On 22nd September Bushwick hosted its first ever fashion weekend – ‘Bushwick Zoo”.
“Williamsburg does a fashion weekend and obviously New York has a fashion week so I thought, why not do a Bushwick one?” says 27-year-old Nyssa Frank, the quirky visionary behind Bushwick’s premier fashion fiesta and owner of the Living Gallery, off Flushing Avenue.
The fashion pack kicked off the event with an eclectic costume parade through the streets of Bushwick, ending at the Living Gallery. Inside the converted warehouse space, a host of young artists, designers and performers entertained the crowds and showcased their latest flamboyant creations.
A cardboard cut-out of a naked woman stands at the entrance and multi-coloured, foam
heads hang from the ceiling, trailing brightly beaded braids. Sequins and silks are paired with Lego and leather as the artists and designers mix shock factor with a healthy dose of humor.
The 14 new talents displaying their work originate from around the world, but all are Bushwick based. “The main thing was just that they’re local and that they’re emerging,” said Frank as she welcomed spectators into the explosion of colour and couture, which lined the walls and racks of the gallery.
“The more absurd the better,” says Frank, who is majestically adorned in one of her own creations: a baby pink tutu embellished with dismembered Barbie dolls, offset with a matching headpiece and necklace made from severed plastic limbs.
Harley O’s designs are displayed on a chiselled, male model who is decked out in suspenders and a flashy, futuristic corset. “Not a lot of people get it but I’m always thinking forward,” said Harley, who was born in Brazil and moved to the US three years ago. He say’s he would like to see his designs worn by Lady Gaga and Nicky Minaj. “I think fashion needs an upgrade, an uplift,” he says as he adjusts his own gem-encrusted crown.
The gallery only opened back in April, but since then Frank has worked tirelessly to get the community involved in Bushwick’s artistic renaissance, especially local Latino artists. Yvette Cologne, 32, was born in Puerto Rico but has lived in Brooklyn all her life. She runs her own local boutique and says that celebrating creativity is the best way to bring the community together.
Experimental dancers break up the bustle, sweeping across the gallery floor to a variety of different tunes and tempos. They wear simple, flowing pieces, most of them designed by Rachel Walters, who is exhibiting her newly launched brand – Undecillion. “Fashion is a universal language, it unites people,” she points out.
Music and fashion also go hand in hand for Christina Walthall, the youngest designer in the show aged only 20. “I want to design for music artists,” she says, sighting Karl Lagerfeld as her fashion inspiration. “I make clothes for people who want to be seen and who want to make a scene,” Walthall says as she displays some of her favourite pieces. Hard edges meet pretty details and the designs are quirky and youthful.
Perched at the front of the gallery in a red sequined cape is photographer Meryl Meisler.
She was an art teacher in Bushwick for 14 years back in the 8Os and used to take photographs of the local characters on her way to and from school. She describes her striking images as “a love letter to the people.”
“I have a lot of desolation and devastation in my photos but the people in them are joyous,” says Meisler. “People in Bushwick have always had a unique sense of style. I’ve always seen that,” she notes fondly. “A pride, a look, it’s different.”