Elena Velez Redefines Womanhood on the Runway

If you needed further proof that Elena Velez is one to watch, take a look at her spring collection, “YR002: IN GLASS,” shown on Saturday afternoon in a Chelsea warehouse to a crowd of editors and fans, including Julia Fox and her son Valentino. Both were dressed in bespoke looks made out of bioplastic latex—a collaboration between the designer and artist Caroline Zimbalist.

“It took a few different iterations to land on a composition that would dry into something structural yet malleable enough to accommodate a wearer,” Velez tells of the matching mother-son ‘fits. “Working with Caroline lent so much to the brand lexicon, which already centers on the dualities between hard and softness. Finding new ways to build that into this season felt like a really relevant approach.” Velez is one of the most exciting young designers in New York right now, if not the most, for her no-holds-barred take on femininity, and what a woman has to say in 2022.

George Chinsee//Getty Images
elena velez  runway rtw spring 2023

George Chinsee//Getty Images

Basically, Velez knows women are mad as hell right now. In a post-Roe landscape, the female body is at jeopardy more than it has ever been in our lifetimes. Her brutally sweet vision of a woman scorned has never been more relevant as judicial hypocrisies and misogyny take center stage in American life. As such, she describes her collection as a “shrieking display of female hysteria—women on the verge of a nervous breakdown, united in fear and grief. The frequent dehumanizing of the female figure is not a deterrent for her, but rather the propellent to gather strength and seek solace in womanhood.

elena velez  runway  rtw spring 2023

George Chinsee//Getty Images

In terms of the clothes, Velez’s draping is masterful, with everything undone to just the right degree. Her signature muted palette allows the emotion of the woman to complete the look. Silks and linens fall apart to reveal what society wants hidden: a nipple, the stomach, the lower hip. Models walked with laced hoods covering their mouths and brutalist metal sunglasses, toting Velez’s first-ever handbag: a metal box with a steel encasing suspending it. The styling by Joe Van O was defiant, polished, and apocalypse-ready (see: the aforementioned hoods also done in leather, along with simple pointed-toe heels).

elena velez runway  september 2022 new york fashion week the shows

Theo Wargo//Getty Images
elena velez  runway rtw spring 2023

George Chinsee//Getty Images

Specifically, two looks defined and redefined Velez’s ethos all in one. There was a meticulously crafted corset paired with a black-and-white woven skirt, a pairing that was brutal yet objectively gorgeous, daring you to look but somehow not explicitly inviting your gaze. A canvas bustle dress with silk underpinnings was interwoven with repurposed Milwaukee steel brawl, covering the model’s chest while pinning her arm down by the wrist. She may be locked, she may be battered, but she is definitely not stopping anytime soon. And we sincerely hope Velez doesn’t either.

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