Sexy, Messy, Elegant: Anna Bolina SS23
“The fashion world is a really dark business,” Anna Bolina told us after her off-calendar runway show on Monday night. “It’s really hard to stay sane.” While New York Fashion Week seems to have recovered from its pandemic-related ailments, the struggle for young designers to stand out in the sea of brands seems greater than ever. Yet for Bolina, a self-taught seamstress and star of the downtown scene, chaos breeds inspiration. Known for her barely-there dresses, plastic and faux fur scarves, and screen printed tube tops best described as fast fashion couture, her work simultaneously critiques and finds power in the objectification of women, while cheekily embodying the destructive nature of the fashion world. This season, beige and black micro mesh catsuits and mini dresses were truncated with sequin inlay sets and extravagant gowns that Bolina reconstructed from up-cycled pieces. Towering models stomped through an abandoned SoHo storefront in Pleasers with plastic leg warmers haphazardly slung around their long limbs. Some clutched their hems, while others let slinky fabrics slip away from their bodies as they commanded the packed room. Whatever the look, what was made clear in this evening wear-inspired collection is that the Bolina girl takes pride in being extra—because in her fantasy it’s not wealth that inspires fashion, but they ways in which women can harness their own drama and decadence to make themselves feel sexy.
TAYLORE SCARABELLI: Hi Annalee. That was so fun. Who was the DJ?
ANNA BOLINA: Harmen Hun. Her Instagram is @himhunonline.
SCARABELLI: Ooh, I don’t know her. She went hard.
BOLINA: She’s from Chicago.
SCARABELLI: She’s hot.
BOLINA: Yeah, I know.
SCARABELLI: I mean, the whole show was so hot. The first thing I thought of was how, in your last show, there were those one leg romper pieces. They were sort of falling down, partially because you had the girls storming through a mall in pleasers, and then this time you had a girl with a—what was that? She was, like, holding her dress up with a strap?
SCARABELLI: I just kept thinking about how, as a girl who loves clubwear, it’s always like, you get all dressed up to go out and perfect every little detail, and then you spend the whole night readjusting. People don’t think of clubwear as being complicated, but it is. Was that something you were thinking about?
BOLINA: Well, as I came closer to having the looks finished, yes. The original inspiration was evening wear, so I was making these really long dramatic things and then I realized that no one could walk in them. So we had to adjust and a lot of them were held up, but it made it more delicate at the end of the day.
BOLINA: But that’s something that I always hate about going out too, is when I’m always pulling down my skirt or making sure my boobs haven’t fallen out.
SCARABELLI: It’s like the, “Do whatever you want,” dresses you made that every single girl downtown wears. They’re tiny. They don’t fit. Either your ass is out or your tits are out every single time.
BOLINA: It was definitely impractical in a different way than I’ve done. I feel like I’ve done the too short dress and this was too long, but it was still impractical. I feel like there’s something really beautiful about how impractical it is to be a female.
SCARABELLI: Totally. Can you talk a little bit about the colorways also? Because it was all red, black and white.
BOLINA: Yeah. I really just don’t like wearing any other colors. We had a silver moment too, which was a big deal for me.
SCARABELLI: Right. That lace fabric was interesting.
BOLINA: I always surround myself with my taste. I’ve tried to force myself into other colorways, but I grow out of it. I’m the type of person who wears the same thing every day for months, and this is my red, black, and white couple of years.
SCARABELLI: In a way it’s so traditional, it’s almost tacky.
SCARABELLI: And it feels intentional.
BOLINA: That’s also part of the evening wear thing. If you introduce other colors, it becomes a little daytime in my mind.
SCARABELLI: Right. So what were you looking at when you were working on this?
BOLINA: I was looking at a lot of evening wear dresses. Of course, I was looking at all designers and trying to expand my history—
SCARABELLI: What kind of woman are you inspired by?
BOLINA: A strong woman, not all the way put together, but real. The concept was having a mental breakdown. I wanted it to get more and more intense in the makeup and the music because I feel like in fashion, in this industry, it’s really hard to stay sane. It’s a very fucked cycle, you can’t stop. It drives you to the edge.
SCARABELLI: That’s me on day five of fashion week when I’m like, “I’m going to put on some black eyeliner today because I feel stressed and ugly.”
BOLINA: No, totally. I feel like the fashion world is a really dark business.
SCARABELLI: So I also think it’s this feminine thing where you keep adding more and more.
BOLINA: Totally. More and more layers. I always do that. I don’t feel comfortable leaving the house unless I have 10 layers on.
SCARABELLI: And you keep adding to your makeup and adding and adding and adding until you actually look crazy.
SCARABELLI: I like that.