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  • Writer's picturemaya kotomori

ATB - Head Of State FW23

Everything was beautiful at the ballet, I was the ballet.

Here we are, the last show I was invited to. I hadn't heard of Head Of State, but I had heard of Taofeek Abijako, the designer behind the brand. For those who aren't familiar, Taofeek is one of the "six disruptors" in the very polarizing Freeform show The Come Up, all about love, relationships, and hustle in the previously-imaginary-but-now-on-Google-maps area called Dimes Square. Taofeek is the fashion representative of the show's "six disruptors" (god, that phrasing is atrocious), and his main arc in the first season of the show is dressing Evan Mock for the 2022 Met Gala. Of course, the act of getting the look physically on Evan's body is an entire episode in and of itself with a wild goose chase through the throng of paparazzi and fashion district appointments that typically underscore the Met Gala, and it made for great TV! Taofeek was my favorite "disruptor," and I was eager to see what a full collection from him would look like, especially after seeing what he did for Evan:

I thought that this look was tailored very well, but what piqued my interest were the clear references to 17th century British fashion, which is probably my favorite era of clothing in the history of the world. This slashing technique on the trousers is a take on the 16th and 17th century decorative British practice of darting and slashing the top layer or fabric on a gown or suit to reveal another contrasted fabric underneath. The original Disney Snow White animation from the 1930s is a great example of the prominence of this technique, given that the original Snow White story from The Brothers Grimm was written in the 19th century, based on the real German love story of Margarete von Waldeck and her lover, Philip II of Spain in the 16th century.

I digress! But the fact that Taofeek appropriated that technique of revealing contrasting fabrics instead to reveal a fabric of the same color is the marker of an intelligent, skilled designer influenced by history. That, along with the shape of the bodice-jacket thing that mimics 17th century gowns, and the take on a traditional piccadill collar also from the same time period...this is exactly the type of designer I think the industry needs.

On to the show! We saw all of that intelligence in Evan's Met look woven through the full FW23 collection to tell a story, one of prayer, resonance, and beautiful brides. I was bent over my cane watching from the "VIP Standing Area" which every single one of you know is bullshit but...the impact was incredibly real for me. Let's get into it.

The first thing we saw when the lights went up was this giant shower-sauna thing, and a model wearing this hat brim-esque dress with a little cup bra and fully piped skirt. This still does not do the garment justice because the movement was phenomenal as the model walked.

Ok so here's what I'm talking about with Taofeek's seamless diffusion of historical references. We have Evan Mock again, wearing this impeccably tailored black wool look with these three slits in the back, a re-imaging of that dart and slash technique yet again, alongside this peach look that both use the slashes as a bit of textile drama that shows the models' skin instead of another layer of fabric. I love these three slits, they make me feel something, they remind me of the vents you cut into the top layer of a pie crust or a pot pie to ventilate the dish and make sure the ingredients don't gush out as they cook? Idk this is really elegant and genius to me.

There were also a couple moments where we saw the same silhouette re-imagined in a different color with a slight change, like this blue look with a trouser and a white version of the look that appears to mimic the shape of the tunic with what looks to be a pair of the Balenciaga Pantashoes underbneath. I like this idea of showing the same silhouette on the runway in different colors, it's just the right amount of consistent/matchy-matchy for me, and I think it's a great way to keep the whole collection consistent. I am personally not a huge fan of these first two looks, I think they're a bit Judy Jetson-y for the tone of the rest of the collection, and I have a major aversion to that type of molding on the bra. Which is a great segue to this next look - we're seeing that same technique of using the same silhouette in different colors with this gorgeous full length silk dress that looks like its tied together, but in a very tailored way that shows that the ties are a design choice. I love the proportions of these cutouts, they highlight more non-traditionally cut-out parts of a woman's body in a very sensual way that isn't overt SEXSEXSEX, you feel me? I must say, the blue version of this gown does not fit the model's chest, and when I initially saw it on the runway I was upset, and very pleased to see the silhouette redeem itself with a better fit on a different model. This isn't to say that this dress doesn't fit the model in the blue because of her chest at all, it's really upsetting to me to see that the dress looks like it's tied too tight, almost, kind of forcing her left breast into a little side seepage. Gorgeous dress, definitely think that if the blue was tied a bit less tight on the model it would look as stunning as the black version did.

These three looks specifically tore me apart. I love the darting on these trousers in both the blue and the yellow, as well as the return of that bodice jacket that we saw in Evan Mock's Met Gala look. The yellow and red looks feel Space Age-y to me in the most delicious, Solaris (1972) way through the sculptural lapels and sleeves. Per references, the hat with the red look appears to be a take on a Yoruba cap or fila, a type of headwear that originates with the Yoruba people of West Africa. Knowing that Taofeek is Nigerian, I think this piece is a welcome personal touch from the designer himself in the collection, I love little moments like this that give audiences a glimpse into a designer's heritage, in addition to their tastes.

Ok so I didn't know what the fuck was good with this sweater-over-collared shirt with a wide-leg trouser and a tulle mini skirt layered on top...I think this is one of those Tik Tok styling moments that exists to get the youth excited about new brands which I understand, I really don't like this look though. I feel similarly about the all black gorpcore look with all the big ass bags, like why is this the only look with bags? I dunno.

Ok now for the DRAMA. We see this gorgeous paper like gauze-y looking dress on a model who comes out walking much slower that all the previous models, and she slowly gets intone the sauna-shower thing. The steam/condensation starts melting the dress off to reveal this bodysuit (swimsuit?) underneath, and the model performs bathing, an act that feels almost sacred and ritualistic in its intimacy. So gorgeous. While the model was bathing, we had some truly gorgeous slow walks and major, opulent gowns. The finale look was my favorite:

Phew. That show had me in a chokehold, truly. I loved every aspect of it, and I look forward to seeing where Taofeek takes this brand as a designer.

Shout out Gia Kuan Consulting as well as my girl Lindsey Okubo who made a cameo in that episode of The Come Up that initially introduced me to Taofeek to begin with (and also made sure that I got seats for the shows I've reviewed this rock).

And that was my time, at the ballet.

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