Who Decides War presented its fourth collection at sunset on the Intrepid, the disused WWII aircraft carrier turned museum. The combination of “war” in brand name and location might have suggested a display of aggression, but the lineup of Everard Best (aka Ev Bravado) and Téla D’Amore was more of an offer of peace – or a march, as Best suggested, of the “army of God”.
Yes, there were military references. The first exit featured a bag of missiles, but when that arched shape returned later, it looked like a stained glass window. Best explained that he was “brought up in church and in a tailoring shop” (his parents are in the ministry). D’Amore’s grandfather, meanwhile, was a first lieutenant during World War II. He described the collection as “the culmination of everything we’ve been through and things that really matter to us”.
After ditching fall 2021 to allow for some soul-searching into the direction of the brand, this spring collection is kind of a reboot. Best said they approached him saying, “Let’s just be us, and do what feels right and true to us, and has always served us, and that’s denim and embroidery.”
“And New York! D’Amore added.
“One of my biggest inspirations,” said Best, “is Ralph Lauren. Enter this collection [we asked ourselves], how to do like our Polo, but for 2021? When people ask the pair to describe the brand, he continued, “We say this is the Americana redefined through our lens as people of color.”
The show included references to Tuskegee aviators and black civil rights leaders, whose portraits were sewn into embroidered stained glass panels made in collaboration with artist Steven Barter of Barriers. Legacy informs everything WDW does, starting with the team’s design philosophy. “Ingenuity in general is all that our cultures are built on,” D’Amore said. “I think in general that’s the broadest comment, because when we were creating in our last two seasons it was like we had to be resourceful because we had no other choice. ” They called on Virgil Abloh and Kerby Jean-Raymond (who attended the show) for their active and essential support.
At WDW, a lot of ingenuity and attention is paid to the materials, as evidenced by the look of the brand on display at the Met. Thrift materials and animal corpses are combined with pure, non-stretch cotton. Their denim is embellished with patchwork and embroidery based on original designs scanned and machine-sewn. All the making of the brand’s samples is done by hand, as is the skating, which Best does himself with his assistant.
Because there is so much “intention” and manual work in every piece, maybe the real question WDW is asking itself is who decides what art is? “It’s not streetwear, it’s not haute couture, it’s really art,” D’Amore said. “The same way someone spends days on a canvas, we spend days on a jacket, or days on a pair of jeans.”