The otherworldly look SS21 at THE BLONDS for NYFW

Same But Different

How New York celebrates fashion, faces and freedom.

It’s been 18 months since most of us have seen clothes on a runway, touched the fabrics or conducted an interview in person. But September 2021’s New York Fashion Week embraced the return of in person, gracefully balancing regulations, professionalism and fun. While some things have changed, the energy that the second week in September carries is still the same.

Once all of the checkpoints were crossed off, walking into the pre-shows felt like nothing had changed; the vibe reignited and the energy level high. Everyone was back at it, with the passion and dedication that defines the New York fashion scene

Backstage at Saint Sintra

Each September, words like “splendid” or “vibrant” are used to describe the usually bright Spring/Summer collections. This season was no exception and it seemed to never be more relevant. It was a pure celebration of fashion, faces and freedom.

The colorful adventure began with Saint Sintra’s debut collection, inspired by her favorite children’s book in which the kids of the town bring color back after it was stolen. The makeup was playful and you guessed it, vibrant. Sintra brought edgy couture to the Manhattan nightclub location’s basement runway, which was decorated in a jungle meets funfair theme. And Sintra brought another element to the experience – an hour of cell phone free time due to the lack of reception. 


Childhood too, was the inspiration behind Snow Xue Gao’s Spring/Summer ’22 collection that pays tribute to the namesake designer’s heritage and her family. In Snow Xue Gao’s early years, she spent time losing herself in her grandmother’s garden. Color-blocking and patterns in fabrics such as charmeuse were heavily prominent. Asymmetrical and deconstructed designs completed the collection’s relaxed yet tailored aesthetic. The presentation’s visual set-up included media art creating a dynamic and memorable experience. A free-style piano performance offered an aural interpretation of Snow Xue Gao’s childhood.

Traveling predominated as a theme this season, undoubtedly a result of its long hiatus from our pandemic lives.

Teh colorful runway for Saint Sintra
Snow Xue Gao SS21
Duncan's East Village girl version backstage at the SS21 show

Bronx and Banco’s collection, “Amazonica” was presented on the roof at Spring Studios with the warm September sun as the perfect accessory. The makeup was neutral: soft smokey eyes, bronze tint, big brows,  finished off with glossed eyes and lips. Models carried bags with “Don’t call me – I’m in St Barth” or “Hamptons”, reflecting the perfect summer vibe. 

Duncan’s inspiration was similar, yet the execution completely different. Inspired by a trip to Miami from New York’s harsh winter weather, the collection embodied the transition from day chic to nightlife. The makeup was based on the edgy East Village girl: Dark and pink lips, smokey eyes and double lashes. Gary Baker, Duncan’s key hair stylist called it, “glam punk.”

Christian Cowan’s collection brought the nightlife to the runway. Big hair inspired by the 60s underlined the celebration of New York’s comeback. The designer explained, “It’s a bunch of different women going to the same party.” Cowan encouraged the models to ham it up and turned his show into its usual high-energy experience.

Sunny side up: The look at Bronx and Banco SS21

Make-up by Isamaya Ffrench for Christian Cowan

Winnie Harlow for Christian Cowan SS21

Many designers took on the new normal with ready-to-wear collections featuring themes à la red carpet and nightlife, with nature as an omnipresent inspiration.


Rodarte debuted dresses of sheer lace, dripping beads, silk floral prints and sunset hues in a Manhattan courtyard, surrounded by large cacti and stone sculptures. The open-air location invited the wind, billowing the elegantly draped fabrics as if on cue.


Thom Browne’s makeup was also inspired by nature.  Some model’s faces were airbrushed with shimmering floral ornament and others masked with strategically placed clay strokes resembling cracked earth. The American designer known for his tailored suits presented a gender fluid collection embracing the androgynous character of the line.

Tom Ford brought the Californian lifestyle to the runway. Garments embodied the need to be seen, evident by the bright colors and unconventional silhouettes for both men and women.

This season, New York Fashion Week’s grand finale was presented by the designer duo “The Blonds”. Driven by the future of entertainment and luxury space traveling, the designers launched the audience gathered at the Times Square nightclub on a cosmic galaxy trip. The Blonds are known for their extravagant shows and clothes and this one was no exception. David Blond name-checked musicians Bodine and Lion Babe as inspirations, including them as models and performers in the runway show. “I think we need to realize that fashion is now becoming its own entertainment platform, much like a concert or a sports game,” said the designer.

Tom Ford SS21 via

Lion Baby on stage at THE BLONDS

The show was the perfect closure to a season that was so much more than the display of upcoming collections. It was the celebration of New York’s comeback, its resilience and new beginnings.

So long, New York Fashion Week.

Good to have you back.

Rixa Kleymann /
September 21, 2021
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