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Sandy Liang is always nostalgic for the past, but her latest NYFW show was like looking into a snow globe for a glimpse of the not-so-distant future. Neon, fluffy, and sheer organza garments filled what felt like a child's playroom decorated for an industrial picnic, and the soundtrack created by Adam Intrador was a cross between the credits from a '90s video game and a wind-up jewelry box. The New York designer launched her debut unisex capsule collection for FW19, but gender fluidity has always been the ethos of the brand.
"I think putting a label on it and having guys being a part of the show lets other guys know 'Okay, I can buy this piece and I can wear it and I can rep it,'" she explains backstage. "I love menswear and that's always influenced my work anyway like oversized and baggy so this is the new step up."
At a time where the future of fashion is moving in a more genderless direction (which we've highlighted in our ongoing Identity & Representation franchise), Liang is leading the charge in an organic way that doesn't feel like a reach. SS20 is her biggest and most "flushed out" collection yet with a total of 32 looks that evoked the sadness of growing up while also maintaining the spirit of the Lower East Side. It's a continuation of what Liang has been doing since 2014, but there’s no better example of her "cool kid-casual" concept coming full circle than the SpongeBob Squarepants T-shirt. This piece in particular was a “dream come true” collaboration with Nickelodeon in which she re-drew all of the characters dressed up in versions of her own apparel.
It was hard to distinguish the gender of some of the models throughout the presentation, but that was almost the point with men in dresses and women in baggy pants. There was a noticeably diverse assortment of stylized looks between Mission Chinese founder Danny Bowien opening the show dressed like a new age Greaser with his hair slicked back, and all the Marie Antoinette-inspired big hair with bows and barrettes that followed. Every model stepped out in slip-on Vans that were custom made for the show as well.
Liang’s signature outerwear pieces (fleeces, coats, and leather jackets) were paired with everything from tracksuits, striped polos, and graphic tees to acid wash denim, corsets, and baby doll dresses. Add on her reclamation of the popular gingham pattern and couples everywhere will find themselves fighting over custody for their identical and interchangeable wardrobes. The plastic Polly Pocket-inspired jewelry was a nice finishing touch, casting a youthful aura that made each piece glow. The show closed with a gentle bang as a man draped in an elegant silk white dress reminiscent of a nightgown sauntered through the room with his long, thick mane covered in bows.
"We decided [FW19] was going to be unisex like midway through," she says. "Moving forward, I'm giving myself the space for thinking the design into it."
As a designer, Liang's mission is bigger than gender, an element that will probably never change as her fashion empire expands and takes on new forms. She isn't particularly concerned about her place in menswear though. There's no reason to worry about fitting in because Liang has already mastered the art of blending in.
"I feel like women are always taking men's pieces and borrowing from their boyfriend's, friends, or husband's closets," she says. "That's also how I dress, I wear my boyfriend's jackets and my dad's old clothes. I think it's always been like a cool thing and now it's more of a common thing so that's interesting."
Florals, flesh tones, and fleece for a most fluid spring? Truly groundbreaking.