Phillip Lim did not know what to expect to see at his New York Fashion Week presentation. It was a precarious position for any artist to be in, but unheard of for the artist who has helmed his eponymous fashion brand for nearly two decades. While he has forgone traditional presentations for the last few years, this season—on the first official day of NYFW—Lim made a complete left turn: into a white cube on a blind leap of faith.
This Friday, Lim debuted, “A New York Vibration,” a 2-day hybrid fashion and art experience with an air of technological intervention realized by the photographer Jiro Konami. Unlike typical collaborations in which parties will both artists harmonize their voices, the designer gave full creative reign to Konami for the exhibition, looking to the Tokyo-born image-maker to interpret 3.1 Phillip Lim’s Fall/Winter 2023 line—what its designers describes as “a homage to the unexpected mash-ups of living in New York City”—in whichever way Konami deemed appropriate.
Like Lim, who is of Chinese descent and born in Thailand, New York is Konami’s second home, having immigrated to the city after studying analog film at the Tokyo Polytechnic University. Through experimentation in portraiture, the photographer has honed an improvisionist style in which he "becomes the camera" to capture images that are emotionally organic despite their hyper-realized aesthetics. “I try not to focus too much on devices and cameras,” he explains. “With the increased democratization of photography, I feel photographers can create great images with something as small as a smartphone, which feels very contemporary to me. I work across many different cameras and what kind of camera I'm using doesn't matter to me.”
Connecting elements of human intimacy, the spirit of New York, and zeitgeists of today, the curation of the show blends new work by the photographer featuring Lim’s seasonal collection and never-before-seen images from Konani’s archives that he says reflect his daily life in the city where he “experiments with how the ordinary can be made abstract through my personal lens.” Spanning framed prints and digital projections, the mixed media exhibition is a colorful extension of Konami’s constant curiosity with the landscape. “Even after years of being here, there are so many questions about New York that are left unanswered,” he adds. “My dialogue with the city is ongoing. To take one picture is discovering your one desire and transform it into objectivization. This creates one's own point of view and I believe you can open the universe in cultivating a perspective.”
Staged in an unsuspecting downtown gallery on Chrystie Street, a high-res condo by the architect Thomas Juul-Hansen loomed above “A New York Vibration,” while Sara D. Roosevelt Park—the elongated public space that draws as much activity from teen b-ballers as elderly tai-chi-chuan practitioners—faced it from ahead. Its intersections between cultural spheres like these, says Lim, that not only inspired the Fall/Winter 2023 collection in the first place but are what continues to excite him as he begins his next 20 years. “It kind of feels like the early days,” the designer says. “Before all the big runway shows. There is a disruption. It’s scary, but it’s exciting. And that’s the kind of feeling you need to stay creative. “