Although New York Fashion Week: Men's — and perhaps, the fashion industry in general — might seem like a boys' club, a handful of women are making their mark this season. We can say the same thing across the pond, too, as British designer and LVMH Prize winner Grace Wales Bonner leads the charge for female-fronted menswear brands. (Even Stella McCartney has launched her own men's line.) During the Spring 2018 shows, we spoke to the women behind Feng Chen Wang, Deveaux, Sanchez-Kane, Bode and C2H4 about why they design menswear and their latest collections. Read on to learn more.
"I'm drawn to the oversized boxy nature of menswear and also the historical details, primarily workwear shapes," says Emily Adams Bode, who studied menswear with a small group of students at Parsons. "I wanted to design for somebody outside of myself. I design for this person that is entirely not me." Bode made waves when she debuted her eponymous line at NYFW: Men's in February. Her presentations are captivating — this season took on a sleepy, bedroom vibe — and attract showgoers to take a closer look at the clothes, which are made up of vintage and deadstock fabrics discovered by Bode herself.
For Spring 2018, Bode's latest collection took her all the way to the south of France where she sourced antique bath towels, mattress fabrics and quilts, mostly covered in stripes, plaids, florals and Cézanne-inspired blues. A tapestry jacket comes from a woman who Bode met at a brocante, or flea market. "She told me I had to go back to her friend's house who was moving into a retirement home," she recalls. "Some of these tapestries were her great grandmother's and they were handmade."
Browse Bode's Spring 2018 collection in the gallery below.
"Personally, most of my wardrobe is menswear," says Shanghai-born, Los Angeles-based designer Yixi Chen backstage at her first-ever runway show on Thursday night. "I just want to make something that I would wear." But don't consider Chen's streetwear brand C2H4, which she launched in 2014, catered to anyone in particular. "It's not specifically menswear or womenswear or unisex. I don't want to set any boundary to any gender with my clothes."
Chen has built a world — or "lab" as she calls it — with C2H4, which, in chemistry speak, is the formula for ethylene. For Spring 2018, she based her "Zero Gravity" collection off of the year 2082. "This is our vision of garments that people will wear in the future," she says, pointing out the lab coat-style outerwear, utility vests and high-tech sportswear, including a capsule collaboration called "Undecayable" with Kappa. As a sci-fi film buff, Chen looked to Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" for inspiration, as well. The movie's classical score made its own cameo during the runway show's finale, led by Cool Teen™ and model Luka Sabbat. The cool blue, bright yellow and white outfits are as fit for the streets as they are for space travel.
Browse C2H4's Spring 2018 collection in the gallery below.
When it comes to Andrea Tsao's affinity towards designing menswear, she points to her practical sensibility and personal style choices. "What's special about menswear is that it's really detail-oriented," says Tsao at the end of Deveaux's runway show, which took place at the West Village restaurant En Japanese Brasserie. "It doesn't move quickly with the trends as much as womenswear does, and I think that's really important. If we put a special detail in a coat or in a pant, or we take extra care to make sure things fit and have a functional element to them, I think men really catch on to that."
The Parsons alum makes up one-third of Deveaux, and alongside her fellow designers Matt Breen and Patrick Doss, the trio will officially add women's apparel to their line due to consumer demand. Though the new addition won't launch until September, Tsao and her team have been giving sneak peeks with previous collections, including their Spring 2018 runway show, which featured a trench coat, tunic shirts, and tailored pants in nylon and cotton. Some of the men's pieces will also be made available in smaller sizes for women.
"We want the women's clothes to feel as a part of the men's line as possible," says Tsao. "With women, obviously their bodies are different, but you pay so much attention to detail with men's, and I want that to carry over to women's. I don't want to make women's pants and have the pocket bags shorter. Just because it's women's clothes doesn't mean something might be less functional or we take shortcuts on certain things."
Browse Deveaux's Spring 2018 collection in the gallery below.
Feng Chen Wang
"When I'm doing menswear, everything comes from my heart, and it's natural," says Feng Chen Wang backstage at her namesake label's runway show. Once she graduated from the Royal College of Art in London — with a master's degree in menswear, naturally — Wang launched her brand in 2015, followed by a number of career milestones, including her runway debut with VFiles and garnering a LVMH Prize shortlist spot in 2016. After spending the last year presenting her past two collections in London, Wang has returned to New York City with her first-ever solo show.
Each season usually draws from her own life experiences, and for Spring 2018, Wang focuses on the relationship with her native China. "Every year I spend a few months in China to look after all of my production," she explains. "So I have a lot of feelings toward the factories and the country." Wang wanted to take away the stigma that comes with a "Made In China" label with her latest collection, which featured shirts embroidered with "Made In China" logos and outfits accented with "MIC" 3-D lettering. Her looks ranged in a palette of bright red, brown, navy and pink, which pays homage to her country's symbolic colors and picturesque landscape. Known for her technical outerwear, Wang revamped parkas and anoraks with ruche details and lightweight mesh. But the standout was her collaboration with Jordan Brand, as models walked down the runway in custom Air Jordan 1s.
Browse Feng Chen Wang's Spring 2018 collection in the gallery below.
"The man's body for me is more static," says Mexican designer Barbara Sanchez-Kane backstage after her Spring 2018 runway show. "Plus, I dress a little more manly myself." She likens her design approach to engineering, which she studied in college. After graduation, Sanchez-Kane focused her studies on menswear at Polimoda in Florence, Italy. She presented her first collection in Los Angeles in 2015 and later, was handpicked by VFiles to show during New York Fashion Week in September 2016.
On Wednesday evening, Sanchez-Kane, who's based in Mérida, Yucatán, made her NYFW: Men's debut. "I think showing in New York is great," she says. "Men's is getting bigger and more exciting, and it's more welcoming to show to people who really appreciate your stuff."
Her conceptual runway show, titled "Men Without Fear," was certainly one to remember. Inspired by those who feel restricted from living their true selves because of societal, familial or religious standards, Sanchez-Kane's tailored garments were accented with metal wires, knotted laces and deconstructed lapels that button across the chest. As the models made their way along the runway, they gathered around a photocopier in the center of the room, xeroxing their hands and faces and taping their images on the venue's walls. It's an example of trial and error, says Sanchez-Kane. "You have to keep persevering."
Browse Sanchez-Kane's Spring 2018 collection in the gallery below.