Milwaukee-born, New York-based designer Elena Velez offers a breathtaking vision of womanhood at New York Fashion Week 2023. The spring collection, “YR002: IN GLASS” explores femininity via the lens of Midwestern artisanship, speaking to the multifacetedness of all women.
The lights of the Chelsea warehouse dim, the show is ready to commence, and in a simple moment of motherhood, Julia Fox feeds her son Valentino a bottle, both wearing a custom Velez look. It is precisely this portrait that makes Fox and her child the muse for the occasion, epitomising the Elena Velez woman.
“My woman is nuanced and highly aware; she takes responsibility for her own desires,” she said.
Describing her work as “aggressively delicate” it isn’t hard to recognise why. Velez works the dichotomies of fierce femininity in the juxtaposing fabrics and materials. With the brand lexicon hinging on the dualities between hard and soft, “finding new ways to build that into the season felt like a really relevant approach,” Velez revealed.
In one look, the model wears a delicate wafer thin mini dress paired with leather arm and leg cuffs detailed with corset lacing. A black leather corset laced cap finishes the ensemble that is brutal yet equally as elegant.
From latex dripped dresses, metal steel structures and incomplete corsetry to a blackened ash that coats the skin, Velez’s presentation of feminism models a “barbaric physicality” as she puts it.
Holding Multiple Truths
The garments contain a romantic grit in their lining. Her characteristic palette of mutes communicates thru second-hand linens; also gauzes and cottons – crumbling to expose what many of us are told to conceal. Stomach, thighs, lower hips, nipples and breasts form the looks, the woman’s anatomy that is so often suppressed and regulated is privileged in the space of Velez.
The show was underscored with a demanding commentary, “the story was about my dissociation with my own body, having seeded it as a conduit for other bodies through motherhood, through all the political assails on female volition,” Velez declared backstage. “So a lot of the references have to do with BDSM, bondage, and sexuality in more violent ways.”
Look 30 truly defined and redefined the quintessence of Velez. The canvas bustle gown has silk reinforcement, and some repurposing of Milwaukee steel brawl. Scaffolding the body, caging her chest and restricting her arm by the wrist. She becomes the woman Velez seeks to portray. She is a “shrieking display of female hysteria.” Whilst a part of her is immoveable, she refuses to stop.
“This collection is a bloodletting for woman in her most insufferable and divine glory,” she writes in her show notes. “Iron-forged, erotic, extraterrestrial, esoterically burdened, and communing in dark-magic sorority.”
Ultimately, it’s Velez’s deconstruction, her graceful, that fashion speaks to the multiplicity of women. Gathering strength and seeking consolation in womanhood, Velez seeks to portray “the saint and the sinner at the same time. She’s the virgin mother and she’s also the whore and the harlot.”
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