Male models at the En Noir New York Fashion Week presentation.
En Noir, the street-goth cult hit beloved by everyone from Yeezy to Drizzy and Miley Cyrus to A$AP Rocky flaunted their spring/summer 2014 wares in a presentation at Milk Studios last night. The smoke-filled 8th floor studio was dimly lit with writhing, scantily-clad dancers skulking amongst the coal-colored crags and the spartan plink-plonk and haunting chanting of the soundscape, designed by Stelios Phili, only served to heighten the palpable frisson of a rumored Justin Bieber appearance that never materialized.
Renowned for their $1,600 leather sweatpants, $7,300 python sweatpants and leather T-shirts for men (and resourceful, swag-laden ladies), we were all curious to see what designer Rob Garcia and style director Matthew Henson had planned for their first foray into womenswear. “En Noir is renowned for leather but this collection really shows Rob’s versatility,” says Henson. “He created his own silk blend which looks to have a wrinkle effect but it’s actually just carbon dyed. And we’re seeing houndstooth printed on a lighter nylon as well as six strong women’s looks that standalone wholly separate from the men’s designs. They speak for themselves.”
Models at the En Noir New York Fashion Week presentation.
While both female and male models (among them the long-locked, impossibly sensual Willy Cartier) were clearly given the directive to appear as wan and somber as possible (except, blessedly, for the beaming kid in white above), the clothes were surprisingly playful and particularly imaginative when it came to prints. The menswear was reliably strong and sporty, with surefire hits like a brushed suede tank with a hoody pocket and discreet logo. Varsity jackets were featured in materials from pliant leather to a rugged nylon fabric that could only be described as “backpack textile” and all were lightened up for the season with mesh panels or contrast sleeves.
Pusha T, a well known En Noir fan, showed up clad in outerwear from SS14. “I knew I wanted to wear something new to this,” he says. “Rob sends me images and I pick what I like and this jacket looked good but when I put it on, it was just amazing.” The jacket, a dark blue, butter-soft varsity number clung to his shoulders so masterfully it looked as if it had been poured on. The fit appears seemingly bespoke but it’s the supple weight of the jacket that’s most impressive. “I’m from Virginia where it stays warm a little bit longer than here in New York but you could wear this jacket anywhere. They just dominate leather.”
For women there were laser-cut leather tanks and gorgeous outerwear. Among the six looks featured there was a heavy reliance on paperbag-cinched shorts and exposed midriffs. Most of the looks were simple two-pieces like twin-zippered leather mini skirts yet were all largely anchored by a cannily shrunken varsity x motorcycle jacket hybrid in various fabrics. My favorite piece was a simple but artfully constructed, cropped crewneck sweatshirt and the most exciting prospect of an added women’s line is that you can mix-and-match the breezy, oversized mens stuff with smaller women's pieces flung on top to play with the textures and silhouettes.
We also had the pleasure of speaking with the man tasked with the sonic contributions to the show. Stelios Phili describes it as “Gregorian chant, trap music” and while it sounds austere, he insists there’s a lot going on in the restraint and the subtle layers—surely a hat tip to En Noir’s visual style. “‘Für Alina’ by Arvo Pärt serves as the key sample,” says Phili, “It's a piano composition that sounds like a five-year-old could play it but only a virtuoso could pull it off. I read up on Pärt and some his philosophies—like how he believes that silences in a song are the moments that bring you closer to God. I put the repetitive breathing samples from Dido in there to mimic that feeling and then threw in some fat 808 bass, skittering hi-hats, and Lex Luger crash cymbals, like any good Rick Ross beat.” Truly a perfect accompaniment for the interplay of old and new, high and low, simple yet mind-bogglingly complex that En Noir does so well.
Additional reporting by Gaby Wilson
EN NOIR'S SPRING 2014 RUNWAY SOUNDTRACK