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Anna Delvey Shao show SS24 by Andrew Tess
Photography Andrew Tess

Shao Yang is the emerging designer behind NYFW’s most controversial show

The SHAO founder talks collaborating with scammer Anna Delvey and Kelly Cutrone, missing ‘old New York’, and – most importantly – her first ever collection

TextKish LalPhotographyAndrew Tess

Garnering widespread attention as a new designer at NYFW is basically impossible. So when Shao Yang began working on her first namesake collection [as SHAO] with PR maven Kelly Cutrone, the industry veteran had a wicked plan to get the designer the attention she deserved. “I’ve launched more brands consistently in America than anyone else,” Cutrone told Dazed over the phone. “I have a good eye.”

When Cutrone posed to Yang the idea of hosting her show on scammer icon Anna Delvey’s rooftop while she’s on house arrest, the designer said: “Let's do it.” The result was the wildest and perhaps one of the most divisive nights NYFW has seen in years. By eschewing tradition, SHAO has been splashed across every tabloid around the world. It’s any designer’s dream. 

Last night, the whole thing came to a chaotic head, with Yang showing her inaugural collection, Danger Zone, in conjunction with The Outlaw Agency – Delvey and Cutrone’s hastily established pop-up PR agency. Less than 100 people had the invite land in their inboxes, and it was limited to press and friends only – influencers were not on the list. 

Of course, Delvey was a huge draw for the column inches the show, which otherwise would have likely slipped below the radar on NY’s jam-packed schedule, but Yang’s clothes were actually good

Models wearing slouchy tailored jackets and louche, high-waisted pants stomped up and down the five flights of stairs as best they could, while others stepped into waist-cinching corsets, handcrafted from leather and lace. Crisp denim jumpsuits were cut through with neat, white stitching, while the colour palette – mainly blacks, whites, and greys, were punctuated by juicy neon brights. Towards the end of the show, Yang paid tribute to the 80s through chi-chi ra-ra dresses layered over slick shirting – ”the old New York” is a place she admits she misses dearly. 

It was this that was partly the catalyst that led to curating a show that bore the gritty, punk irreverence that the city feels to many like it’s lost in recent years. Growing up in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, Parsons grad Yang’s clothes nod to her roots, but the pieces also embody other facets and identities she’s eager to commemorate and explore. 

Ahead of the show, Dazed sat down with both Yang and Delvey to talk about the controversial collaboration, how Outlaw is directing attention towards young emerging designers, and what the future holds for both of them.

Hey Anna and Shao! First of all, how did you two meet?

Anna Delvey: I knew of Kelly because I used to watch her show when I was a teenager. And I mentioned her name on the Call Her Daddy podcast crediting her as one of my influences. Kelly has a 21-year-old daughter, Ava. She heard the podcast, and told Kelly, “Oh my gosh, Anna just name checked you on this podcast.” Finally we got introduced in late July, early August of this year and we just kind of hit it off. 

Shao Yang: Oh, I already knew of Anna. I was so fascinated with everything that she does. Kelly and I were working on my first ever collection and we were planning and going through ideas. One morning she called me and was like, “Okay, what do you think about this idea?” And she told me about potentially doing it with Anna Delvey. I was like, that is epic and I'm so on board. Let's do it. Then we all just got together.

Anna Delvey: We fired a couple of people who didn’t exactly get the idea. 

Shao Yang: We wanted to work with people who love what we do and what this is about. So if you're not on board, then we can't work together. 

“I would've never done it if I hated the clothes. I just don't need the hype. I’m not doing it for personal publicity. The clothes are really amazing” – Anna Delvey

Anna Delvey: We had a great time working together. Kelly is just such an icon. I love her. She gets things done and it’s non-stop. She’s working at two in the morning while doing like three other shows this fashion week. It’s so crazy… She’s in, like, her 50s.

Shao Yang: She’s 57, but she’s running around town all day. She’s still calling all the shots and putting on these amazing shows. I don’t think other fashion producers can produce at the same level as Kelly. There’s nothing she can’t do or handle.

Anna Delvey: It’s so great that she can channel the attention we’re getting to bring attention to young designers like Shao. And it’s an amazing collection. You know, I’ve been getting all sorts of attention… I guess a lot of it is negative [laughs] but I hope I can push it towards something positive. 

How does it feel to have your debut collection supported by Anna and Kelly?

Shao Yang: I feel super blessed. I'm still in shock at all the love and support I’ve gotten. When Kelly and I talked, she was saying that part of her job and what she does best is bringing attention to young emerging designers and really getting them the press that she thinks they deserve. If we launched during fashion week traditionally in a regular venue, I would have walked away super disappointed because there wouldn’t be any coverage because there are so many designers showing. So this is one way to really garner a lot of attention.

Anna Delvey: It’s the first show I’ve been involved with but something is changing every day. Kelly even said this is one of the hardest produced shows she’s done in a very long time. And even though it’s Shao’s first collection, she’s had the tailoring shop – The Tailory – for 10 years and her clothes are amazing, which is more than can be said about other designers. In the end it’s all about the fit, the tailoring, and the materials.

“If we launched [the collection] during fashion week traditionally in a regular venue, I would have walked away super disappointed because there wouldn’t be any coverage because there are so many designers showing. So this is one way to really garner a lot of attention” – Shao Yang

Anna, why was Shao the designer you decided to do your first show with?

Anna Delvey: I would've never done it if I hated the clothes. I just don't need the hype. I’m not doing it for personal publicity. The clothes are really amazing. 

I love that this show feels decidedly old school. Maybe it’s Kelly’s involvement, but I’m excited to see a show that isn’t just 15 minutes in a gallery. 

Anna Delvey: I think it’s very New York. I lived in Paris for two years and Paris Fashion Week is obviously the best one. New York is kind of lagging far behind, which is a shame because there are so many cool designers here. America will always be about sportswear and athleisure and not couture. And I think that should change. 

We’re not trying to go for a fancy or chic location. If you can have any location, the choice you make says a lot about you. And even though the East Village is pretty run down…[laughs]

Shao Yang: But it’s very New York, right? It’s taking us back to what the city used to be like which is really exciting for me. I grew up in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn so I’ve seen all these changes and sometimes I do miss the old New York. The grittiness and the dirtiness. There’s so much life and energy that comes with that, which gets lost when we start to clean everything up and make it new. This collection is really fun and important to me because I think we're really celebrating that kind of energy from old New York that I grew up with. 

I’d love to hear more about the collection.

Shao Yang: The collection is very eclectic. The way I designed the collection is to have a little bit of clothing for everyone. So all the models and the show are super diverse and they each embody a character in New York. It could be the East Village kid, someone that grew up in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Or it could a person who lived in Westchester but then came up to New York City. 

It’s very inspired by the 80s, but I think subconsciously everything I do will reference the 80s in some way just because I grew up in the 80s. It’s my favourite era. There's a lot of denim because I always work with denim. There's always a lot of tailoring. So a lot of the clothes, whether it be a fully tailored suit or even a t-shirt, are tailored with techniques that I do on my suiting. 

Do you think doing this with Anna and Kelly is going to detract from the collection?

Shao Yang: No, I don’t think so. 

Anna Delvey: It’s all about Shao in the end. Me and Kelly are organising it and putting it together, but in the end it’s all about the clothes, the collection. I’m not wearing anything else on the night but SHAO. 

Anna, you also embellished some of the clothes with your art right?

Anna Delvey: It’s just little fragments of sketches I made in jail. I don’t like anything that’s too busy and Shao’s pieces didn’t need it but it was just a fun thing. I also designed the invite, planned the layout of the space because there isn’t much room [laughs]. I feel like I’ve been on the phone all the time too. I don’t even know how Kelly does like four of these shows. 

Now that you’ve got your first show under your belt, do you want to continue doing this kind of work?

Anna Delvey: I’ve had no time to think about the future. Me and Kelly will discuss future projects after seeing the response. There’s just so many variables that I have going on personally. I’m trying to get off house arrest, trying to get my social media back… It's really frustrating not having a platform to share my projects on or even control the narrative with. Hopefully I will get that lifted soon. It's been about a year since I was released back on October 7, last year. My lease is expiring so I’m also looking for new places. So maybe Kelly and I will do something for Halloween. We have designers – friends of hers – wanting to do something for them. We just don’t want to over -promise on anything so the next thing will be a surprise. 

Shao, what does your future look like after the craziness of this show?

Shao Yang: Kelly’s already talking about February so we’re already planning for our next NYFW show. The immediate next step is to just start getting the clothing on people. If you like it, you can get it and that's it. And then the plan is to just keep creating. As a designer you can't ever stop creating. So I think that's going to be something I'll be doing forever.