Just off McCarren Park in Brooklyn are the offices of Outlier and Willie Norris, its design director for seven years. Since premiering his Ideas series four seasons ago, Norris has expanded Outlier’s lexicon to subtly
Just off McCarren Park in Brooklyn are the offices of Outlier and Willie Norris, its design director for seven years. Since premiering his Ideas series four seasons ago, Norris has expanded Outlier’s lexicon to subtly encompass his own inherently queer verbiage. Ideas 4: “New Math” sees her blurring that line further.
A starting point for her this season was Bernard Rudofsky’s 1947 essay “Are Clothes Modern?” and a twist on the title of his 1964 book “Architecture Without Architects”. “I tried to think about what fashion design is without fashion designers, or without the rules that we have set for ourselves,” says Norris. This season, rather than projecting ideas for a collection into the future, she’s taken it day by day, operating as a designer without the often self-imposed mania that comes with the job. But the exercise, healthy as it may seem, does not shed light on the concrete tools on which she has built her collection. The answer is simpler, but just as sensible. Norris is a scrapbooker: she tends to write the words as they come to her rather than drawing or sketching. By mixing loose concepts like “long blazer” and “skin” with cultural references like a rip that reads “cheap chic homo,” she found her foundation. A concept that she repeats and which immediately takes on importance is “everyday glamour”.
Where it all comes into play is in a range for spring that reinvents wardrobe must-haves with the technical Outlier treatment and the subversive Norris touch. On the tailored side, the hero of the season is an ankle-length blazer cut in injected linen, Outlier’s signature. Available in plain and trompe-l’oeil evoking a shifty jacket-over-dress silhouette, it’s unlined and surprisingly lightweight. There is also a hooded dress (the skirt is made of double rib knit, with a traditional sweatshirt waistband extended to the floor); an Outlier overkill knit bodycon dress; and extra long T-shirts. The t-shirts have a strip of magnets on each side seam, allowing you to open or drape them as you wish (Norris transformed one from an extra long t-shirt to a goddess dress as a demonstration ). They were also applied to other parts as simple closures. What Norris has found here in terms of accessibility is quite remarkable; that it looks cool as a design signature is just a positive side effect. It’s in this balance of playfulness and purpose that Norris thrives, and it’s a space she should continue to explore.
Outlier is known for its precise and technical menswear. Its cult status stems from the time its fans spend on Reddit or Discord to rate its fabrics, fit and fit. But how do you visually refresh a world built on a calm exterior that focuses on the subtle details? “New in a smart, technical way,” is the response evoked by Norris, who says she used to struggle with the concept of function in the past, “but now I see it differently, that function can only be visual”. It’s Norris’ way of pushing the Outlier universe beyond what it usually encompasses in terms of clothing, to find glamor in its everyday life. “I realized what my job is,” says Norris enthusiastically, “to make people who love fashion want to get on a plane in their head, want to travel.” For this same reason, she collaborated with artist Zak Krevitt to transform her lookbook, shot in runway format, with each model becoming invited after her runway show, into an alien fashion show, to be discovered on the brand’s Instagram. “My dream fashion show is on a fucking different planet,” she says, “and these are my characters.”