Even with a fantastic collection, the Fashion Week expectations are pretty standard: arrive, take a seat, start late, race to a cab. Or if it's a presentation, even a highly anticipated one, the room is packed, style bloggers are photographing, and there's a line for a drink. So when visitors entered Gary Graham's smaller, dimly lit room at Milk Studios on Saturday, it was strange to hear a hush fall over the restless crowd. Thickly scented with incense and smoky by a fog machine, the drama heightened with moody and ambient music by fashion photographer and artist Alex Antitch. A stark winter forest from upstate New York was projected on the wall, over the models, casting sharp shadows off of models. They slowly circled, keeping a handful of Graham's 30 looks on view.
Graham's name is beginning to snowball, despite the fact that his line is heading into its 11th year. A graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and owner of two namesake New York-based boutiques, the Delaware-born designer began to break into the mainstream when he was named a finalist for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund (past winners include Alexander Wang and Rodarte). Known for his sense of history, his fall 2010 collection focused on draping, uneven hems and rich, tapestry-like textures. "We wanted to present the models in a staged enviroment but also add movement," Graham says of both his sartorial and presentation choices. "It was really an idea of rustic glam." Inspired by 19th-century mysticism and Native American weaving, his forms were voluminous, bunched skirts and myriad of fabrics, from fur to alpaca Indian cloth. Of course, the silence was occasionally broken by an onlooker wheedling to the front to get a view of the shoes: spacey origami style wedge 'hooves,' keeping the models towering.
Despite the dark, haunting ambience, Graham painted with colorful, abstract prints, most successfully on a bunched, super-bubble skirt and on a handful of leggings that may be some of the most wearable pieces seen this season. Each look of Graham contained many literal layers: an embroidered bolero covered a camel-toned ruched dress, a leather assymetric cloak buttoned atop a fringed wool skirt. Materials, prints, tones and fabric were all reused, giving a mix-and-match quality to the entire collection. The unexpected presentation was a romance of extremes— angular, sci-fi shoes and woodsy clothes, soft textures and tough leathers, dark and bright— demonstrated that, after ten years, Gary Graham deserves everything he has coming to him.