New York Fashion Week is decadent, depraved and delusional

And somehow Tiffany Brown was boring?

Manasa Gudavalli and Trace Miller

Nothing about Tiffany Brown Designs’ Fall/Winter 2022 collection enticed us to wear it — much less purchase it. It was superfluous. It was superficial. It was fake leather and fake fur, the color of the signifier “pumpkin spice.”

Sure, fake leather and fake fur are more sustainable than the real thing — more ethical; but they sure did make the clothes look cheap and poorly made. It was giving Shein. Granted, the clothes might not be made with sweatshop-wage labor. But if you really want to be sustainable, ethical and fashionable, just stick with materials that are neither unsustainable and unethical nor simulacra of the same. After all, the hyperreal never satisfies — and unfortunately we’re nowhere near the hyperreal of haute couture.

(Staff Photo by Manasa Gudavalli)

We are, however, neck-deep in spectacle. And if spectacle is not so much an ensemble of images as “a social relation among people, mediated by images,” as Guy Debord argues in “The Society of the Spectacle,” then spectacle was alive and kicking at Tiffany Brown’s runway show. There was a woman dressed as a loofah with a Brobdingnag black bow in her hair to tie the outfit together. The outfits in the crowd — we would say “audience,” but they were there more to be seen than to see — were outlandish; not the haute couture type of outlandish, however, but the gaudy and tawdry kind: tacky cuts, garish colors, tasteless color-blocking. It was “Emily in Paris” times 10. Nobody there was dressed nice, objectively speaking. NYFW is not about your experience. It’s about the experience the others perceive you as having. 

Maybe the trick worked. But the crowd clashed jarringly with the collection. The common denominator was tacky — the crowd, because it oozed the comfortable tastelessness of privilege, and the collection, because it fell miles below its projected course.

(Staff Photo by Manasa Gudavalli)
(Staff Photo by Manasa Gudavalli)

“It’s luxury,” designer Tiffany Brown said about her FW22 designs. “We’re a little bit more sexy, it’s more date-night kind of stuff, where it’s time for Valentine’s Day. So I wanted to give people something that’s a little more variation … The brown collection is just more fun, more beautiful pieces, more opportunities to show a different facet of women.”

For sure. The fact of the matter is, this was a NYFW show — but the clothes belonged on page three of fashionnova.com. Take, for instance, the muddy-brown fake leather dress with cut-outs at the hips. It’s the same cut-out silhouette that’s been covering the racks and browser tabs of Forever 21 for what feels like forever. The same cut-out silhouette that has since become a microtrend that even TikTok fashion gurus would admit is a microtrend. And we’re sorry, but microtrends have no business in designer collections premiering at NYFW.

(Staff Photo by Manasa Gudavalli)

Or take, in another instance, the tulle skirt stippled with roses that looked like doorknobs. If our 13-year-old child were to make that skirt at a DIY craft camp, we might be proud parents. But as it stands, we were standing in Slate NYC — “New York City’s most exciting event space,” according to its website — watching amateur models walk like automatons between concrete pillars on a dance floor-turned-runway. Even the DJ looked bored. The tulle, paired with a tight brown leotard-like top reminiscent of Kim Kardashian’s skims, gave nothing more, nor less, than a childhood ballet recital costume. The dried flowers dangling from the tulle could very well have been plucked straight from Hobby Lobby or Michael’s, maybe Joanne’s — and definitely from the bottom rack. What could have been a statement detail putting a period on an otherwise blase outfit became just another question mark.

“I wanted to add just a little bit more femininity,” Brown said regarding the dried brown flowers. “Because of the color, [the design] seemed a little bit rougher, a little bit more coarse. I wanted to soften the look a bit.”

(Staff Photo by Manasa Gudavalli)

The interrogative punctuation mark, in fact, might just be the best way to encapsulate the entire experience, which ended with a stiff blue tulle dress that was like off-brand Dillard’s Cinderella goes to prom alone. Tiffany Brown Designs bases each collection — each season — on a specific color. Brown went with lavender last season. This season, she went with brown.

But here’s the thing: The color brown has been having its moment, a trend engendered by TikTok aesthetics derived from ’90s culture and Y2K nostalgia. Brown’s brown, however, caters more toward the self-conscious millennial elements of New York’s decaying bourgeoisie. Moreover, the TikTok trends are predicated upon the curated (in)authenticity of younger influencers, a peculiar context that designers cannot hope to replicate given the nature of higher-end fashion and the environment at NYFW.

Last season’s lavender collection might not have been great, but at least it was tasteful and wearable. The designs were hardly new and certainly wouldn’t turn heads, but at least they didn’t hurt the eyes. The materials appeared to be of higher quality. The cuts were more timeless. This season’s brown Brown collection, however, was wanting — in cloth, in color, in cut, in class — which left us wanting nothing to do with it. Except, perhaps, for its message.

“We’re really on the cusp right now of the first Black woman being nominated and appointed to the Supreme Court,” Brown said. “So we’re very excited, and so I wanted to celebrate melanin of all people of all races. And that’s why I chose brown. And then, of course, my last name is Brown — so I kind of don’t have a choice.”

Tiffany Brown Designs — transitioning from a moderate brand to a luxury brand, according to Brown — will be opening a store in SoHo in summer 2022, in Paris in fall 2022, and in Shanghai in 2023.

Contact Manasa Gudavalli at [email protected] and Trace MIller at [email protected]