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Japanese designer Daisuke Obana’s N.HOOLYWOOD imprint is one of the more buzzy showcases out of the generally ho-hum roster presenting during New York Fashion Week: Men’s. So much so, in fact, that he required all invitees to brave the snowy winds and trek to a luxury hotel suite well outside the event’s main hub at Skylight Clarkson studios (the only other designer who was showing off the beaten path this week was Raf Simons, if that suggests anything).

Before its 5 p.m. showtime, and with two hours at my disposal, I decided to head over a bit earlier to check out all the backstage shenanigans.

Upon walking passed an empty room laden with a varied assortment of chairs (stools, wooden rockers, banquet chairs), which evoked some sort of whimsical tea party taken from a scene in Alice in Wonderland, I walked into a room where a group of frantic, Japanese-speaking staff were doing final touches on each model’s first look.

The cast was very eclectic, ranging from middle-aged dudes with scruffy beards to rail-thin skater-types with blue hair and neck tattoos. A result of street casting, most likely, which appears to be all the rage right now.

I skimmed through the press release and realized that FW17’s narrative seemed to be all about the fetishization of homeless communities. “This season features designs that embrace [a homeless person’s] unique style of combining traditionally contrasting elements, such as in unconventional layering or senses or color, along with experimental sizing,” the notes read.

I suppose that explains why the models looked discernibly disheveled and were engulfed in layers upon layers of knitwear and flannel; a style choice in this case, and one that genuine marginalized groups follow out of cause and necessity, not because they noticed it was trending on Instagram.

I went back to my seat to finally see how these looks would pan out on the catwalk. To the syrupy rhythm of an ambient/industrial soundtrack, models made their way through the maze-like chair setup carrying shiny nylon bags obviously designed to look like trash bags. Graphics of newspaper clippings were emblazoned on puffer coats and vests, wool trousers, hoodies and ponchos. Sweaters, oversized scarves and wrinkled dress shirts were smothered around models’ faces. Nothing too daring about the color scheme really, but I suppose its inconsistency was an intentional homage to this notion of “contrasting elements.”

Glamorizing the “homeless lifestyle” in the fashion industry is certainly not a new concept, yet it’s still one that remains questionable and, if approached frivolously, can come across as insensitive or exploitative. I’m sure Obana’s inspiration came from a place of sincerity, however, I’m not sure how creatively enlightened one would feel if the tables were turned.

For more coverage of FW17 Fashion Week be sure to read our other reports on today’s hottest brands.

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Words by Nico Amarca
Fashion Editor, North America