Front Row

Elena Velez FW23: On Raw Expression & Challenge

Elena Velez‘s Fall/Winter 2023 collection is anything but conventional. In an intense and confrontational show, Velez boldly challenges the fashion industry’s norms and demands more substance and meaning. The stark imagery of a model carrying an award as though it were a weapon emphasizes the need for something more profound than mere recognition or superficial beauty. The show itself was a multisensory experience, driven by high-volume industrial music and models instructed to embody “female rage,” lending an adrenaline-infused tempo to the runway. Some models even conveyed a zombified spirit. Additionally, Velez experimented with unusual materials and finishes, such as latex and paint that resembled plaster once dry.

Working closely with artisans from her hometown of Milwaukee, Velez nurtures creativity through collaboration and infuses her collections with a strong sense of community and personal responsibility. Raised by a single ship captain mother, Velez imbues her brand with a robust matriarchal identity. Her inspiration, drawn from what many would consider unglamorous subjects like prairie wives and trucker culture, brings a raw and unfiltered perspective to her creations.

While Velez’s previous collections were marked by flowing romanticism, this season sees a departure into something more grounded and austere. Corsetry and panniers remain, but they are combined with elements that evoke the plain and unpretentious, such as homespun-like canvas. Models with long flowing hair contrast sharply with the collection’s general theme of simplicity.

Velez’s preference for the “radically plain” is a response to what she perceives as the synthetic and superficial nature of contemporary culture. Her designs explore the polarities between the simple and the extreme, the refined and the raw.

In summary, Elena Velez’s FW23 collection is an unapologetic call for authenticity, challenging the gloss and artifice of the fashion industry and championing a more meaningful and down-to-earth aesthetic. Her exploration of extremes serves as a refreshing antidote to a world often consumed by superficiality.

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