Rachel Comey Makes A Runway Comeback
After a two year hiatus from the fashion week of it all, the designer behind proves that she's here to hold down her beat (and also, she never left).
Photos by Justin Leveritt and Jennifer Livingston
Stepping into her second decade as the designer behind her namesake brand, Rachel Comey is committed to her beat. You know the one: clothes for cool people who like to dress well but don't care too much. Comey's customer archetype is an in-the-know person with a good eye, an appreciation for fashion, but also a life. They gravitate to a uniform and still enjoy a hint of flare (think high-waisted cargo pants with a built-in belt, lavender acid wash denim, and button-down, drop-waist shirt dresses). Comey knows this person well. Afterall, she's been making clothes for them for twenty-two years. In her latest collection, which kicked off NYFW in downtown's Great Jones Alley this week, the designer proves that she's not going anywhere.
This show was Comey's first in two years. After taking a hiatus from producing runway shows (she's not the first designer to decide that maybe, that's not what this is all about), Comey made a comeback. She partnered with Joan Jonas, a multimedia American artist known for their experimental approach to performance, drawing, sculpture, and installation. Jonas has lived and worked in SoHo just blocks away from the Rachel Comey studio and store for 49 years. In her Spring 2024 collection, Comey makes a tribute to Jonas' work (a highlight: the show's audio layered Jonas's voice from a recent interview on top of original music).
The show was a testament to the designer's commitment to community, New York-based artists, and the importance of making pieces people actually want to wear. Below, the designer tells us what she loved most in this latest collection and the advice she would tell herself as a young designer. Oh, and speaking of young designers — she wants to hear from you.
Megan: Where did you begin? What were you doing before Rachel Comey was its own brand?
Rachel: I spent most of my twenties experimenting with potential money-making jobs that wouldn’t suck my blood… Various design and production positions, art assistant, styling, set builder, costume design, driver, waitress, receptionist.
You've managed to create a brand that has reinvented itself while staying true to its original ethos and style. How many years has it been now?
Rachel: 22 years.
How has your brand/inspiration changed over the years?
Rachel: I'm not sure if it's changed, but I understand it better.
What would you tell yourself just as you were starting out? What advice would you give yourself then?
Rachel: I would tell myself… It never gets easy. And for advice: Don’t dwell.
Who is the Rachel Comey person or customer you envision wearing your clothing?
Rachel: Smart, bad ass cool folx. But, in truth, I even like it when people that aren't into clothes wear them too... They have other things on their mind and in their world and they just want a great fitting, long lasting, functional, ethically produced... boots/ pants/ dresses/etc.
Do you have a favorite piece (or two, or three!)
Rachel: I’m excited about the shoes with the big fat welts. Our pastel denim with seams that wrap and curve and shape. All the pieces with fringe and movement. All the bare legs! The softness that feels strong still.
What was your process like for designing this current collection?
Rachel: We worked with the archive of pioneering interdisciplinary artist, Joan Jonas, to create textiles, silhouettes, accessories, and embellishments. It was a deep dive into her work and career; an exploration to make connections between her work and the life of our clientele.
Where do you see your brand 5 years from now?
Rachel: As the past twenty-two years have shown me.... A slow word-of-mouth recommendation spreads via friends, co-workers, and family members to confidently increase our community of customers and friends. There will be five more years lived on each of our bodies... new fun had, new challenges and experiences to design into. Hopefully our knowledge and capabilities to design and manufacture sustainably will have accelerated.
What would you tell young designers today?
Rachel: Actually I’d like to hear from them! Tell me what’s up!