Oct 05, 2017 | By Carlene Thomas Bailey
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Oct 02, 2017
How do you design for our times? Each womenswear season our eyes are glued to the catwalks to see each designer’s interpretation for how to navigate our times, to inject some beauty, to put the focus on issues like feminism, and to celebrate women as the universe muse. But these are not normal times. And this weekend that became even more obvious. This weekend for fashion fans the focus was clearly on Paris, as the final city in the month-long catwalk series dazzled crowds. But as a world we are in flux, Europe was experiencing an extremely volatile weekend. And, globally too, there is change, conflict, confusion. And yet, the designers were able to offer something up.
For designers like Rick Owens, Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons and Vivienne Westwood, fashion is a stage: a stage to question, to show the myriad sides of love, anger, politics and everything in between. It is not the place to be subtle, to hide, but instead it is the place to bring out, to uncover and see what’s there. The designs were big and bold, from sweeping dresses to shapes that were so oversized, each model could hide in them or at least find some solace.
At Comme des Garçons the imagery juxtaposted black ravens with an angel with wings, all held underneath the vague description of the season, no show notes just the words “multi-dimensional graffiti”.
Then at Vivienne Westwood the symbolism was there too, obvious and in your face. There were eyes painted on the models, appearing in unexpected places, at the back of the neck and above the eyebrows, seeming to infer that we must keep our eyes open, to look more, to look further beyond what we’re currently seeing. Then there were the hats that said fragile, and the repetition of hand drawn hearts, reminding us of the uniting power of love.
At Rick Owens the themes of joy, stoicism and discomfort came to life. The soundtrack on the catwalk was upbeat and joyful, while the clothes seemed to offer a layer of protection, to keep her safe like a cocoon. Then, by contrast the shoes were bulky and substantial, for a wearer who has somewhere to go and won’t let the road ahead get in her way.
But that’s what you expect from these designers and truth seekers; fashion’s rebels.
Elsewhere though there was a soft nod to how to navigate our times, how to find a roadmap for survival. An optimism softly shone through this season in Paris. At Givenchy, it appeared as a gentler offer of hope, with a personal note on the chairs from new creative director Clare Waight Keller. The note read “fashion is a tool for metamorphosis. It can transform the spirit through a new attitude, for new beginnings’. Not every designer chooses the path of coming out with clothes that make us sit up, unable to turn away from the message. There are those designers who opt to present a vision of a brighter tomorrow, communicating it through a gentle whisper.
And then others go further, like at Valentino it was all about beauty, bold, optimistic beauty, taking clothes as a statement about transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary. As the brand stated on their Instagram account, the point was to show how “shapes, colors and matters alter to astonish, without betraying their function.” This could be taken at face level, ie. ‘let us rock our raincoats with sequins next summer’, or it could go much deeper, it could be saying how do we as humans tend to ourselves, so that we might collectively astonish, to shine a little brighter in our lives, in our communities. How can we love a little more, in our everyday lives? Transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary.
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