Behind the Scenes: Rachel Comey Fall 2017
Words: Sam Wittwer
Images: Claire Cottrell
February 20 2017
As a woman who made her name as the epitome of a certain kind of East Coast Cool, it would be easy for Rachel Comey’s first presentation in Los Angeles to take a familiarly didactic tone. East vs. West, Skyscrapers vs. Sunshine. Brooklyn vs. Silver Lake. But Rachel Comey, and by extension the line that bears her name, is not so easily categorized. Need Supply Co. went behind the scenes to deconstruct Comey’s paradoxical parade of hard and soft.
A darling of the New York scene, Rachel Comey’s decision to present Fall 2017 in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles is as significant as the nuanced femininity of her collection. Timed ahead of the NYFW flurry, the presentation was a proper embrace of the city that is so often placed in opposition to its east coast sibling. The collection was conceived during the politically tumultuous final months of 2016, “A time of great emotion for all of us,” according to Comey. While the garments are born of feeling, it is integral to her design philosophy that emotion is never dismissed as weak or undesirable. Just the opposite, Comey and team feel their way through the creative process, embracing duality and uncertainty.
For Fall 2017, the unrest, upheaval and vulnerability of the current political climate is reflected in pieces that are both structurally rigid and touchably soft. Ornamentally embroidered and classically cut. Outfits worn by Comey’s signature unconventional models (né ‘normal women’) juxtapose parallel expressions of feminine power. The pearls-and-pantsuit business woman and the femme-dominatrix unite in a refreshingly modern view of the powerful woman, one who contains multitudes, and who most likely marches.
The collection, grounded in tailored suiting and military-inspired coats, contains moments of intentional levity. Latex pieces and bondage-inspired harnesses nod to the aesthetics of female sexual prowess, coyly paired with creme blazers, crystal bejeweling, and delicate tulle. Soft drapes, mum-ish pleats and sheer fabrics, which have traditionally spoken to an openness and vulnerability incongruous with confidence, are reclaimed as central to the modern canon of female power dressing. That Comey’s work parallels the spirit of today’s feminist movement is worth addressing. “We found ourselves thinking about the collective,” Comey notes, “What does inclusiveness look like?”
The designer finds herself at the forefront of a certain class of creative leaders whose work exists at the strange intersection of politics, art and fashion. In lieu of presenting protest as fashion, Comey and team produced 50 jackets emblazoned with the slogan “Si Vales, Valeo,” which in English translates to ‘If you are strong, I am strong,’ for attendees of the Women’s March on Washington in late January. The mantra became the battle cry of the Fall collection; a declaration of the mutual importance of self and community, of individuality and togetherness. Can a coat save the world? Surely not. Can it make an individual feel like a part of a momentous and powerful movement? Hell yes.