In previous posts on this site I attempted to make connections between fashion and architecture by exploring the collections of specific fashion designers who carried out in the last few years interesting experiments to bridge the two disciplines or by looking at the work of architects and at their application to fashion collections (please use the "Search" button at the bottom of this feature to discover more articles about these themes).
Yet it must be highlighted that not all the experiments combining architecture and fashion work out well.
Bouchra Jarrar is definitely a success story since the rigorously tailored silhouettes of her designs usually display the precision of linear and minimalist buildings.
In her Autumn/Winter 2011-12 Haute Couture collection Jarrar created fluid and flowing dresses, though the best pieces remained her sharp suits, asymmetrically bisected jackets and pants with slim and streamlined silhouettes matched with hand-woven vests that showed a sort of interest in surface elaboration.
The collection mainly revolved around shades of electric blue, grey and black, a rather minimalist yet elegantly modernist palette broken at times by graphic lines that the designer may have borrowed from her previous employer, Balenciaga.
The Maison Martin Margiela team moved from the archives, managing to inject in the new designs the right degree of originality and making sure this time that the materials reused in the Artisanal collection – among them also sport socks used to create tops and car seat belts as straps – weren’t too recognisable.
The see-through organza suits covered by a skirt that functioned like a clothes plastic cover and the sheer plastic or paper-like trench coats all seemed to be made in the kind of blueprint paper used for technical drawings and were the most interesting designs (though definitely not new...).
It remains instead perfectly legitimate to wonder if reducing leather jackets to a sequence of strips by sectioning off different bits and pieces of this iconic garment or creating a Frankenstein's monster-like jacket reusing backpacks is innovative or even necessary.
So while Jarrar stands on the right side of the architectural connection and Margiela is currently in the middle, who does represent the rather puzzling side of the architecture and fashion connection? Believe it or not, it’s the house of Dior.
Fashion must go on and now that Galliano is out, studio assistant Bill Gaytten (currently creative director of the Galliano brand) took centre stage.
Architecture was clear in the models' headdresses shaped like spheres and cubes and in the designs that called to mind in their layered and tiered structure architectural elements and sedimentary architecture.
It must be said that this theme was approached in a rather light way, with dresses in pastel colours, tops paired with full skirts in contrasting patterns and Bar suit jackets in candy colours or matched with graphic ‘80s motifs.
While these designs were supposed to be a modern and fresher version of Galliano’s with their geometrical shapes and wave-like unfinished layers of chiffon, taffeta and organza or circular motifs in ethereal fabrics (View this photo - the same circular motifs were used by Capucci to create wing-like shapes on evening gowns and in more recent years reappeared in Christopher Kane's collections), at times you got the feeling that this was Liquid Sky for the fainthearted, that is a sort of madness on the brink of erupting, but restrained by conservative market forces.
The architectural theme worked better in the tops with appliqued metallic silk strips (View this photo) and demicircles of sequins in different sizes.
Gaytten claimed there were references to Frank Gehry, Jean-Michel Frank and the Memphis-Milano Movement founded by Ettore Sottsass and indeed it was undeniable that the sandals with geometrical heels and the post-modernist accessories showed some strong derivation from early pieces of furniture like the ones designed by Studio Alchimia.
Yet all these bubblegum colours and funky edginess seemed borrowed from a Fiorucci for Panini sticker album from the ‘80s or from a Bow Wow Wow video rather than from the house of Dior.
The long dresses with prints of wood and veneer-like motifs recreated using sequins (a reinvention of a Madeleine de Rauch’s wood print dress from the 50s - View this photo then View this photo and draw your conclusions...) in brown, green and orange were probably the most unconvincing part of the entire collection, together with the final ball gowns that were more Carnival than Couture as the closing melancholic Pierrot proved.
In a way the designs in this collection lacked the coherence and the over-the-top theatricality that Galliano managed to inject into Dior's creations in the last 14 years.
The most disappointing thing about this collection was that, while there was craftsmanship and art (otherwise there wouldn't have been any tops with rows of tiny mink dots and sequins in delicate nuances replicating the different shades of leaves...), there was no direction and no obsessive reference to the power of the female body.
You wonder why Gaytten who is a tailor and pattern cutter wasn’t left to play with architecture in his patterns rather than in the schizoid embellishments and prints.
For commercial and financial reasons it’s not deemed possible for a fashion house to skip a season. Yet this collection showed it wouldn’t be that bad if it would happen.
Haute Couture is a dream of excesses and glamour, an unreal fantasy created by real and skilled hands, but if the fantasy turns into a circus with no direction and even Dior risks of losing it to confusion and panic, what’s the point of keeping it alive?
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