Los Angeles’s No Sesso Brings Their Wacky, Sensual Paradise To New York
“Well, all I can say is: just expect drama.”
A look from a past No Sesso collection.
Between spring 2017 and the middle of last year, there was a Venus X Camelot in the form of the downtown leggie’s boutique Planet X. You could find vintage Dior T-shirts, kicky Christian Lacroix miniskirts, and T-shirts designed by Cali Thornhill Dewitt, but the coolest thing I discovered there was the Los Angeles-based brand No Sesso. In the shop was a small selection of No Sesso’s super sensual knits and totally wacky shapes, like gummy-stretchy tops and dresses embellished with floppy flowers, and denim smocks embroidered with a crowd of faces, and aprons fastened with sexy shoulder ties. “Tie me!” it seemed to say. “Untie me! Pull me over your head! Put me on! Take me off!”
Now, No Sesso, and its creative director, Pierre Davis, 28, and her co-director, Arin Hayes, are showing in New York for the first time, proving that no matter how cool Los Angeles gets, all American fashion dreams still end in a New York fairytale. “We have a lot of collaborators, like Venus, and a few other people that work with us” in New York, Davis told me at a fitting last week, when I asked her why she wanted to show in New York. “And a really cool base here of communities that love our brand. And in America, New York is like the fashion capital.”
“It’s also like, a rite of passage, in a way,” Hayes added. We were in the frigid Canal Street storefront where the brand will hold a pop-up shop through February 7. (359 Canal; Gauntlett Cheng had a temporary storefront there at the end of last year.)
I asked Davis what we should expect at Monday’s show. “Well, all I can say is: just expect drama,” she said, regally wrapping her long blue nails around a paper coffee cup. “There’s going to be lots of carrying involved.”
Davis is soft-spoken but not shy, eager to speak of No Sesso (“no gender” in Italian) as a group effort. If a lot of young designers are interested in solving problems—What do I wear to the office? How do I find comfortable shoes? What kind of handbag should I take to the club?—what makes No Sesso so appealing is that Davis believes in the fashion fantasy. This collection, she said, “is all about making these really cool shapes. Basically the business bitch, and she’s like: cinched at the waist, and her shoulders are very powerful. And she means business.” It’s “sexy,” Davis said, “and there’s lots of severe looks. It was just like building this fantasy about what we would wear being the CEO, at the head of the table…From getting out of your personal car and into the elevator, and someone taking your bag and jacket, and you walking in.”
“It’s very important for women to feel good everywhere they go,” she said. “And so a lot of these looks are very head-turning—like you’re going to stare, and you’re gonna turn your head when you see her in this major look.” When I had arrived, a male model was wearing a dress that was half blazer, half slinky cocktail dress, strung together at the nape of the neck with a delicate gold chain. “It’s like she’s going into work but maybe she also has a party to go to at the end,” she said. “So like: wear both.”
She later added, somewhat irrationally, but totally believably, “These garments are also for the comfortable person that likes to be really chill as well.” There is a neon orange leather and fur jacket with a big bushy tail hanging down the front, for example, that would look really cozy with a pair of skinny sweatpants.
No Sesso clearly falls on the capital-F Fashion side of things, and Davis and Hayes namecheck Martin Margiela and Comme des Garçons as aesthetic predecessors. That influence is evident in pieces like a trench coat, shoulders dipped in rubber, with two jackets sewn on as panniers, but more fun, and more significant in the contemporary conversation about clothing as self-expression, are pieces like a dyed denim jacket cinched at the waist and elbows, which was Vivienne Westwood baroque romance on the hanger but more quirky and carnal Mick Jagger when a male model slipped it on. The strangeness of Davis’s clothing isn’t intimidating or alienating, as some avant-garde brands can be. It’s inviting. “I feel really good in this!” the model said. Davis recommended moving the snap closure a few inches south, and then slipped a giant patchwork bucket hat over his head. He looked in the mirror and grinned.
Davis said her brand’s energy comes from that time when you’re getting ready with friends. “It’s like, something really fun and intimate, especially when you have to help someone like get into a look,” she said. “That comes with a lot of trust, and you really caring about that person that helps them get into that look. And it’s just about a connection in a way.”
Hayes added, “I think there are pieces that are a little bit difficult to get into, and there’s some pieces that are easier to get into. I think it’s just like fashion being an art. But not only is the piece art—like getting into it, and getting out of it, is art too.”
Over by the clothing racks, a model was yanking over her head a knit that was split, at the chest, into multiple tentacles. She spun back and forth, and the tentacles swung like a carnival ride.
“It’s all an experience, from the beginning to the very end,” Davis said. “[When] we dress each other in the clothes, it feels harmonious, and it feels really special.”
“It’s like a ceremony,” Hayes said. “It’s a whole thing.”