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Dancers in masks and paint-splashed coveralls emerged from behind plastic curtains to taunt the audience, while the model in the tweed overalls dripping in watch chains was Adam Selman, Rihanna’s go-to designer.
Laurence Chandler and Joshua Cooper, the duo behind the label Rochambeau, wanted to shake things up with their punk-inspired fall 2017 collection — not only the clothes, but also the event itself.
Neiman Marcus fashion director Ken Downing believes they succeeded; at Raf Simons’ New York debut Wednesday evening, he called Rochambeau “one of the best shows I’ve seen this week. The styling was great, the casting was great, and the over-the-top audacity of the presentation was exciting. That’s what we come to fashion shows for; we don’t want to see people who look like they could be walking down the sidewalk. Where is the fun in that?”
Chandler and Cooper collaborated with Mark Mothersbaugh, co-founder and lead singer of Devo, who in recent years has gained a following as a visual artist. “We made a mood board looking at punk and were trying to figure out how to find the subculture of a subculture,” Chandler explained backstage after the show. “Looking at artists involved in the punk scene of the late ‘70s/early ‘80s led us to Mark, and a friend happened to be doing a museum show with him. We were connected, and that first phone call was two hours.”
Mothersbaugh ultimately contributed several elements to the collection, most notably the dripping-paint graphics seen on everything from pinstriped pants to a bright yellow raincoat, while he also curated the show’s soundtrack. “It was just really exciting not only to reference an artist, but also to work directly with him,” Chandler said, adding that Mothersbaugh’s Devo roots were in keeping with what he and Cooper had already been envisioning for the fall season.
“When I dug into Devo, I realized it was short for ‘de-evolution,’ and at the time was a statement for an artist movement reacting against what they felt was wrong with the environment, the climate, the destruction of the planet — it’s a mentality very similar to what’s going on right now,” said Chandler. “It was definitely a perfect base to create some very cool stuff.”
Mesh tops and a great floor-length studded trench that opened the show were among the pieces that communicated the punk threads running throughout the collection. Jumpsuits embellished with watch chains and safety pins and T-shirts announcing “Stay Alive!” reinforced the theme, but also key were the more classic fabrications — including pinstripes and corduroy, both trending this week — that the Rochambeau duo imbued with an attitude that felt cool and fresh.
Once the collection was complete, Chandler and Cooper wanted a runway production that felt equally exciting, so they enlisted roughly two-dozen actors, dancers and athletes to add a performance-art concept to the show. “We took over our building,” Chandler admitted. “In one room you’d have dance performances in rehearsal, and in another room we’d be doing fittings. It was just the best energy possible.”
Ultimately, Mothersbaugh couldn’t make the show due to a film commitment, but you wouldn’t know it from the smile on Chandler’s face once the last model had exited the runway. “Mark was the biggest artist to date that we’ve had a chance to work with,” he said. “The whole experience has been amazing — though now that it’s over I’m a little heartbroken, because I want to be working on it again.”
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