And so, with one collection Jonathan Saunders recalibrated his design career.
The first exit arrived with power and grace, an embellished black, cropped trouser, fitted underneath a black crombie coat, it was a confident first salvo for a spring collection; a statement that these clothes were operating on a season free plane, almost too arch to be bound by the rule book of seasonality, one that’s becoming increasingly outmoded.
The black look cleansed the palette beautifully and a lesson in the art of sartorial balance followed. Feminine met masculine as sweet summer tops decorated with one gathered fabric bow (the bowing and tying continued throughout in a riff on origami) were paired with tailored city shorts. Skirts were full, mid length and gathered: “It was very much about the design process and then that confident femininity that is really close to my heart, he said.”
Almost every piece had a sense of occasion, Saunders created a gentle pause half way through the show with a simple gold sheath dress. He then began flexing his instinct for texture with deep ruching on skirts and dresses.
“I worked with the most incredible Japanese mill,” he said, “on creating fabrics. A sense of lightness was the most important thing to me.”
Delicate cotton, sheath-thin shifts were printed with paper that had been painted with colour, a technique Saunders learnt at University. The Japanese influence was clear; and it felt like new territory for Saunders, even the palette of brown and camel was unexpected. This was clever, esoteric but not so much it wasn’t totally wearable. It was elevated, yet it was aspirational. And the show music? Rousing strings from the soundtrack to the Sci-Fi horror Under the Skin, and this collection did just that.
At the end of the Issey Miyake show, there was a rare fashion moment as the audience stomped and cheered for designer Yoshiyuki Miyamae to take one more bow. It’s been a while since Issey featured as a must-see on the crowded fashion calendar, but anyone who goes to these shows regularly knows they’ll witness a special fusion of creativity, craftsmanship, intelligence, and plain old jaw drop. Well, maybe the special effects aren’t always jaw-dropping, but they usually elicit a heartily spontaneous reaction, as happened today when a handful of models walked onto the catwalk with organic portfolios that they rapidly unfolded and converted into springy, concertina-pleated items of clothing resembling the fun technical world of origami. The helpful explanatory notes on each guest’s seat described a process of “hand-pleating on the curve.”
Today’s theme was Miyamae’s excuse for a collection that focused on organic shapes and patterns to mesmerizing effect. Graphically abstracted prints created an almost Art Deco sense of movement, which was in tune with developments elsewhere in fashion this season. In fact, the graphics and silhouettes were generally more…what’s the best word for this?…familiar than they sometimes are: Tailored jackets and coats, slim pants tucked into boots, and oversize blanket wraps provided a context for the marriage of artisan and machine that creates purest Miyake. The technique du jour was steam-stretching, in which computers program steam heat to shrink jacquard fabrics into three-dimensional grooves. That mechanical process yielded gorgeously organic fabrics, patterned like tree rings, which Miyamae cut into poetic shapes that shivered sensuously as the models walked.
A line from the show notes, presumably endorsed by Issey himself, best defined the overall uplift of the show: “Cloth harbours the power of life: wrap yourself in it and feel an instantaneous metamorphosis into pure joy at the wonder of living.” Translation: For God’s sake, if it feels good, do it.
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