The Good Lookbook

Vaquera is a New York based brand that investigates cross-intersectionality and conceptual interstices of modulating rhizomes of *screeches brakes* just kidding! But Vaquera is a New York based brand that is interested in some things, here elucidated.

According to sources, Patric DiCaprio — designer at large/CEO of Vaquera — bought his first sewing machine on Amazon scarcely one year ago, drunk, at an East Village eatery of ill-repute (Simone Martini Bar), citing dissatisfaction with what was available, fashion-wise, in New York. Here, art was borne of boredom. But also a little necessity. As a stylist he couldn’t find the clothes he wanted to shoot and thusly was forced, as if by divine will or gin, to call them forth. Vaquera was born.

Vaquera’s not merely for the cowgirl but for the cowboy and the cowthey. I recently asked DiCaprio, on the first day of spring at Starbucks, why he chose to make unisex clothing and his response was as follows:

Actually I didn’t ask him at all, reason being: Isn’t it obvious? Why would any young designer make or want to make staid menswear and staid womenswear? And if they did why would any young designer do that nasty thing where you start categorizing and thereby delimiting the clothes’ potential?

Last year in the State Room of the White House, at an event organized to give aspiring fashion designers Hope and Change, Anna Wintour, who was in attendance, said: “Fashion can be a powerful instrument for social change […]”? Certainly she wasn’t referring to the bloodless garbage that’s seen time and time again in Vogue? Maybe this is why she said it can be but doesn’t have to be.

Maybe she was talking about Vaquera? Pilgrims, bounty, cornucopia, cowherders, what does it all mean? What’s being hinted at is something New, some of that instrumental social change, a going into uncharted territory, a cruise-ship sized Mayflower full of these people dumped on the American fashion world, equally as bizarre to them as the Spanish to the Incas. But those fabrics aren’t smallpox blankets! They are the valuable cloths and skilled designs which were perhaps traded for those summer squash and asparagus in that cornucopia. The cornucopia suggests a real vitality, which might be situated in the category of New Sincerity (if you want to go there), which, sure! we’ll take it, so long as it’s not another sheer black dress thing, tailored suits, or anything to do with McDonalds. And, since there is no such thing as a neutral casting, we will let the casting speak for itself. But even with a diverse cast as such, there is unity, beyond just the collection’s theme, the message being that any one of any gender or race can wear each and every piece of this collection, this unity through individuals’ actions being defined best by Spinoza in his book Ethics:

“If several things confer in one act in such a way as to be all together the simultaneous cause of one effect, I consider them all in that respect as one individual.”

And yet there isn’t mere mimesis of traditional gender roles à la Butler’s gender performativity (which goes something like “a girl dressing like a girl because of the way that girls dress”). It also isn’t the lurid cross-dressing of, say, William T. Vollmann. This is people wearing clothes that have feminine and masculine accents interchangeably. One gets that sense that these are People Just Wanting To Have Fun and Look Good Doing It.

N.B. At the time of the writing of this article (2015), it’s kind of crazy, the author opines, that the author should have to spend so much time even explaining this! When I asked DiCaprio why he chose not to show during fashion week, his response was “Fuck the fashion calendar!” Succinct. But recall that NYFW began as a department store phenomenon called Press Week. Department stores would put on shows out front of their businesses, and, apparently they were so popular (audiences numbering in the thousands sometimes) that stores were required to get permits before they put one on. Press Week was also an opportunity to see many designers in a relatively short amount of time back when press was not the internet.

But it is now (press, the internet) and thus there’s no necessity to show at the Lincoln Center and, in doing so, sacrifice that rich thing that is context. Sure, the static white runway of the Lincoln Center is good for a kind of retinal zeroing in on the clothes themselves — but this decontextualization is reminiscent of a line-sheet, i.e. good for presenting the clothes as commodities. In contrast, the brand’s first show was at St. Mark’s Church in a zen garden. Zen garden in a church > Sterile Lincoln Center Runway.

The most recent presentation for collection no. 3 (note: not f/w 2015) was held at the Delancey/Essex st. F train station. There were saw-horses, bounty to be had in wooden baskets (and indeed carrots were seen to be eaten by several models, even a raw asparagus), many bonnets, infant model Malcolm Rae Radboy wearing Baby Vaquera, shirtless street performers with rather bulging pectorals. And, magically, though there were many causes célèbres happening all at once (the exposed black female body, much side boob, men wearing what could perceived as feminine clothing, Gayness, etc.) the show was well received. Women with single and double-decker strollers, middle-aged Chinese men, Indian tourists, were seen to be snapping photos.

This is a big deal! Would said demographic be seen on Style.com, breathless, minutes after the NFYW? The writer of this article thinks not. There was a palpable relief seen in the faces of passersby when they turned the corner and realized it wasn’t another Showtime. Although, the Showtime boys showed up at one point and were given broccoli to hold and can be seen participating in optical illusion with Anna Soldner dangling (seemingly) a carrot into one of their mouths. Talk about spontaneous unity!

This Giving Fashion to the People is indeed a trend being seen among young designers, e.g. Moses Gauntlett Cheng, another New York based brand which Vaquera has collaborated with, which had its most recent show in a China Town parking garage where the models emerged from a rather ghastly R.V. onto a Persian rug runway.

Young designers, en somme, are realizing that they can do whatever they want, whenever they want, and it will still get press and still be sold and that’s totally exciting, and subversive and basically what everyone is hungry for nowadays. With its casting, references to pilgrims, the pioneering era, the Wild West, and public presentations, quite simply, Vaquera is entering into new American fashion territory.

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