Dauphinette designer Olivia Cheng’s Fall 2023 runway show Thursday featured mohair blankets and hardware from Bonnie Cashin’s archive. An unlikely collaboration between the 24-year-old Gen Z designer, an experimental fashion made with resin-preserved flower chains and items encased in recycled PVC, and an American pioneer’s estate. Sportswear came via Instagram.
Before the Covid lockdowns three years ago, Cheng posted a dog-leash dress for Kashin’s Fall 1964, a fuzzy ankle-grazing blanket that could be fastened with clips for ease of movement. Dr. Stephanie Lake, jewelry art historian, jewelry designer, and owner of Cashin’s Archives, expressed her delight at discovering a young interest in Cashin’s work and starting an Internet friendship.
In the year When she began thinking about her fall 2023 collection, Cheng decided to model it on American sportswear. “I knew I wanted to do something that explained what sportswear meant in the second half of the 20th century, and so I really wanted to draw Bonnie for that,” she says. “I feel like if I say to someone in a casual conversation, ‘I’m wearing tracksuits,’ they’ll probably think, like, athletic. First of all, it means wearing something nice that doesn’t restrict you.”
Ching traveled to Minneapolis to immerse herself in all things Kashin, where the archive was stored on the floor of a temperature-controlled lake house. “Stephanie’s family was very hospitable in the Midwest,” Cheung recalls. “They came and picked me up in their family car and I had dinner with them every night.”
Cheng in 2010 She spent her days reading Cassie’s old magazines from the 1960s and even found a manifesto on what fashion would look like in the 2020s. She learned about Cassin’s many pioneering contributions to the American fashion industry, where, in addition to serving as Coach’s first creative director, he coined convertible clothing and the term ‘different’. Like Cheung, Kashin chose an unusual mix of materials for the time, including leather, mohair and hardware.
Lake loaned Cheng the original dog leash dress and provided reference images for the Spring 1968 Parabola dress, another key Kashin design with a parabola-curved hem. She also gave Cheng two mohair blankets. Cheng teamed one with Tomtex faux leather made from shrimp and mushroom food waste and topped it off with Swarovski crystals to make her own ‘gram-ready parabola skirt. A dog leash dress with a parabolic cut top using vintage plastic belt buckles, leather trim, beetle wings and ceramic cabinet handles.
With a good sense of the “sporty” meaning of sportswear, Cheng teamed up with soccer bags designed with the right upturned soccer balls and cropped sleeves.
“I feel like Bonnie’s mix-and-match allowed for more privacy where your clothes can be a reflection of you,” Cheung reflected.