A Détacher

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At first glance, the show notes at A Détacher brought to mind hazy recollections of early childhood: “ULLA met Ana Rose while on vacation in Greece…ANDREA and Natalia spent hours playing with dolls, smoothing down their shiny black hair…Years later, ALEX was struck by how much they looked like each other.” But when we spoke with designer Mona Kowalska backstage Friday night at Pier 59 Studios, everything snapped into focus. Her cozy, homespun-chic collection, titled “heavyheadedness/ wrongfootedness,” took Italian writer Elena Ferrante’s wildly popular Neapolitan Novels series as its directive, a sprawling epic of the fraught complexities of a lifelong best friendship between two women. Kowalska sourced the stories of friendship from her models.

“Those books are so tormented,” Kowalska explained. “There’s always this brutality and sort of never knowing.” The psychologies of the novels’ main characters, the idea of one’s doubt or assurance of one’s self and others, became the collection’s core exploration, proposing clothing combinations that toed the line of jolie-laide and so-wrong-it’s-right, and kept with Kowalska’s trademark off-kilter elegance. “Some of those knits are so excessive,” Kowalska offered. “Is it right? Is it wrong?” The Southern Italian locale of Ferrante’s work was not so much interpreted in texture or weight, but rather in print—Kowalska manipulated images of Mount Vesuvius, mid-eruption, in various scales and abstractions, even taking a cue from souvenir scarves. Head-to-toe roomy cable knits, quilted smock dresses, swingy frocks, and whipstitched boxy suede separates felt a bit old world, but comfortable and familiar. We like to think of Kowalska’s work as the apex of art teacher cool, and her offering for Fall 2015 fit right in.

For more from NYFW Fall/Winter 2015, click here.