In Alantude's fifth season, Creative Director Alan Gonzalez brought three collections with one powerful message to Winter Street Studios: when you're living with depression, it's okay to ask for help.
“These collections came together in a very organic manner,” Gonzalez said. “Usually my process is that I sketch, then make whatever I sketched. With this one, I didn’t. I grabbed the roll of fabric, cut a certain amount, and I made a piece. There was no sketch, there was no idea; it was me working with the fabric, and designs happened. It was very organic.”
The designer found inspiration while visiting friends in Chicago just before spring would return color and light to the windy, rainy city. “You actually see what seasonal depression looks like,” he said. “The whole town shuts down during winter. You don’t see people out and about.”
After witnessing Harvey and the ensuing depression cast over the entire city, Gonzalez was struck by the effect rain could have on a person—himself included. He channeled that into his collection, working with linens and drip-dyeing pieces to look as if they'd been rained on.
At last week's presentation, guests roamed the studio hallways and separate rooms to experience each of Alantude's three collections. The idea of having a seated show in Winter Street Studios "felt weird and unconnected," the designer said.
Award-winning artist Diana Marie Fine Art, known for her underwater fashion photography, displayed photos of models in the FW18 collection, a continuation of the concept of drowning present throughout the collections.
Guests saw The Alantude Signature from Gonzalez's first four collections, plus a model on a short catwalk wearing the silhouette made with material from his second collection, "Silver Lining." It's the first dress to have a pattern, one Gonzalez picked up from his time in Chicago—the first four seasons consist only of solid colors.
The first collection—titled "Strato-nimbus," referencing the type of cloud described as a "gray blanket" with falling rain—was part runway show, part performance art as a model stared out from underneath bed covers. The collection, Gonzalez said, was meant to convey "the clouds are coming."
“It was a darker, somber room with a girl in a bed going through depression and looking at the collection, because that is her depression,” he said.
Inspired by the raincloud's “hug of depression," Gonzalez described watching his own friends suffer from the condition as witnessing a dark cloud form over them. For his work, he used linen and fleece to create oversized, draped silhouettes dyed to look as if they'd just been rained on.
Toward the back of the studio space, guests encountered a "rain room" with a cloud installation and "a motivational speech for each person" written on the raindrops: "You are special," "I love you," and the number to the suicide hotline.
“Sometimes you have to hear [those words of encouragement],” Gonzalez said. “Sometimes things get overwhelming, and you think, ‘I can’t keep going.’”
To experience the rain room was, in a word, powerful. It was noticeably colder than the rest of the studio space; as the door closed behind us, a song played—“rain is my friend,” the lyrics said. Guests stood before a projector of rain, unaware that their shadows were covering the installation. Was it a metaphor for how exhausting depression can be? Was it meant to show us how our shadows mask what’s really going on?
“You’re living the experience, and that’s amazing,” Gonzalez said. “That’s what made this show really special. Everyone got to experience it in a different way, and everyone got what they needed from it. That’s art; everyone interprets it differently.”
In "Silver Lining," the designer's second collection displayed in the rain room, Gonzalez introduced a blue fabric streaked with silver to signify the part of the storm when it's actively raining. “Even in the darkest moments of a storm, there’s stillness in every drop,” he said. Sound effects and music conjured the moments when we acknowledge we're experiencing depression but are no longer overwhelmed by it. There, Gonzalez wanted guests to “be one with their thoughts,” he said. “That’s what depression is: It’s you and your thoughts."
Finally, guests approached another door to find Alantude's third collection, "After the Storm." That room, which felt more open than the last, was filled with the sounds of Earth, Wind, and Fire; an inflatable unicorn; and a model posed on a spiral staircase in a bright red ensemble with an endless train—all part of the designer's attempt to reflect the light that returns after darkness.
“I wanted something a little happier,” Gonzalez explained. “In this part of the collection, we are able to leave behind the clouds crushing us and truly find the ray of sunshine in ourselves.”