Maryam Nassir Zadeh Could Be New York’s Next Great Skate Brand

Fashion
Pro skaters and Supreme insiders are giving the cult-inspiring downtown designer tips on pants.

Maryam Nassir Zadeh Could Be New Yorks Next Great Skate Brand

Cindy Ord

With two days of New York Fashion Week in the books, it’s time to take stock of atmosphere. Are people wearing masks? Eh, not really, especially the celebrities. Is there good stuff? Actually, yes: Collina Strada and Maryam Nassir Zadeh, and everyone’s buzzing about the young Bode protege Connor McKnight. Rumors are flying about who is and isn’t vaxxed, and how publicists and brands are skirting around the rules. Any good festivities? Well, a Gawker party held Wednesday night at the Bowery Hotel Terrace made me wonder if the site has ambitions to be a fashion media power player—its design reminds me a bit of The Gentlewoman—but they actually didn’t even know it was fashion week! The editors, kind people who genuinely like each other, huddled together like an inclusive sorority, eating mini cones of truffle fries and pigs in a blanket. Not a scene you’d ever see at a fashion party, where the quality of the event is measured by the level of chaos and food is roundly ignored. Ignorance really is bliss.

The menswear highlight of Wednesday, which played host to two sessions of New York Men’s Day, was undoubtedly Maryam Nassir Zadeh. The downtown-legend designer launched menswear last October to much acclaim, and this collection was about 50 percent men’s clothing, with lots of awesome pants and tailoring executed in the designer’s humble-chic style.

“The men’s has evolved to where I feel like now, they really have a place in the world of the MNZ,” Nassir Zadeh, who radiates warmth, said post show. “I almost feel even stronger about the men’s than the women’s.”

Great pants at Maryam Nassir Zadeh.Courtesy of Maryam Nassir Zadeh.

The collection also marked a perhaps surprising ambition for Nassir Zadeh’s menswear: she might be New York’s best new skate brand. The designer called this offering of menswear a “more sincere” evolution of the “simple building blocks” of button-ups and pleated trousers she started with last fall, a collection that was inspired by a New York skater she’d fallen in love with. For this show, the cast was filled with skaters and other MNZ tribe members—the great Andre Walker, the designer’s husband Uday Kak—and is intended to be “really unisex.” Pants are the style holy grail for any skater, and Nassir Zadeh’s, in crispy fabrics but cut to wobble slightly, were the standout. And one of the models, pro skater Tyler Blue Golden, gave her “inside tips about what the boys look at, and the lengths of things.” But unlike the myriad brands attempting to align themselves with the sport and culture (sort of like the menswear equivalent of ballet), “I feel like we’re already hitting it,” Nassir Zadeh said. It’s “in this place where it’s been accessible to [New York skaters] on a gut visceral reaction [level] from the beginning. It’s not like we have to convince them.”

She attributed the symbiosis to the way she approaches color and fabrics, which definitely rings true. But part of what makes Nassir Zadeh’s work appealing is that, in a fashion industry dominated by strategy and overthought partnerships, she works from instinct and pure emotion. Her domain is desire and daydream; she is one of the few designers working in America who can pull on that old lever of covetousness, when you see something on the runway and just want it. Her trousers fill the void for all the guys hunting down vintage Armani pants; her clothing has an adult elegance that reminds you of characters who might populate a Rachel Kushner book, bohemian and blithely unaware of the professional class. 

Maryam Nassir Zadeh’s polished skatewear.Courtesy of Maryam Nassir Zadeh.
A quilter at Stan.Photograph via Getty Images.

Before she launched the men’s, Nassir Zadeh was well-known among the men who wound up buying it because their partners all wore her stuff—girlfriends of downtown artists, musicians, and skaters, the type who hang with Dev Hynes (who was in attendance) and Ian Isaiah (who performed with Onyx Collective, beautifully). Her sensibility has cultivated an understanding that resembles the small devotion to Supreme before it really blew up. (In fact, Aaron Wiggs, the Supreme employee and sidewalk sale organizer extraordinaire, walked in the show.) Nassir Zadeh said that the Supreme comparison is “a huge compliment, but our business is so tiny compared to Supreme.” But it’s not the business—it’s the attitude and the brand’s cultural standing, a sense that Nassir Zadeh is doing something for those in the know. She doesn’t need to advertise in Thrasher or on Quartersnacks, but if she did, she’d look right at home.

The designer’s husband, Uday Kak, walked in the show.Courtesy of Maryam Nassir Zadeh.
The New York designer Andre Walker.Courtesy of Maryam Nassir Zadeh.

On either side of MNZ, I visited New York Men’s Day. Between Supreme, Bode, and Telfar, men’s fashion is basically the lifeblood of New York style, defining American clothes and setting trends around the world, but the CFDA has struggled to reconcile that energy with its own aims. Many successful brands, like Noah, Aime Leon Dore, and 18 East, seem to think that fashion shows create unnecessary noise, or perhaps cultivate an audience they aren’t interested in. Or maybe they just think it’s a waste of money. Anyways: both sessions of the men’s presentations were pleasantly packed, but I couldn’t help but feel generally underwhelmed. It’s clear that these designers, making knot-button jackets, printed pants, and references are all looking at the same little palette of designers: Evan Kinori for shirt-jackets, Christophe Lemaire for trousers, and Dries Van Noten for slightly earthy-globalized styling. The exception was APOTTS, by Detroit-born and Brooklyn-based Aaron Potts, whose genderless fringes, apron skirts, and blouses manage to be majestic in their modesty.

What would it take for Men’s Day, one of the CFDA’s great quagmires, to really work? Probably some kind of mentoring program, or pairing some of their designers with slightly established stylists to shake them out of their idols’ shadows. Maybe having designers like Teddy Santis (of ALD) or Brendon Babenzien (of Noah) offer private feedback on the collections in some kind of forum. Or getting some of those fancy menswear podcasters we keep hearing about to do a live broadcast with interviews!

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 08: Models display Stan fashions during New York Mends Day presentation at Canoe Studios on September 08, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)John Lamparski

Weirdest of all was the presentation by the brand Stan, designed by Californian Tristan Detwiler, who has come under fire for an aesthetic and approach that feels uncomfortably close to Emily Bode’s. He planted an older woman in the middle of his presentation, and put her to work sewing. It read as a defensive statement: I really am about this quilting shit! But it was just an uncomfortable spectacle instead of any real message about his place in, or engagement with, the great American craft tradition. It was like the opposite of the MNZ show: if you’re really about it, you don’t have to put a skateboard in the middle. This isn’t church, after all.

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