Community in New York City is the fabric from which all life is woven. How New Yorkers define community oscillates, undulates, crosses bridges, and liberates. The city beats with one heart but its communities create the rhythm. These communities are born out of passion, medium, and rumination, creating niche circles of deep connection. Having grown up in Bayside, Queens (and having been a longtime resident of the Lower East Side), Sandy Liang knows a thing or two about community—and what it means to grow up in this one. As designer Diane von Furstenberg has said many, many times: “Fashion is a family.”
On a bustling Sunday afternoon on Canal Street, where you’d normally find vendors posted curbside offering a selection of knockoff Louis Vuitton totes and Gucci wallets, you instead have downtown’s fashion glitterati and an incessantly snappy paparazzi. They had all shown up for Liang as she staged her first mini-runway show (in previous seasons, she’s stuck to presentation-style formats) at a small gallery in Chinatown. Liang, a 2017 CFDA finalist and member of Forbes’ 2018 “30 under 30” roster, has found much success at the intersection of streetwear and feminine flourishes laced with an air of dreamy nostalgia. This season, as she debuted her first ever unisex capsule and expanded her offerings for a fuller ready-to-wear range, Liang continues to cast and enlist the help and artistry of her friends in her community.
“I love that everybody gets their little moment and it makes me so happy,” she says. “The playlist was like my favorite thing this season, and it’s literally Parker from SoulCycle! He DJ’s on the side ,and I was like, ‘You need to make my playlist for my first mini runway. Marie Antoinette [vibes], sad, moody?’ And he was like, ‘Amazing, so down!'”
Looking around the gallery space, tangerines were littered on the concrete floor like omens of good fortune and fond memories of summer picnics. Two paintings of ornate vases hung on the wall as backdrops (created by Liang’s friend Andrea Smith), setting a familiar scene harkening back to the vases that sat in her own studio just a 20 minute walk away. Beneath these paintings sat potted orchids in sky blue, baby pink, and lavender tones, paired with electric blue feathers (created by Brittany Asch of Brrch Floral). This scene, essentially a curated collaboration between friends, played an instrumental role in bringing Liang’s romantic musings to life.
The clothing itself was modeled by more faces familiar to the downtown fashion community (Lumia Nocito, Richie Shazam, Coco Baudelle, and Yulu Serao, to name a few) but the fabrication had evolved. Liang’s signature tulle now cascaded from patent puffers so its draping became skirt-like, reminding us of something we’d see from Undercover’s offerings. Sweatshirts and pants were given a touch of ruffles, and maxi dresses were given a sporty makeover. It was all very wearable; clothing you could live in.
“I wanted to show everybody that guys are wearing the pieces too,” she says. “Because sometimes they buy them, but I don’t think they really know that it’s unisex.”
It’s safe to say that as Liang finds success and evolution with each season, the roots in her community only grow deeper.