On Thursday evening, a group of 10 or 15 people descended into a mysterious basement on Bed-Stuy’s Myrtle Avenue. If not for the beats of FKA Twigs that floated up the dark staircase, you might have missed it completely. The space, which lies below an apartment and has been renovated into an art space called TT Gallery, carries a musty scent and feels otherworldly. Some of the floor is still dirt, the intricate roof panels and stone walls look like something out of a Final Fantasy realm. Only, the characters of this world weren’t there to adventure amongst monsters, but to strut their stuff. This was the setting for Iranian-born, Montreal-based designer and artist Pedram Karimi‘s SS17 show.
This may seem like a small crowd for an NYFW event, but any more and the space would’ve been so crowded the models, who entered and exited one by one, would have had to navigate a forest of human bodies. Rather than a bustling high-profile show, this felt intimate and almost secret.
On his website, the several pieces for sale are categorized by type of garment only, without any “menswear” or “womenswear” label anywhere near. Karimi describes this as “gender-free,” joining the ranks of many up-and-coming designers and brands who have eschewed conventional gender constraints: Telfar, LACTIC, TILLYandWILLIAM, to name a few.
“They’re detached from any [gender]. Of course, biologically, we are what we are, all these ways and combinations,” he explains. “But overall I like to push boundaries in terms of gender-bending.” This isn’t a new philosophy of his by any means—in 2014 he told Vogue Italia, “The day that business men can go to work with a pencil skirt and power suit, I feel accomplished.”
At the show, there was equally no distinction. Dresses, flowing shirts, and ultra-high waisted pants adorned bodies of all sorts, incorporating elements of feminine and masculine across the board. Karimi explained he “likes to play with volumes,” so rather than form-fitting apparel emphasizing the shape of the body he focused on the shapes fabrics can make, resulting in looks featuring bold geometric cutouts, intricate pleating, and minimalist, stark frocks. Some echoed streetwear shapes with the color drained from them, others placed glossy black or white latex in the spotlight, but instead of the fabric being used for, say, tight fetish gear, it favored angular, drape-y shifts.
Karimi said he “starts with a clean canvas,” but also considers the designs he’s made in the past when embarking upon a new one. “I usually take what I’ve done before, but play with proportions a bit. Kinda tweak the looks, switch the fabrics a little bit,” he told me. He studied at London College of Fashion, and took time to focus on the more technical side of design at LaSalle College’s International School of Fashion, Arts, and Design, in Montreal.
“Time goes by so fast. But honestly in the very beginning I was just doing things, making clothes that I was wearing and my friends were wearing, switching them with my sister’s, this and that. And it just became a little bigger and people wanted to see a collection,” Karimi tells me. “And I couldn’t get any jobs in the beginning when I finished school, and one of my teachers, mentors, just said, why don’t you do your own thing?”
And so he did: Karimi has been putting out collections for four years now, with favorable mentions in Bullett, Vogue Italia, the Canadian Huffington Post, among others.
Hair was not left out of the equation for this show, but thankfully we mean this in a positive way, unlike a certain Marc Jacobs (his recent white-dread-filled show prompted criticism and a response from the designer saying he does not “see color or race“). But enough about him—at Karimi’s show hair shone in a subtle way, taking advantage of the hairstyles the models already had. Some found their bangs gelled flat and angular to their foreheads, others emphasized one large tuft of curls, and some left their thick braids or dreads as-is. Others wore hats, a simple beige cap with an odd, entrancing thick texture.
The space complemented the collection well: both were sparse and minimal with color, smartly sharing a palette of beige, black, and white. Karimi says he doesn’t usually incorporate much color, but some snuck in this time: pastel pink hearts and phrases on some of the garments, dashes of red on a few shoes (much of the footwear was by Dutch brand United Nude), and the gold and bronze tones that adorned the models’s faces. Makeup was by Dylan Hanson, who also styled hair for the show. An added highlight (literally) were the ultra-metallic objects several models carried with them, created by artist Arma Yari. Reflecting off the lights like prisms, they looked equal parts clutch bag and dazzling treasure.
Karimi divulges that the show was a fairly last-minute endeavor; he and producer Richard Kennedy (whom we’ve interviewed for his work as a choreographer on mega-show Authority Figure at Knockdown Center) decided to do it only a few weeks ago. But everything came together, and the result was more interesting than any flashy affair.
“I love the fact that it was very intimate. And it was so last-minute, literally 11 or 12 days ago we decided to do this,” he adds. “I’m very pleased with how it just happened.”