, from Planned Parenthood buttons by the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) to protest T-shirts at Alice + Olivia, Public School and Prabal Gurung among others. But the mood shifted during the September presentations, from fashion as protest to fashion to forget, whether in the whimsical shows of designers including Sies Marjan or Shayne Oliver bringing back the “vibe of sensuality” at Helmut Lang, a “reprieve from our politicized moment.”[1]

                A similar impulse triggered Nile Cmylo’s SS2018 MermaidPunk™ capsule collection. Presented on September 8th of NYFW at her Chelsea Hotel apartment where the cocktails and music flowed, the work of costume and fashion designer Cmylo carried us to the 1960s (some of us still live there full time). In an interview by Glenn Belverio, Cmylo revealed, “Now feels like a scary version of the political unrest of the 1960s. Mod fashion feels like a happy antidote to impending fascism […] and I find relief in my happy place of late 60’s optimism.”[2] She reduced the period to one motif, “the flower power flower,” a reference to Mary Quant’s signature daisy, which threaded the collection together in various ways. For me, currently convalescing after six years in London and a PhD in postwar fashion, Cmylo’s sartorial reinterpretation of the swinging city’s icon was particularly cathartic.

                Quant is an alluring fashion figure to evoke, a powerful female voice whose early designs attest to a moment of shift, between old ideas on fashion and femininity, and a new creative mode that connected wearers magically to rebellious politics and social democratization. It was the 1960s, when fashion helped shape Mod visual culture thanks to designers and image-makers, from Rudi Gernreich and Emmanuelle Khanh to Terrence Donovan and William Klein. It seems natural to view Cmylo as a Chelsea Girl in her own right, with her collection displayed whimsically on mannequins in a building that channels the creative vibes of a different Chelsea set. Where guests can always expect to see fashion through a lens of passionate conversation and good cheer, in the same way that Quant, in her 1966 autobiography Quant by Quant described her iconic London shop Bazaar as “a sort of permanently running cocktail party.”

                As for Bazaar, the personal, intimate space of Cmylo’s home offers a delightful fashion viewing experience, where guests are invited to pore over her highly skilled handwork. This is reflected in the heartfelt ways in which she describes her process, which stems from sewing, materials, and viewing fashion as “a 3D art form.” She created, dyed or reworked most elements of each of the seven pieces herself, which mingle in an opaque, fluorescent, and more subdued mix of (mainly) chartreuse, greens, and white. For Cmylo, color plays a vital role in design and in making this ‘60s collection “happy and positive.” Interspersed among her signature long drapy gowns were short dresses and ensembles as well as a silk chiffon blouse, a straight embroidered sheath—a nod to the Chinese qipao—and a gold minidress in a delicate sequined mesh-like fabric over a matte jersey bandeau and leather hot pants over vintage Emilio Pucci tights. Often opting for “bad marriages,” or the union of fabrics of different weaves, Cmylo manipulates and combines material in unique ways to create color and silhouettes—a stunning example is her stitchwork of matte jersey and ponte to create swirl-like effects in skirts. And look at how embroidered silk panels interact with bias-cut matte jersey in her first look, adorned with a diagonal trail of daisy appliqués that finish in a train. Notice her process of sewing individual stripes or merging structured patent leather bras with long dresses that hug the body.

                The garments were installed on mannequins that hark back to various periods yet made new via fluorescent-colored wigs. Cmylo’s extensive work in costume and period dating may partly explain the historicist tendencies in her design process (her AW2016 collection took the theme of “1972”). After all, she was the tailoring genius behind Sex and the City for four years and worked on a range of film sets including Abel Ferrara’s Chelsea on the Rocks (2008) as Costume Designer. But it also lends credence to Walter Benjamin’s description of fashion as a tiger’s leap into the past and back again to create a thoroughly modern moment. This is what we saw in MermaidPunk™: while Quant’s flowers may well have been made of PVC, for instance, Cmylo reveled in the qualities of patent leather (ombred in one case).

                Detailed and multilayered, this capsule collection counters the one-off masterpieces that Cmylo is known to make for the red carpet and other events. Her clients have included Grace Jones, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Gabourey Sidibe, Naomi Watts, Mariah Carey and Vogue editor Chioma Nnadi. The relationships Cmylo has cultivated with her clientele owes in part to the importance she places on the wearer, who “completes the [designer’s] expression.” In turn she strives to create made-to-measure clothing in which women feel comfortable, happy and beautiful.

                But long before she designed for real bodies and celebrities, the Boston-bred Cmylo was making garments for her Barbie dolls, which led to lessons with the local seamstress, a sewing machine for her Bat Mitzvah and Singer Sewing School. She forged her own trajectory at Goddard College in Vermont, studying a mix of costume design, cloth sculpture, period dating and color theory (she has the Josef Albers school to thank for her expert dying skills). After which point she learned the fashion trade at New York’s FIT, leaving in 1990 when her work was photographed by Francesco Scavullo and modeled by Linda Evangelista on the cover of Cosmopolitan. The fashion industry, a reflection of wider cultural currents, has metamorphosed in myriad ways since then, and Cmylo proudly pointed out a positive “pivot” in our conversation: reacting to the fascism and misogyny in the White House are the many “strong, educated women in fashion” who have mobilized—à la Mary Quant.

submissions magazine, submission fashion magazine, online fashion magazine, fashion magazine, fashion magazines, jute magazine, jute fashion magazine, style, fashion, editorial, model, New York, NYC, New York Magazine, NYC fashion magazine, New York fashion magazine, designer, SS18, Nyle Cmylo, Alexis Romano, Chelsea Hotel

Stay tuned for February 2018 when MermaidPunk™ will be launched to the public!

submissions magazine, submission fashion magazine, online fashion magazine, fashion magazine, fashion magazines, jute magazine, jute fashion magazine, style, fashion, editorial, model, New York, NYC, New York Magazine, NYC fashion magazine, New York fashion magazine, designer, SS18, Nyle Cmylo, Alexis Romano, Chelsea Hotel

References:

[1] https://www.vogue.com/fashion-shows/spring-2018-ready-to-wear/helmut-lang

[2] http://ashadedviewonfashion.com/2017/09/14/the-flower-hour-nile-cmylos-mermaid-punk-quant-nyfw-presentation-at-hotel-chelsea-by-glenn-belverio/

submissions magazine, submission fashion magazine, online fashion magazine, fashion magazine, fashion magazines, jute magazine, jute fashion magazine, style, fashion, editorial, model, New York, NYC, New York Magazine, NYC fashion magazine, New York fashion magazine, designer, SS18, Nyle Cmylo, Alexis Romano, Chelsea Hotel

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