After an exhausting week of events and fashion shows in celebration of New York Fashion Week, it would take a war to end the summer of 2021 with motifs that rang church bells in the wild. The streetwear luxury designer and DIY denim trendsetter Everard Best, or Ev Bravado, and Tela D’Amore, founders and creative directors of Who Decides War took to the runway for a send-off into the fall season with his Spring Summer 2022 collection at the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum.
Sunday, September 12, 2021, Intrepid Ship, top deck: On the aircraft carrier were fighter jets and helicopters of the wars of yesteryear. Many New York City industry socialites were in attendance under the afternoon sun on the Hudson River. The guest list included fashion designer Kirby Jean-Raymond of Pyer Moss, NBA All-Star and two-time champion Kawhi Leonard, hip hop artists Joey Badass, Cordae, and Brent Faiyaz, and budding star and actor, Rome Flynn of the television show “How To Get Away With Murder.” “I think further regarding the overarching concept of showing in general, we wanted to bring New York out. That was the biggest thing for us,” D’Amore states.
This season’s collection focuses on duality. Bravado says “some of the motifs of the all-over print hoodie shows the juxtaposition of abundance and bareness. A reflection of the world in the last 3 to 4 years – pre-COVID and post-COVID.” Stain glass design patchwork is seen throughout, which Bravado says he wants to become a “brand identifier.”
Bravado and D’Amore have a collaborative connection that reflects their upbringings precisely. D’Amore’s grandfather’s involvement in World War II as a First Lieutenant inspires the military aesthetic. Bravado, on the other hand, was raised within the church. His father was a church minister and tailor. Bravado’s father had a tailor shop where he would hone his skills. Finding a balance between the two keeps the collections fresh and free from clichés. “I give things a militaristic look without being too intentional with camo. It boils down to the fabrication – like ripstop,” Bravado says. D’Amore continues, “we play around with materials that are present, and certain colors. The furthest we get is a cream or olive.”
Bravado has been designing customized, unique denim styles as far back as more than a handful of years ago. He built on his skills learned from his father and his love of dressing to impress. Now his label is in its fourth collection of creating statement-making denim crafted designs, adorned with embroidery. After two showings at Paris Fashion Week in the previous years, the post-pandemic presentation of Who Decides War was indeed a homecoming where the brand first took to the streets before taking off.
A display of embellishments, adorned with embroidery and intricately cut tops, and baggy silhouettes were considerably the uniform of this war. Each garment had some reference to stained glass windows familiar with church interiors displayed in the embroidered pieces. Images of biblical proportions gave structure to selected garments like skirts and jackets, with recurring embroidery patchwork, while other garments boasted cable knitting and bold collars.
Stain glass embroidery was designed by Barriers NY, founded by a childhood friend of Bravado from Elmont, NY, patched onto sweaters and denim. Figures depicted Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Marcus Garvey, “immortalizing these founding Black figures that we grew up reading, and learning about, and knowing their effects on us in the culture,” Bravado mentions. These designs stood out on the chest and legs, and everywhere else on various garments worn by models flying down the runway. Some designs held on to the military inspiration of the ship and the Who Decides War namesake.
Full denim suits and oversized tops and bottoms are the sartorial languages for Who Decides War. A uniquely militant-like harness that fits over the body like a vest had viewers intrigued by its perceived functionality. Rap star and Brooklyn native from the GS9 Label, Rowdy Rebel was the featured model in the show, wearing a print design of running waters off the side of a mountain pouring into cupped Black hands.
The show finale dress was a disguised orange parachute gown, fastened with straps and cords used for handling the apparatus. The model wearing the gown walked out in a round-shaped dress that billowed, which revealed this undulating mass of a dress, bright orange, and flowing. “I love the parachute, Story, and Creators, Arturo Castañeda and team worked for over twelve hours on the gown for the show, completing it at 7:00 am this morning,” says Téla D’Amore.
She continues, “I really wanted to do a transitional dress for a while. And it had to be done right. This year was the year I feel like – coming out of the quarantine and the pandemic – it was really about reflection and redirection. How would this really work in terms of design and how it transitions. I was inspired by an article called the ‘Wedding Dress That Fell From The Sky’.” The story is of a veteran who brought home a used parachute in which his wife repurposed into a wedding dress.
Bravado and [life] partner D’Amore concluded by marching down the runway alongside the parachute gown, greeting guests. Bravado would see their son and scoop him up and whisk him toward the backstage area on the ship to enthrall the crowd even more. D’Amore chases after him as the crowd roars with cheers. Bravado defines his brand’s style as “redefined Americana,” while D’Amore would say the brand is the “culmination of everything that we see.” Solidifying the bond that creates a partnership based on their duality.