The Lower East Side has had a glow-up of late, elevated by buzzy new restaurants and the block party vibes of two pandemic summers. While other neighborhoods emptied out, the LES just felt busier. Maryam Nassir Zadeh was an early adopter; her Norfolk Street store opened in 2008 on a still-lesser-traveled corner of Rivington, just one example of her unerring instincts for cultural and aesthetic shifts.
We were at the newly-reopened store for today’s show, Zadeh’s first since 2019. Surprisingly, it also marked her first show in the space; she described it as a homecoming. “It was really important for me to have the show at the store, to celebrate that it’s still alive and celebrate the community that has supported us since the beginning,” she said. That spirit was felt both in the audience and the impactful cast, including MNZ regulars like Susan Cianciolo, Paloma Elsesser, and Lili Sumner as well as Zadeh’s husband, Uday Kak, and Andre Walker. It’s worth mentioning that this was Zadeh’s most diverse cast to date, with a rare instance of both female and male curve models.
Zadeh’s impulse to go “back to her roots” via the setting was mirrored in the clothes, too. Her early collections were quite minimal, and through the years she’s experimented with bolder colors, prints, silhouettes, and styling. But as life inches towards normalcy, she’s feeling for an aesthetic reset—something cleaner, easier, more pure. That doesn’t add up to our standard definition of minimalism; the way she put it was “playful, but restrained.” That odd balance is Zadeh’s signature: Classic-ish button-downs and denim shorts were styled with her cult PVC wedges and glass jewelry; yoga pants were “spiced up” by leather medallion belts; filmy translucent skirts and dresses revealed bright bikinis underneath; and crisp 9-to-5 chinos flared over neon kitten heels. The unlikely pairings and delicate sensuality seemed to reflect how so many women (on the LES and elsewhere) want to dress in 2022: not trendy or overly referential, but not basic; sophisticated, but not stuffy. It’s a modern vision of “femininity” rooted in individuality and curiosity, not overt sex appeal or convention.
That said, Zadeh was even more excited about her menswear offering, which grew significantly for spring. The guys in the show wore raw-edged suede shirts, color-blocked polo knits, and raw denim jorts with sharp blazers, often with bits of colored glass strung across the chest. The impression was unprecious and, like the womenswear, a bit sensual; she felt the knits in particular will bring something new to the men’s market. Still, Zadeh makes a point not to separate garments by “men’s” or “women’s” on her website. Ultimately, all of her garments—from suits to bikinis to see-through minis—will be worn by people of every gender identity.