Area’s Piotrek Panszczyk is looking for new perspectives. “This is our 10th year in business, so we thought it was a perfect time to switch things up,” he explained at his Chinatown studio the day before the show. “We’re expanding into more and more categories and they don’t always click for a lot of people; if you come from a fashion show kind of perspective, maybe you don’t know that we also do jeans, and we also do jersey.” Panszczyk and his team are excellent at deconstructing and digging into his chosen theme each season until he finds something new and exciting. This season the starting point was eyes, which led to cartoon eyes, which led to the simplified shape of a circle inside another circle. “The eyes as a symbol just always speak to us because they connect so many of our favorite art forms like Pop Art in the ’60s or surrealism in the 1920s; from Warhol to Man Ray,” he said.
Today, at the Starrett-Lehigh building, the familiar sound of cartoon boioioings set the pace for the designer’s eyeful explorations which led him into very mod territory. The show opened with a simple mini shift dress in white leather with circular leather appliqués at the chest in the shape of eyes (and silver studs for irises). Eye shapes were also cut out from pink leather to create an oversized coat and matching mini skirt in carnation pink, and another in white, which he paired with a high waist slim maxi skirt.
Denim is a big category for Area and every season there is a new novel approach to the fabric. This season, he created a dalmatian jacquard denim that was truly fantastic. (If you look at enough white and black oval shapes, you’ll eventually start thinking about dalmatian spots.) With this group he really showed the Area way of doing things: for editorial, a very Balenciaga-esque long veiled-cape dress. And for those who fall in love with that piece, a pair of hot pants, an oversized shirtdress, a corset top, and of course, wide leg jeans. It worked. A series of floral jersey pieces in the middle felt perhaps a little too commercial to fit in with the runway fantasy—and Panszczyk’s runway is above all, a fantasy: a shift dress covered in googly eyes that floated above the body, the cropped top and car wash skirt made entirely of oversized crystals that jingled and jangled as the model walked, and especially the crochet dress embellished with leather flowers that seems destined for a red carpet somewhere. But Panszczyk can also create impact through minimalism. At the end of the show, the concept had been stripped back to its essence: a gold metallic ring with a crystal floating in the middle, floating in a sea of black cotton. It appeared at the center of a simple oversized cotton shirt, at the halter neck of an easy jumpsuit, and also on the breasts of a slim strapless shift.