Death to Tennis’s Theatrical Reintroduction and Fall ’18 Collection, at New York Fashion Week: Men’s
Photos by Mike Chard
Death to Tennis is not a brand Nordstrom sells yet, but one we’re following closely. Specializing for the past five years in classic menswear with urban and modern twists, designers Vincent Oshin and William Watson had only done presentations before (where models stand around in the clothes). They went all out for their first-ever runway show at Pier59 Studios, bringing music and theater, and reintroducing themselves as conceptual artists.
Their show, The Great Style War, used a soundtrack of drums that hit like bombs. First, it was hip-hop remixes played live by Asen James and DJ Prince. Then everyone watched (including famous rappers Joey Badass and Smokepurpp, who smoked a blunt in the front row), as men and women models walked to more frenzied beats, in floral jacquards and a preponderance of utility pockets.
In the third act, lights dimmed and a bandaged bride strode out, followed by the lurch of an almost dead-looking groom. Violinist Jungwon Kim played Bach’s Partita No. 2. The effect was transporting. What was this story of damage and desire?
Backstage, we caught up with Oshin and Watson to ask about the collection and show—which feels like a turning point for the brand.
SHOP: men’s designer
Please tell me a little about the finale.
Oshin: Let’s hear your interpretation first.
He’s in love with her so much it’s destroying him.
Oshin: To an extent, yes. Fashion.
Watson: She represents fashion, and he represents the consumer.
That’s going to take me some time to process.
Oshin: No, it’s simple. Think about it.
So she represents the beauty standard, elitism, classism, all the reasons people can feel shut out from fashion?
Watson: Exactly. She’s unattainable. She never looks at him. He can never quite get it.
Do you feel that way about your own involvement in fashion?
Watson: No, not necessarily. The show is called The Great Style War, and that was a reaction basically to what people said about our last collection, which was that it was very “wearable,” which is not a bad thing…
Oshin: Almost borderline calling it boring.
Watson: And that was sort of like, “Hmm, OK.” It made us think, “What are we doing? Why are we showing?” We have an opportunity when we show to say something, [have] a platform. So let’s explain. Also, we felt the industry was pushing toward either super elevated or super casual, and we could feel ourselves going that way too. And we wanted to take it back. That’s how The Great Style War came about.
I’ve been emailing with Prince a lot about the music for the show. Can you talk about the music direction?
Oshin: Every show we referenced for this had a high-tempo vibe—140-150 bpm. So we thought, “What can we play that’s melodic, that still sits in that lane?” And we looked at footwork from Chicago. We’re big fans. We thought, “Let’s take from the great DJ Rashad, from Traxman, and put something together.” That’s where that came from.
Which runway shows were you looking at for music inspiration?
Oshin: Ones from the ’90s. I’m not talking about present fashion shows. The old Margiela shows, the old Galliano shows, the old John Richmond shows. The greats.
Were those DJ Prince’s blends?
Oshin: We sat down and told him what we wanted. It was teamwork.
What about the finale?
Watson: The violin was Bach. That was the first time the violin player had picked up a violin in 25 years. She said it was complicated because she had to sometimes play three strings at once.
Oshin: It’s very theatrical, so it made sense musically with what was going on.
When I see what you just did, I realize again that runway shows aren’t just part of commercialism. There’s so much opportunity for art.
Oshin: For us, it’s about drawing eyes to the brand. It’s another platform, and we did something artistic with it.
Watson: We always had that dimensionality to what we do, but it’s like, where do we put that? It can’t all go into the line. Because our line is—like they’ve said about us—very wearable. We don’t do clothes with an extra arm or leg. That’s not going to sell. So for the show, we wanted to elevate the brand, and to get more of our lifestyle across. The music, the art, everything.