Junya Watanabe: Honeycomb
Sculpted mesh bobbing up and down — there could be only one word to express Junya Watanabe’s Autumn/Winter 2015 collection: origami.
Backstage though, the Japanese designer had a different word: “honeycomb”. The famously silent Junya came up with another phrase, saying he wanted to “explore dimensions”. And that summed up the show.
Each season Watanabe shifts between the conceptual and the actual when it comes to clothing. But these explorations in three dimensions were surprisingly wearable: fresh white blouses or wide-cut jackets and coats, worn with metallic studded trousers.
Since the first half of the show was all black, graffiti was drawn on necks and legs, right down to the brogue shoes.
Just when variations on a theme — different accordion-pleat hats or cut-out tunics — began to seem repetitive, more fabrics were introduced. They created effects of mesh or shine.
Then came colour, creeping in as a honey beige, followed by red, purple and pink combined with a russet honeycomb collar.
The idea of an elastic movement is a minor trend for next season, with Ferragamo in Italy showing knits that appear to quiver and flutter. So add Junya to this concertina story.
Haider Ackermann: King Tweed
“I was thinking about the failures of life,” Haider Ackermann said, after perhaps the most polished, yet romantic, show he has ever created.
“It’s all about tweed; how it gets old and you have to repair it,” the designer explained backstage, where even the models were dancing with joy.
If that show was a ‘failure’, it is hard to imagine ‘success’. For in this collection, Haider took the theme of the unfinished, which has always been an important part of his repertoire, and tidied up that idea into elegant clothes. Very elegant.
It all started with the runway — a black and white graphic pattern that was replicated in a streamlined checkered dress (high heels essential) with a drape at the neck and an insert of larger check at the waist. Another coat streamlined down over a pair of narrow trousers.
It was the way that the ‘repairs’ were worked into the tweed that made the effect. There were rough, red basting stitches like a trickle of blood at the back of a jacket; or more intentionally clumsy stitches around a jacket lapel. Yet all was luxe and calm for the total picture.
Towards the end, a glint of gilding invited a question. Was it really, as the designer said after the show, all in tweed? After witnessing animal prints and a symphony of fabrics worked into a flirty skirt, I just suspended disbelief about the tweed and enjoyed the experience. I particularly liked an apparently simple white blouse with distressed ruffles foaming on the surface and more of that blood-red stitching.
I then thought of Coco Chanel as the Queen of Tweed and how Karl Lagerfeld once identified Haider as the one designer who might be capable of taking over after him at Chanel.
I asked Haider if he had thought of Chanel while designing this collection and he broke into a peal of laughter. “I never thought about it,” he said — and that is probably true.
Nina Ricci: A Man and a Woman
“There is no real fashion concept except what Nina Ricci means to me — it’s about fashion as a perfume,” said Guillaume Henry before showing his debut Nina Ricci collection.
The show opened with an elegant but familiar statement about a woman in a mannish double-breasted blazer, but feminine in her transparent lace skirt.
And so went the contradictory story: sharp tailoring and slim dresses illuminated with sparkle; a city coat fancied up with oh-so-fashionable silken fringe.
I felt that Guillaume Henry was thinking of a wardrobe for a woman of today. But to my surprise, she was an intercontinental figure, not the cute young French woman of his earlier designs for Carven.
Filling the shoes of Peter Copping, who left Nina Ricci for Oscar de la Renta earlier this year, did not seem a problem for the confident new designer.
In fact, his simple court shoes set a tone for the collection, which was drawn on simple lines with surface decoration.
A wool dress with fluffy shearling patches on a slim cream shift seemed the right way to go, rather than the semi-transparent dresses, one showing underwear, which is such a cliché of femininity.
Much better was a sweater with cable knits, mixing white and cream. That kind of sporty style was one of the elements that showed promise for the future.
But now that the new Nina Ricci collection has been presented, Henry needs to spray a stronger perfume to make his identity at the new house.
Comme des Garçons: Life, Light and Shadow
The figures were moving; meeting, but never touching. One was a perambulating white cloud of puffiness, blown into shape by stuffed bedroom pillows; the other smothered with white satin bows. Both models had their heads and faces covered in a lacy darkness.
Why in this Comme des Garçons show do they never touch, only turn, each voluminous figure just acknowledging the other’s existence like a passing shadow? Were they death and life walking slowly past one another? Perhaps one, at least, of each duo was approaching the final ending.
”A ceremony of separation” were designer Rei Kawakubo’s words, spoken by her partner Adrian Joffe, for she never came out to respond to the cheers and tears that engulfed the long room where the show took place. There was no pretence of a happy ending.
So a designer who once based a collection called “Broken Brides” on figures walking in sadness from the bridal altar has now turned her fashion art to the final ending.
Yet this was not a sad show from Kawakubo. Some of the individual pieces seemed joyous, with lace and leather mixed, or a hoop decorated with snowy white flakes and wool that looked like a fine knitted swaddle for a baby’s crib. That was a match for the baby’s dress seen flat on the front of one of the perambulating outfits.
Deconstructed elements, especially for the headpieces, were inevitably present, but not in a torn or discarded way. And sturdy flat shoes kept the figures grounded.
There were slightly more white than black coverings, with some bridging the negative and positive with lace and hose, both with a mottled shadow play.
But the mood was sombre in a sweet way, as the soundtrack swelled with the Max Richter neo-classical piece, “On The Nature of Daylight”.
In the nature of life there is also death. But only an exceptional fashion artist is prepared to embrace it.