Sibling’s Joe Bates can’t explain his passion for New York in the early 1980s. He has no personal connection to the place—or even the period—but he’s enraptured by the art, the style, the creative energy. He wonders if it is so vivid to him because Sibling has always been about the joy of dressing up, and, with the shadow of AIDS lying so heavy over their city in the ’80s, that’s just what New Yorkers did in the face of catastrophe. And, Bates mused on, maybe the time has come around to revisit that spirit of defiant uplift.
In the vein of which, Sibling’s womenswear collection was no longer labeled “Sister.” Instead, it stood proud and singular, its presiding muse Madonna in her early ’80s incarnation as patron saint of all the down-but-never-outers of the era. And the photos taken of her by proto-street-style-snapper Amy Arbus (daughter of Diane) and artist/designer Maripol were the visual reference. It was Maripol (sprawled on the show invite in a pre-selfie) who originally dressed up Madonna in edgy froth and rubber bangles. Bates and fellow Sibs Sid Bryan and Cozette McCreery ran with that ball. Holiday Celebrate, they called their collection—rubber bangles, cropped polka-dot tops, and all.
“We understand the power of display,” claimed Sibling’s show notes, a fierce understatement in the light of some of the collections they have paraded in the past. This outing, by comparison, was tame, more conventional than anything the trio has offered before. There was still the compendium of remarkable techniques, notably the finale of hand-crocheted skirts clotted with macramé-ed raffia, like encrustations of coral. There were also pretty crocheted sundresses, and a jean jacket and short skirt in distressed denim (the Sibling description of the distress was rather more evocative: “polka dot scars”), perfect for a budding popstrel, then or now. But then there was a white ribbed dress that fell floor-wards in frothy tiers of ruffles, and that look definitely brought the joy. Meaning that the trade-off for the taming of Sibling will probably be their best-selling collection ever.