What happens when you combine three renegade fashion labels—Vaquera, Section 8, and CDLM—into a single runway event? A lot of hair and makeup tables, snaked with a lot of extension cords, and a backstage guessing game of which outré looks belong to which designer. A dusting of gritty, seemingly slept-in gold glitter? CDLM. Oddly shaped buns and bangs, wrapped in cafeteria lady-inspired nets? Section 8. Side-parted hair with a teased crown, set against heavily lined lips? One of Vaquera’s exaggerated coifs to match its equally exaggerated suits and dresses. Who needs symmetrical and safe when you can have something that is unsettlingly, deliciously off?
“It’s weird beauty, but it’s interesting, nice beauty,” hairstylist Jawara Wauchope said with a laugh, describing the slate of big-personality effects he developed with Vaquera for yesterday’s group show, held at the Masonic Hall in Chelsea. “We are doing a sleazy, gelled look, parted on the side,” he said, pointing out the teased crown. The feminine corollary—dubbed the “bitchy uptown girl”—featured the same volume on top and darkly rimmed lips by makeup artist Emi Kaneko, using Make Up For Ever’s versatile Artist Color Pencils. (Black eyeliner and liberally applied lip gloss conveyed the soup of references, from the ’80s downtown icon Klaus Nomi to the Meatpacking District habituees of the early 2000s.) The collection nods to funeral attire and also Valentine’s Day—best seen in a giant wearable red heart, trimmed with a hot-pink bow—and for that model and a few others, Wauchope created a “Queen of Hearts” updo, with twin peaks in the front and a French roll in the back. Vampiric Liza Minnelli wigs and a couple of asymmetrical, flat-ironed crops rounded out the Vaquera cast. “The whole idea is they did it themselves,” said Wauchope, “so I’m kind of messing it up.”
That undercurrent of dégradé New York carried over to CDLM’s side of the room, where makeup artist Jen Myles was doling out “grungy glitter—lived-in, as if they went out with it and it’s the next day,” she said. It was of a mood (a ’90s mood, of course) with hairstylist Tamas Tuzes’s lanky, mussed lengths: “Just imagine PJ Harvey.” But a couple of the CDLM models got the head-turner treatment: blacked-out teeth and a “red, drawn-on-themselves, penciled-in lip,” Myles added, citing performance artist Kembra Pfahler.
Meanwhile, Section 8 designer Akeem Smith had a low-key muse in mind: the cafeteria lady. Borrowing the same type of netting seen in the collection, hairstylist Holli Smith (kindred spirit, but no relation) set about creating “odd asymmetrical shapes” with some models’ hair, wrapping exaggerated bangs and buns in pieces of black or white lace. Others got a “fake wiglet piece that’s been highlighted with a kind of Faith Evans, Mary J. Blige chunky ’90s color,” she added. “It’s overly done, but super Section 8: something laid and finished.” But the real finishing touch came courtesy of makeup artist Inge Grognard, who gave models theatrical-blood eye drops in the final moments before the show. The idea was to create “that kind of watery, bloody, infected eye,” she explained in a throaty Belgian accent. “Section 8 always has that kind of weirdness going on, but it’s always minimal—a little bit alien.”
Otherworldly, yes, but rooted to this city—a place mercifully not yet sanitized of the good bits. If the T-shirt that opened Vaquera’s show proclaimed “In Loving Memory of New York,” it seems like the death knell is a false alarm.
Originally Appeared on Vogue