Heron Preston Is Turning Trash Into Treasure for His New York Fashion Week Debut
Complex Style spoke with Heron Preston ahead of his Fall/Winter 2023 presentation, his first runway show that will be held during New York Fashion Week.
Image via Getty/Pascal Le Segretain
Heron Preston has never presented during New York Fashion Week. That fact is a bit surprising considering how much inspiration he gets from New York City, where he currently resides. But that all changes at 6 p.m. this evening. Preston will present his eponymous label’s Fall/Winter 2023 collection in New York City for the first time.
“It hit a point where I just started missing that thing that kind of happens with fashion shows, where you have a community coming together to celebrate all the hard work that we’ve been putting into these collections. I’ve been living in New York City for the longest now and there are so many of my friends and family that haven’t been able to come to our past fashion shows in Paris,” Preston tells Complex. “I’m really excited to finally be able to invite them and for them to see the full breadth of the collections I’m working on. And for some of these people it will be their first fashion show ever. I think that’s really exciting – providing access through my brand to experience something new.”
Upcycling will be a focal point of Preston’s latest presentation. Three days ago, Preston posted a video on social media teasing the show. Shot by Justin Mariano, the clip showed Preston digging through garbage around New York City. He repurposed some of the items into his 400 show invitations. Those practices also informed the clothing, a philosophy Preston has coined “Less Environmentally Destructive” (L.E.D).
“There is a bit of a denim story that has all this patchwork from past seasons, that whole story is kind of like pointing to this idea of repairing your clothes to extend the lifespan,” says Preston. “I’m really excited about the chainmail texture that you’ll see and utilizing some ready made or found objects from the city. I’m happy and excited that it’s an ongoing program of exploring new technologies and incorporating that into the collections.”
Preston’s Fall/Winter 2023 presentation will also see the debut of a Ski and Snow collection, water sneakers, men’s fur boots, and the latest footwear in his ongoing partnership with Zellerfeld. The Zellerfeld project will be the sole collaboration seen on the runway.
“At the moment, my main focus is just HP for now,” says Preston. “Not to say I’ll never do collaborations again, I work with so many amazing people, but for this collection it will focus on just HP.”
Ahead of tonight’s presentation, check out out our full conversation with Preston about sustainability, what inspires him most in New York City, the state of streetwear, and more, below.
What is the theme of the collection you will be showing on Saturday? Why does this particular theme resonate with you at the moment?
The theme of the show is basically evolving the DNA of Heron Preston that I’ve established over the seasons, and continuing to push that vision of elevated great fits. Utility, practical fashion, elevated and considered through the details – less is more. My new sustainability practice is Less Environmentally Destructive (L.E.D) and that’s a pillar of the collection this season. I was really reflecting on New York City as layers of materials and started with what I personally thought to be interesting, materials found throughout the city like chainmail and tarp, and then fusing them with canvas, leather, denim, jersey, and fleece garments. All this kind of mixing and matching – I think this kind of reflects the style codes of today. Mixing and matching and not so much wearing designer head to toe. I’m trying to present this contrast of mixing and matching and staying true to the DNA of the brand.
This is your first time presenting in New York. What made you want to finally present during New York Fashion Week? Why did now feel like the right time?
It hit a point where I just started missing that thing that kind of happens with fashion shows, where you have a community coming together to celebrate all the hard work that we’ve been putting into these collections. I’ve been living in New York City for the longest now and there are so many of my friends and family that haven’t been able to come to our past fashion shows in Paris. I’m really excited to finally be able to invite them and for them to see the full breadth of the collections I’m working on. And for some of these people it will be their first fashion show ever. I think that’s really exciting – providing access through my brand to experience something new.
NYC has always inspired your work. It is such a huge place with so many things to explore. What specific elements of NYC do you personally find inspiration in?
Some of my favorite parts and places in NYC that really inspire me are the underground; the MTA and taking the train. There is always some magic to be found down there. All these kinds of cross sections of cultures and people and style codes and street uniforms. The best place to see all these people at once is on the trains, a place where multiple stories can be told. The MTA is the melting pot of the city.
You created your show invitations using trash you picked off the street. How did that idea come about? What message do you want to deliver to your show guests with that choice?
Less new paper. Less new material.The invitations are a smaller look into the larger picture of L.E.D practice. In my book, less is more, less is better, and circularity is cool. Each invitation for my FW23 show was reclaimed from the streets of NYC. If a fashion show invitation does not have a function or utility, then the chances of it being thrown away are very high. Wasted.
Each and every invitation for my FW23 show was reclaimed from the streets of NYC. I searched the city streets for discarded objects and materials in perfectly good condition with enough surface area to include the written details of my fashion show. This body of work turned into nearly 400 individually collected invitations, each one different from the other. If discarded, they will be returned to where they came from. If kept, then we’ve managed to turn trash into treasure. Either way, it’s a win.
You worked with Justin Mariano on the video explaining this process. What made you want to work with him to help present this idea to the world?
He just gets it. He’s got a great eye and I like how he shoots. He is a really great creative and has worked with some of my friends already and all of their feedback has just been amazing. I’m happy he was available to work with me on this.
Will this upcycling carry over to the clothes we will see you present? Can you explain your creative process for this show?
There is a bit of a denim story that has all this patchwork from past seasons, that whole story is kind of like pointing to this idea of repairing your clothes to extend the lifespan. The whole process is really looking at the past of what we’ve done, what we’ve learned, what worked, what didn’t. Carrying that into this next collection but also layering newness on top of that. I’m really excited about the chainmail texture that you’ll see and utilizing some ready made or found objects from the city. I’m happy and excited that it’s an ongoing program of exploring new technologies and incorporating that into the collections. We’ve got a denim which replaces petroleum based elastics with rubber band based elastics. Every season we hope to include something that will help us push the forefront of fashion.
Can you highlight some of the specific pieces you have created? Are there any new silhouettes being added to the Heron Preston uniform?
The Ski and Snow capsule is completely new. We’ve never done that before, I think that might be the newest thing for us. Everything else has become sort of core – we know what we like and we know what works for the brand. It’s not necessarily always about changing, it’s about finding what we like and continuing to build on that. We continue to elevate and amplify those core styles. We found this really works for us. We have new shoes – including water sneakers and fur boots for him. You usually only see fur boots for girls but now we are styling them and hopefully that will create a whole new style code. I like to call this more of a styling exercise than a fashion exercise.
Will any new logos or graphics be used throughout this collection? If so, what are they and what inspired them?
I like to make up my own New York City Institutions. So, we have the “HP Museum of Fine Art” and the “STFU” graphic, which was kind of the mood of where we are in the world these days. I have a whole new Heron bird, which has always been an icon of the collections. I worked with a new artist to paint a new bird for me. We also have this remixed tribal graphic that spells out HP. The varsity graphics have different heron birds on the back of varsity jackets. HP sports performance is featured in the collection bridging two different worlds of extreme sports and office wear, again creating unique combinations.
We have seen you create innovative collaborations with brands like Zellerfeld. Will any other collaborations be debuted? If so, what will they be?
At the moment my main focus is just HP for now. Not to say I’ll never do collaborations again, I work with so many amazing people but for this collection it will focus on just HP. However, there will be a Zellerfeld sneaker presented in this collection.
You come from a streetwear background. What are your thoughts on the current state of streetwear?
It’s evolving, always changing, every season I see new players added to the field and it’s interesting to see their take on streetwear. I’ve been in this world for quite some time so it’s interesting to see the rising youth, the bedroom designers, those kids. I’m curious to see what they do. Funny how you start to see history repeat itself.
Do you think that luxury fashion is still embracing streetwear the way it has in recent years or are we seeing a shift? If so, what do you think that shift is?
The guys in streetwear don’t really like the word streetwear. I like to call it clothing. It’s just clothing, and what I really think it’s about is youthfulness and breaking rules. Most importantly, not following the code. I think luxury fashion, and fashion in general, is inspired by youth and youth culture. We learn to adopt and engage with our own clothes and personal style. This is a fresh approach before we end up old and grey and start only wearing sweatpants and velcro shoes everyday. There is this interesting thing that happens when you are young and exploring personal style. You might include something unexpected to see and that becomes the next biggest trend all of a sudden.
How do you feel that your brand and your perspective as a designer has evolved since 2016?
I think more focus. I really know what I want, what I like, and where I want to take this. It’s all about crafting this identity. I always think about when someone closes their eyes. What do they see? What are we trying to help people see or understand? Who are those icons? I think it’s about being a lot more focused and understanding the use of color, fabrics, and materials. Again, just understanding people and their relationship to clothing. I’ve really learned a lot more over the years just from feedback. I think we are getting a lot sharper now.
If you had to represent this collection with one word, what would it be?