Suzy Menkes

#SuzyNYFW: Gender Neutrality At Monse And Eckhaus Latta

Millennial designers have a fresh view on the male/female conundrum.
Spring/Summer 2019 looks from Monse (left) and Eckhaus Latta (right)

Monse: Grandmother’s gift

At the Monse show, Laura Kim had an answer to my question about why the frayed tweeds, used for clothes and loosely woven shoes, carried a whiff of Coco Chanel.
“We were thinking of a young girl raiding her grandmother’s closet,” the designer said, while Fernando Garcia, the other half of the fashion duo, talked about “twisted tweeds”.
I didn’t even ask why male models slipped on big, bold, striped sweaters, worn with Coco-esque checked shorts. Gender neutral is the current mood for millennials, although the designers make some unquestionably feminine dresses, cut on the bias and sloping over one shoulder.
The diagonal cross-cutting was fresh and a definite statement at Monse. Big sweaters – a pattern of checks or stripes sliced at an angle across the body – underlined the sense of division, while nautical ropes offered a striking, if familiar, addition.
But whatever ingenious inventions there were on the runway – not least those frayed Chanel-from-the-attic sandals, famous clients outshone the models. There was Nicky Minaj with hair dyed tomato red and scarlet stilettos to match; and sisters Paris Hilton and Nicky Hilton Rothschild wearing black and white spotted and striped outfits. They almost stole the show. But that honour went to a (male) model wearing a unisex Monse cover-up in many colours, with stripes at an angle across the body.

Eckhaus Latta: Texture at play

The audience at the Eckhaus Latta show was seduced before the catwalk even started in an industrial building on the outskirts of Brooklyn. A group of toddlers and school children provided the music, banging on metallic bowls and shaking tambourines.
This chaotic cacophony of sound was in contrast to the clothes for both sexes, which drew a similar narrow shape for male and female silhouettes. The interesting part was in the treatment of the surfaces, which might be lacy weaves torn into patches of thread; or what looked like a ragged white top, thickened with splats of red and blue.
Other effects had surfaces layered with diamond-shaped pieces; or wide cotton dresses were worn off the shoulder, almost down to the elbow.
Were the Eckhaus Latta clothes gender neutral just because there might be similar patterns or materials such as cow hide that were shown for male and female?
Designer Mike Eckhaus explained: “It’s always been about the clothes and clothing at the end of the day. We gender it once we decide who might want to wear it or buy it. That has shifted for us over time. But also I think we relate to gender identity a little less aggressively. It’s less binary and I think that’s something we have always felt attuned to.”