It felt fitting that the final model at Rachel Comey’s show on Wednesday carried a mirror down the runway. After all, throughout her label’s 22-year history, Comey has always held up a mirror to the desires of a certain kind of professionally creative woman.
“There’s something about her clothes that feels effortless and sophisticated, like what I imagine a gallery owner in the late ’80s would wear,” a friend of mine who’s a book editor said when I texted her after the show. You could easily substitute theater director or architect for gallery owner in that sentence. (For that matter, you could also substitute book editor.)
The mirror was, in fact, a collaboration with a pioneering multimedia artist, Joan Jonas, who, as Comey explained, “is famously known for working with mirrors in her performance and installation art since the 1970s.” (You can see a reconfiguration of Jonas’s 1969 Mirror Piece here.) For the Spring 2024 collection, the Comey team drew inspiration from all facets of Jonas’s work. You can see it in the colors and textures of the clothes and bags, but there are also more literal representations: Some pieces are printed with stills from her videos, including a few that include her own face and body.
Jonas has been making art in SoHo, around the corner from Comey’s store and studio—and not far from the alley where the show was held—for almost 50 years. 2024 will be big for her: She’s getting a complete retrospective at the MoMa and another exhibit at the Drawing Center, both opening in March. The next 12 months or so should also be pretty momentous for Comey. The brand just hired an internationally minded new president, Julie Discours-Rabin, who was head of global sales and merchandising for fashion tricksters Area, and in October it will open a fourth store on Fillmore Street in San Francisco, adding to a collection of retail outposts in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Los Angeles.
And then, of course, there’s the fashion forecast. “The RC Spring 24 collection and show are tributes to Jonas but moreover, to all those like her who experience and communicate their worlds with sensitive body-mind awareness,” Chelsea Spengemann of the arts nonprofit Soft Network wrote in the show notes. As a person who is always bumping into things, I would describe my own mind-body awareness as downright insensitive, but I loved witnessing the concept play out across the clothes, which either hugged the body or bloused out from it in compelling shapes.
An electric-blue playsuit was loose on top but tight on the bottom, cut high in the back for a flash of cheek; it made me think of all the black and beige naked dresses on the red carpet, and how fresh it felt to see a woman being deliberately hot in a way that involved bright, glorious color. For those who are looking for more of a naked-dress experience, there was a transparent shift with gold embellishments—at once spangly and, because of the ease with which the model was wearing it, totally casual.
This lack of fussiness and attention to comfort have always been a big part of the brand’s appeal. It’s easy to see yourself wearing, and living in, almost every piece that comes down the runway, including the shoes. (It takes a lot to get me into heels in this hybrid-work era, but I could imagine opting into the silver go-go boots or the perforated pumps just for fun.)
“There’s not much fashion at that price point that feels like fashion, in that it’s been designed by a person with a unique sensibility while also being flattering and grown-up,” said my book editor friend when I asked her to pinpoint what she likes about the clothes. It might be a cliché to talk about “women who design for women,” but in the case of Rachel Comey, it’s very real.
Partly that’s because Comey believes in blurring the lines between her audience and her colleagues. Some of the models who walked in the show were also artists. (One was Coco Gordon Moore, artist, actor, poet, and daughter of Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore.) Molly Ringwald was watching from a bench, along with what felt like half of the women of media Twitter. I counted multiple guests known for their devoted niche followings: Mona Kowalska of the clothing line A Détacher, TV writer and radio producer Starlee Kine of the podcast Mystery Show, actor Heléne York from the small but beloved comedy The Other Two.
This was the first New York Fashion Week show for Comey in two years. For a while before that, she’d become known for smaller, more intimate shows that doubled as dinner parties and salons for some of New York’s most interesting women and femmes. But for Comey, the format seems to matter less than the act of bringing people together in a creative endeavor.
“I love showing,” she told Bazaar. “There are so many elements—collaborative discussions, creative acts, spontaneous discoveries—that only happen with a live show.” She’d chosen a particularly New York location, a narrow NoHo alleyway that radiated late-summer heat. As the models walked, curious passersby stopped to take pictures. There was a back-to-school buzz in the air, with people to see and fizzy new projects to celebrate, and Comey could feel it: “Today was pure joy for my team and me.”
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