A particular edgy, hard-nosed stomp has been trademarked on the runways by New York fashion brand Vaquera. Kicking off the Paris Fashion Week schedule with a raucous Autumn/Winter 2023 show on Monday evening at Dover Street Market’s 35/37 space, the event attracted a frenzy of loyal friends and fans of the brand, many of whom donned a Vaquera uniform replete with just the right amount of weird.
While borrowing from fashion’s codes of disobedience – leathers, fishnets, studs, shredded denims, and pairs of nylon tights pulled over the head with mohawk-esque trims – the latest collection made sure not to miss out on the beloved, offbeat twists that originally caught the attention of fashion’s underground. Blood-red frilly lingerie had been stitched onto a pair of otherwise formal suit trousers, as was a satin 1940s bullet bra onto a schoolboy polo shirt. Belts came massively oversized, woollen jumpers trailed the floor, dresses provocatively hung asymmetrically from the shoulder to expose single breasts, while other undergarments appeared undersized (if at all), and conical bralettes had cups that were barely larger than nipple pasties.
Patric DiCaprio and Bryn Taubensee, the creative directors of the brand, are the first to admit the ideas aren’t always necessarily new, branding their approach to design as “fashion fan fiction”. Vaquera was founded in 2013 with fantasy at its core, paying homage to their favourite designers – Yohji Yamamoto, Vivienne Westwood and Martin Margiela included. “It was never about outright copying,” Taubensee told AnOther last year. “It was about us loving fashion and feeling like outsiders looking in.”
Yet in context, their smorgasbord of influences metamorphosises into a patchwork of love, like an eclectic Tumblr blog of high fashion referencing, or an obsessive cut-and-paste fanzine in ode to a beloved idol. Its DIY attitude is laced with a thoughtful John Waters perversity, a kitschy, souvenir-shop spirit, earning the New York label an obsessive cult who have adopted their lively collections from the last decade as their uniform.
We spoke with four friends and fans of the brand, all of whom work with AnOther and Dazed – Emma Davidson, Nell Kalonji, Mirko Pedone and Jack Sunnucks – about what makes the brand so special.
Emma Davidson, Fashion Features Director, Dazed Digital
“I’d known Patric and Bryn virtually for ages because we had covered Vaquera a lot on Dazed, and I had interviewed them a couple of times, but I didn’t actually meet them in real life until February 2022 when they did their first Paris show. I actually don’t get that starstruck these days, but with them I felt a bit shy when I first said hi – like a nerdy fan girl. I think part of their appeal is that they’ve always said they feel like fashion fans looking in from the outside, and I often feel like that too, so there’s a bit of a common thread. I’m friends with a lot of the people in the Vaquera community and it says a lot that they’re all very chill and fun – there’s none of the pretentious fashion-y shit that can be pretty rife in the industry.
“I probably own about 20 items now, which I wear over and over and over again. I’m never out of their massive sweatshirts and shirts, but my favourite piece has to be the massive navy blue tiered tinsel dress from their Autumn/Winter 2021 collection. It was a really big buy for me and every day I checked the Matches Fashion website to see if it was still there until I finally had enough cash for it. Because it’s such an OTT statement piece I was like, ‘Am I actually going to wear it enough to justify spending all that money?’ It was. I’ve worn it to absolute death and haven’t been at all precious about keeping it for the best, and it still feels so fun and special every time I put it on.
“I think they [Vaquera] have a real reverence for fashion and everything they do comes from a place of love for it – they literally started out making what they called ‘fashion fan fiction’ – and that really emanates from everything they do. One of my favourite Vaquera collections was Autumn/Winter 2018, with the big oversized T-shirt dresses printed with Vivienne Westwood, Miguel Adrover, Andre Walker, and Martin Margiela’s faces, as part of a tribute to their idols, and I loved Patric’s tribute to Westwood in the recent issue of Artforum, in which he talked about how he thought runway shows must be stuffy and inaccessible until he saw a video of her Punkature show and realised it didn’t have to be.
“I don’t know exactly how to explain it, but even before I knew the designers and the people in their community, it just felt like a really welcoming, special brand. It kind of strips away the bullshit of fashion and really focuses on its creativity. Their clothes are so brilliant and fun and clever and sometimes simultaneously silly, but they are always a total joy to wear – everyone I know that wears Vaquera (which is a lot of people now) feels exactly the same way.”
Nell Kalonji, Senior Fashion Editor-at-Large, AnOther Magazine
“I met Vaquera through my bestie, Emma Wyman. She met them and started collaborating with them, so we went to their runway show initially to support her and of course to support young talent, which was very exciting, especially for New York, when there weren’t that many young designers at the time. What stood out was the walk of their models – they all had a fierce walk. It really shook things up, and made a difference to a lot of the shows we had seen that week in New York. It’s really exciting to see them grow, and now they’re in Paris. The energy in the rooms after their shows … people were leaving and saying, ‘Wow, how can we carry this energy through the week?’ It’s just a brilliant start to Paris Fashion Week.
“The first Vaquera piece I got was after that first show. They sold little Vaquera shot glasses, and also Vaquera school socks, which are lovely. They’re sort of like university varsity merch, and I still have the socks and the shot glass. Now, I honestly couldn’t tell you how many pieces I own. I would say about 70 to 75 percent of my wardrobe is Vaquera. Rarely a day goes by when I don’t wear at least one piece from Vaquera. That includes outerwear, trousers, shirts … I still wear the things that I bought years ago. One of the first garments I bought was this yellow chequered blouse, and I still wear it. It doesn’t happen often where I buy something and I don’t get bored of it.
“I think what makes Vaquera stand out is that it’s your everyday wardrobe; your trousers, your jacket, your skirt – clothes you can wear every day, but they have a twist to it. It’s like you’re buying into this world. When you go into a show and it shakes you up a bit, and that translates into the lines as well. With a brand like Vaquera, you are part of a community.”
“[Vaquera] kind of strips away the bullshit of fashion and really focuses on its creativity. Their clothes are so brilliant and fun and clever and sometimes simultaneously silly, but they are always a total joy to wear” – Emma Davidson
Mirko Pedone, Junior Fashion Editor, Dazed
“I’ve only met Bryn and Patric briefly, but the first time I properly encountered Vaquera was when I started assisting [the stylist for their shows] Emma Wyman. I still remember we had to do a very last-minute request to get shoes for their upcoming show in New York, and I was stressed they wouldn’t make it on time from London. But they did and the show looked incredible. Then I started digging into their archive and looking at previous shows, and I was amazed by those crazy collections, where no ideas were crazy enough not to be staged.
“The first piece I ever bought was the Rose Tall tee, which is still one of my favourite and most treasured pieces. After that I bought some trousers. I am obsessed with the faux leather with huge studs on the side which I wear day and night. Also, the inside-out trousers are also some of my favourites, as well as some oversized cotton and silky shirts, the oversized ruched ones definitely have a special place in my heart. Then I have some tees – the tall tees still being the coolest thing to wear in my opinion.
“You put on something and you feel that energy, you feel immediately cool and ready to kick ass – you know you’ll make people think, ‘Oh that’s cool, I want to wear things like that too.’ The brilliance of their ideas and the audacity to take risks is something that translates into the garments once you wear them. You can tell they have something special to say. They won’t shut up and they are here to stay.”
Jack Sunnucks, Creative Director of Dazed Club
“I was first introduced to Vaquera when I was asked by AnOther Magazine to profile them, and we really hit it off. Very quickly after that interview they asked me to start working with them on press materials, and shortly after that I got my first Vaquera gift. It’s something I still wear all the time to this day – much to Patric and Bryn’s dismay. It’s a black-and-white checkerboard shirt that has these four panels, and it’s my favourite shirt … it’s falling apart, but it means a lot because it represents the start of our friendship.
“Since then my collection has grown ... I probably have 20 things. I pick quite workaday things because I go to an office most days of the week, but my husband – who also wears a lot of Vaquera – tends to choose big coats, big hats, big bags. When I wear Vaquera I feel like a TV character. Like something has shrunk and something has grown and it’s unclear what the item it is, but it makes me feel very powerful. Patric and Bryn are very calm people. They’re not like any other people I know. And they’re also not like any other designers I’ve met. They don’t raise their voices, they really want people to be comfortable and able to express themselves.
“Vaquera invited my husband and I to Paris for their first show [a year ago], knowing it would be quite a big deal for them always having shown in New York. They asked us if we’d make some short films for social. We were there for four days, embedded with them in the Comme des Garçons space. And then we came away after the show, and sat back down together in London, we watched all this footage and we were like, This seems like it could be more than a few kinds of clips.” We showed the final film to them, and they were really overwhelmed. There were lots of tears. And that’s how the film came to be. We really wanted to say that it’s not this ‘evil-fabulous’ vibe, it’s a very kind, sensitive experience working with them. [You can watch Jack Sunnucks and Juan Palacio’s film here.]
“I think the fashion and film industry has a real arc, and Vaquera kind of rejects narratives about being a designer, because they’re always being so kind. They managed to put out a collection in Paris twice a year without being screaming divas – and that’s incredible.”