As a girl with the immune system of your average geriatric, who consistently ends up rampantly ill before every major exam and social event of her existence, it was only typical that I contracted strep throat two days before New Zealand Fashion Week. Especially after scoring a free front-row ticket to the first New Generation show, being offered both a custom-designed Slaeve dress to wear to it, and accommodation in their after-party apartment for the week. Cue a soul-destroying, week-long case of FOMO.
Everything was too perfect to be true, so karma decided to kick my arse for mentioning my flatmate’s cardigan-clad boyfriend in my “What to do when your boy toy dresses like shit” column after they both specifically requested I not do so. (Speaking of which, cardigan-clad flatmate’s boyfriend—I appreciated your response letter, but cannot help feeling that it could have been more efficiently communicated via morse code from the other side of my bedroom wall…)
A week I had envisioned spending tottering about a trashed hotel room at the several-day-long Slaeve after-party/bender, in a drunken, platform-clad haze, surrounded by male models, was instead vicariously experienced via snap stories and Instagram posts. I spent it sulking in a blanket cocoon, doped up to my eyeballs on antibiotics, bitterly complaining at anything/one who would listen.
Subsequently, what was supposed to be an envy-inducing recount of fashion shows and after parties that you weren’t invited to, is instead a lapse in the usual sass and satire, to discuss super cool stuff that the brilliantly talented Ezekiel “Zeke” Crawford, designer of Slaeve, is doing, before returning to slandering Nike slides and bucket hats next issue.
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Three months ago, I received word from Zeke, a rather close pal of mine, that he had been offered the opportunity to showcase his designs at NZFW. The catch was, to do so he had two days to come up with $4500. Short of selling one of his kidneys on the internet, robbing a bank or getting the dodgiest backstreet loan imaginable, I had very little faith that this was within the realms of possibility. Contrary to absolutely everyone’s advice that he was being ridiculously over-ambitious, Zeke managed to raise three grand in the first 24 hours alone.
And so, Slaeve emerged. A unisex, androgynous streetwear label, characterised by its deceptively simple silhouettes and monochrome palette, with a subversive edge. Slaeve aims to create gender neutral clothing, without conforming to the usual tropes of “androgynous” dressing, which typically employ a more masculine aesthetic, putting everyone in pants and shapeless, boxy silhouettes. A personal advocate of what he refers to as “man-skirts”, Zeke’s work challenges fashion’s existing notions of gender conformity.
Slaeve was significantly the only unisex collection shown at NZFW 2015, following a wave of international designers removing gender-differentiation from their clothing, both reflecting and solidifying the increasing social awareness and acceptance of the fluidity of gender and identity. Gender is no longer viewed as a binary, and fashion is following these social and political changes accordingly. Such can be seen within the collaboration between British department store, Selfridges, and Nicola Formichetti, creating the unisex “store-within-a-store” space, Agender, exclusively stocking gender neutral brands such as Formichetti’s Nicopanda, Hood by Air and Ann Demeulemeester; with the project advocated by trans model Hari Nef.
Slaeve’s AW16 collection featured long, colour-blocked layers, in jersey fabrics, contrasted with neoprene and mesh. These unusual fabric choices served to emphasise the sport-to-streetwear vibe of the collection, as materials typically used within, and associated with sportswear. Long-line tees were paired with shin-length tube skirts, knee-grazing shorts were layered with leggings. Neoprene jogger pants were contrasted with raw-edged, asymmetrical layers, screaming urban sports luxe. Simple silhouettes were juxtaposed with face masks, Raf Simon sneakers, Y3s and Docs, harking to the brand’s strong streetwear influence. The monochrome palette was offset by bold, contrasting prints, featuring subversive typography and distorted, barely recognisable portraits of Frida Kahlo. Between the print-work, unique fabric choices and unusual tailoring details, including a collarless jacket; Slaeve sets itself apart from the flood of monochromatic streetwear labels, with subtle quirks and precise attention to detail. Hair and makeup was kept clean and minimalistic, a blank canvas for the clothing to aesthetically dominate.
Slaeve debuted within one of two New Generation shows held this year, group showcases displaying the latest wave of fresh talent, enabling young designers the opportunity to show within NZFW without literally bankrupting themselves.
Whilst full-time studying second year Architecture at the University of Auckland, working part-time and managing to successfully function as a human being with some semblance of a social life, Zeke designed and sewed his entire 30-piece collection, styled and staged various promotional photo shoots and videos, created Slaeve’s website and online store, managed Slaeve’s various social media outlets, and organised two capsule collection drops to be released online, all in time for Fashion Week. Which just so happened to coincide with his hand-in week. No big deal. Next time you are staring at your unfinished assignment at 4.38am, crying into your sixth coffee of the evening, be inspired by this feat.
I have never in my tertiary career finished an essay before its due date. As I write this article, it is almost two days late (sorry Sam!!). Once I attempted to hand-sew a boned corset from scratch on the morning it was due to be presented and graded. How on earth Zeke managed to pull this off will never cease to amaze and/or inspire a deep-rooted sense of inadequacy in design students everywhere. Stay tuned whilst this kid literally takes over the world.
Slaeve’s next creative endeavour will be in collaboration with fellow New Generation designer Jordan Holliday, so hit up the Slaeve Facebook page, Instagram or slaeve.tumblr.com to get in the loop. His current collection can also be purchased from Slaeve.net (kindly link your badly-dressed boyfriends).