On a rainy Thursday afternoon, the Judson Memorial Church at Washington Square Park was glowing pink and reverentially quiet. Stepping in, out of the afternoon light, diurnal time paused for the Gogo Graham FW 2020 show.
Silks, cottons and mesh chiselled into miraculously sculpted gowns trailed through the chapel, adorned by toeless ballet flats (cut off, not peep-toe) and fur stoles dragged along foot like leashes. The clatter of a ruffled-skirt hem embellished with dozens of chunky magnetic security tags kept time with the procession of models. Mesh bags veiled the model’s faces, a theme carried along from previous shows that, in combination with the security tags and loosely-hung bras, imbued the show with petty crime charisma.
Using recycled garments and materials, the power of Graham’s work lies at the intersection of deconstruction and shape. Discrete parts of recognizable garments— corsets, socks, mesh tights— blended together in a wash of textural pleasure. A highlight of the show was the final look, a brown floor-length gown that opened up in the back to reveal a corset held open like a butterfly in flight.
Now in her fifth year presenting at NYFW, Graham has held fast to her mission and atypical process— beginning with castings and then designing and styling with the models, a majority of whom are trans women, in mind. As a one-off designer with the goal of making clothes for trans women, she has largely used runway shows as an opportunity to get trans models paid, as she stated in an interview with Out Magazine last year.
With so much of the conversation surrounding fashion week focused on the closure of retailers like Barneys and Opening Ceremony and the decline of fashion retail markets at large, Graham’s runway show was immune from the panic. The very creation of Graham’s work stands in direct opposition to the traditional runway-to-retail model that ignored and excluded women like her for so long, and amidst the chaos of the current fashion economy, Gogo Graham stands as a symbol of a conscious and deliberate path forward.
Review by Kathryn Muller @qualmsy
Photography by Kimari Hazward @Kimarirh