Allow Heron Preston to Reintroduce Himself
“I feel like right now, there’s very little brand loyalty,” said Heron Preston on Saturday afternoon, a few hours before his highly anticipated New York Fashion Week runway show. If you can believe it, it was Preston’s first time on the NYFW calendar, despite having been a presence in the city’s menswear scene for the better part of a decade. He hasn’t shown a collection in NYC since 2016, when he unveiled an unexpected and brilliant collaboration with the city’s Department of Sanitation that minted the Virgil Abloh consigliere and Been Trill alum as a bona fide rising star of American fashion. Shortly after, like many white-hot young American designers before him, he landed on the Paris Fashion Week schedule. After a series of buzzy runway shows in Paris, he moved to digital presentations during the pandemic lockdown. Unlike most of his peers, he never came back, continuing to release lookbooks instead of his usual high-wattage, party-like presentations. His absence from the schedule, and the fact that the young, hype-attuned audience Preston caters to has become that much harder to reach, seemed to slow his momentum. Preston acknowledged as much backstage before the show, when he described one of his goals: to remind people “that Heron is still around.”
Preston wasted no time. As the last few guests squeezed into a standing-room-only concrete show space in Tribeca, Preston himself, in an orange safety vest, waltzed around the runway, spray painting a meandering orange line on the concrete floor. The audience gave him a proper NYFW welcome: a multitude of raised iPhones and loud, celebratory whoops. “It felt like the city was really calling me,” he said of his decision to return home. More than almost any other designer, Preston’s work feels deeply connected to New York and its stylistic, social, and physical landscapes. He treats the city as a soundboard of sorts, he said backstage, one that directly shapes his collections.
And the clothes echoed the madcap styling free-for-fall that’s spreading throughout the city. The flipside of our fickle fashion era? “Anything goes!” said Preston, which happened to be the tentative title of the show. One model, tracing the line Preston had sprayed down, wore a security-core nylon vest over a hoodie, long Dickies-like cargo shorts, and knee-high furry boots. Another model, the skateboarder Ishod Wair, wore a printed button-down shirt and thin tie with a pair of pleasantly baggy sweatpants and his own green Off-White x Nike AF1s. (Anything goes!) A videographer in a knit balaclava wandered through the space, training his vintage camcorder on the throughline that anchored the menswear looks: double-kneed pants in several different states of meticulous destruction, and tailored in that elusive, just-so slouch. They represented some of the best elevated workwear Preston has ever done. “Shapes, sizes, silhouettes, proportions—those are the style codes I really style on the streets,” he said.
Preston also cast his eye to the city’s physical infrastructure, specifically its construction sites. A women’s shoe was constructed as if by a bored welder, with a level for a heel and faux barbed wire strap. A chainmail sheath, inspired by chain link fencing, poked out from under a model’s mohair sweater. “I look at cities as layers of materials,” Preston explained. “How do I kind of adopt these found objects and readymades and incorporate those into the collection just to have some fun?”
The chainmail felt random in the mix, as did a suit made seemingly out of thin insulation, especially next to pieces you can imagine the extremely stylish models—like Wair, Alton Mason and Finlay Mangan, the types of kids whose outfits Preston surely keeps tabs on—wearing immediately, like some colorful fireman’s coats and cool bicycle jerseys. But they also point to a new sense of looseness in Preston’s work. How many designers say they throw things into their collection just for kicks?
Preston had even more fun with a new graphic signature to replace his cyrillic logo, which was once ubiquitous in haute-streetwear circles and has now (for obvious reasons) been retired. That cyrillic graphic read “style.” The new one, splashed on tees and a hat, reflected Preston’s irreverent new attitude, and doubled as a message to those who doubt that he’s back: “S.T.F.U.”
Check out the clothes and the crowd below.
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