Area: From Raw Beginnings To Fashion Favourite

Since its inception in 2013, the indie sensation Area, founded by the dynamic duo of Piotrek Panszczyk, 37, and Beckett Fogg, 35, has skyrocketed to prominence on the New York Fashion Week circuit. These two visionaries first crossed paths during their studies on Parsons’ MFA Fashion Design and Society programme and, in an astonishingly short time, they’ve crafted a distinct and unmistakable brand identity.

At the heart of Area’s signature vibe lies a fusion of intricate crystal embellishments, attention-grabbing fabrications that shimmer and the pinnacle of tailoring perfection. Their creative brilliance hasn’t gone unnoticed. It’s caught the eye of industry titans and their designs have been worn by the likes of Beyoncé on her Renaissance World Tour, Lady Gaga at the VMAs and Michelle Obama on her Becoming book tour, to name a small, impressive few. Their partnership has also led them to prestigious platforms, with appearances in the finals of the 2016 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Prize and the 2020 LVMH Prize.

During a Zoom conversation with 10 from Area’s Chinatown studio in New York, Panszczyk delves into the evolution of the brand’s core aesthetic, describing it as “an interstellar, power-femme mood that has continually evolved over the years”. He emphasises that, regardless of the creative directions they’ve taken, there has always been a fundamental interplay between “exuberance and femininity”, striking a balance between “the crass and the chic”. Their fearless exploration of boundaries while maintaining Area’s innate boldness has deeply resonated with their audience. He further explains, “In the early days, people were drawn to our clothes for special evening occasions, like clubbing, birthday celebrations or events. But now we’re also exploring how they can make people feel amazing during the day. Ultimately, it’s always about boosting someone’s confidence and making them feel their best.”

How has Area’s aesthetic evolved over time? “When our work first gained attention, our focus was primarily on hardware and using crystal elements as the building blocks for limitless creations. But before that, it was more about fabric and structural aspects – essentially, it was about tailoring, so we wanted to bring that back to the forefront of our process. These days, we’re pushing how we can soften our embellishments, as well as how we can craft the perfect jacket or couture dress and develop them into something architectural.” Regarding the brand’s name, Panszczyk sheds light on its dual foundation. “In the beginning, we operated more like a collective, so the name held an anonymity, a blank canvas for ideas – an ‘area’, if you will, [that was] open to interpretation. However, there was also a club in New York with the same name in the mid-to-late 1980s which served as a haven for creatives to freely express themselves. Our first studio was almost next door to that venue, so it’s something of a tribute.”

In 2021, Area embarked on a strategic transformation, breaking free from relentless, conventional fashion cycles by adopting a see-now, buy-now cadence and a direct-to-consumer business approach for its collections. Simultaneously, the duo unveiled their haute couture line, catering to the specific desires of an influential clientele from the world of media and beyond. He explains their shift, stating, “These moves were a response to the fast-paced era of social media, where everything is so direct, and competitiveness escalated in that landscape. And our private client list was growing to a point where they required more precise alterations, which is where the couture side of the business came from.”

Today, as an established fashion house with a dedicated global following, Area stands at the threshold of its next growth phase. Panszczyk has taken on an expanded role in creative leadership within the team, while Fogg focuses on the brand’s strategic business development. The label now operates simultaneously in both its birthplace of New York and in Milan, where half of its production takes place. “We have been developing all the laborious 3D construction processes in Italy with specialised manufacturers. In doing so, we’ve come to appreciate the rich history and expertise ingrained in their heritage – it’s in their blood. We also recognised this as an opportunity for the growth of our ready-to-wear line, prompting us to shift half of our production to Italy. Italians are savvy and make great collaborators. It felt like the right decision.”

Panszczyk’s journey is a testament to his eclectic background. Born in Poland but raised in the picturesque town of Arnhem, the Netherlands, he always harboured a fascination for the creative realm. His pursuit of artistic expression led him to Arnhem’s ArtEZ University of the Arts for his bachelor’s degree, where he honed his ability to navigate the fine line between the allure of an anti-fashion mindset and the desire to craft exquisite garments. This was partly thanks to being not far from Antwerp’s fashion scene and partly due to designers he looked up to like Issey Miyake and Rei Kawakubo.

However, it was Panszczyk’s move to Paris that proved seismic, as he embarked on a design career that included stints with esteemed brands like Chloé and Ungaro. “I learned very quickly how hard it is to work in fashion in Paris,” he recalls with a chuckle. “But it was also interesting to be on teams where either the clothes weren’t quite my style or there was a culture shock on the team and I had to adjust. These experiences, whether positive or tricky, were important in shaping how I approach working now.”

Fast forward to the present day and Area has swiftly established itself as the preferred brand for audacious garments sought after by top-tier celebrities. Among the notable stars who favour them are Ariana Grande, Bella Hadid, Dua Lipa, Chlöe Bailey, Simone Biles and Precious Lee. The label’s latest feat? Taylor Swift gracing the cover of Time, which awarded her Person of the Year, in one of its crystal-adorned gowns. “That moment was truly magical. A Time cover serves as a significant reference point for me – their historic covers always find a place on our mood boards, so this was quite an achievement for us.”

For the shoot accompanying this feature, captured by the lens of the talented An Le, 10 enlisted musician Micah McLaurin to adorn himself in Area’s AW23 collections. “Wearing Area gives me an experience similar to when I hear music that moves me. It immediately transports me to a different feeling, which is what I try to do when making my own music: I want to create fantasies, emotionally and visually, where people can escape everyday life,” says McLaurin. “Sometimes visuals give me ideas for music, and Area’s clothes inspire me to create music that moves the body, whether it brings tears, chills or makes you want to dance, and the visual worlds that enhance it.”

Area’s AW23 ready-to-wear and couture collections, unveiled in a runway presentation during New York Fashion Week, explored the concept of primal instincts in relation to clothing. The line-up featured trompe-l’oeil fur-printed wrap coats, low-slung jeans and shirtdresses with voluminous godet skirts. Elsewhere, there were slinky jersey cut-out dresses adorned with crystals and gold-embellished bones. As the collections unfolded, the silhouettes became more exaggerated and a dynamic interplay between evening and daytime attire emerged, straddling the line between 1960s grandeur and 1980s extravagance while incorporating elements of prehistoric attire with animalistic details. “We looked back into history to understand the origins of clothing, where necessity for protection evolved into luxury and eventually excess,” says Panszczyk. “It’s about how bones transformed into precious stones and diamonds, and how fur evolved into something considered lavish. These key concepts from history continually resurface in new forms, so we aimed to push the boundaries of how we can reinterpret these ideas and blur the timelines.”

With half of Area’s production based in Milan, it seemed logical to end the conversation by asking about the possibility of the label relocating its shows to Europe. Upon hearing this, Panszczyk’s expression brightens, suggesting that we might be onto something. He responds thoughtfully, saying, “While I have a deep love for New York and there aren’t many brands like us operating here, we’ve been contemplating various opportunities. There was a time when we considered the Paris haute couture schedule as an exciting prospect, where we could introduce something fresh. But now we’re in Milan, building a cultural connection with the city. Ultimately, we don’t feel tied to a specific location – the people who resonate with our brand are everywhere.”

As we gaze into the future, Area’s trajectory seems boundless, filled with fruitful possibilities. Setting aside the discussion about relocation, it’s evident that the brand is poised for even greater international success. Perhaps the latest collection symbolises its transformation from raw beginnings to a veritable fashion gem. Watch this space.

Taken from 10 Magazine Issue 72 – DARE TO DREAM – out now! Order your copy here.



Photographer AN LE
Hair TOMOKO KUWAMURA using Oribe Hair Care
Digital technician NELSON CASTILLO
Photographer’s assistants MACE VENNONI and ROBERT PETRIE
Production NOW OPEN TV
Executive producer VICTORIA PAVON
Production assistants LYNDSAY MORETTA and JOSEPH ORTIZ

Clothing and accessories throughout by AREA

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