There are several differences between current fashion collections and the designs that Japanese Kei Ninomiya has been developing for the last four years at his label. The former may feature a lot of garments in a wide and wild variety of colours and prints, with themes, ideas and motifs that change roughly every six months (or even sooner if you consider capsule collections, collaborations and limited releases…); Kei Ninomiya has instead decided to focus on just one shade - black - and uses it to create rather compact collections that feature a relatively small number of garments. Above all, the collections are a triumph of the slow ethics, since they are all made using alternative solutions to the traditional stitching techniques.
Besides Ninomiya's presentations are a quiet and reserved affair compared to the chaos surrounding other fashion labels'. During Paris Fashion Week Noir Kei Ninomiya's S/S 17 collection was presented with a small catwalk show at Comme des Garçons' Place Vendôme showroom. The set may have been intimate but these collections are best experienced in these situations.
The fashion narrative for the next season mainly revolved around a few pieces - white shirt, biker jacket, black trousers and skirt, and trench coat - that the designer reinvented through various techniques.
The opening looks were frothy black clouds suspended on an architectural framework riveted together. This structure looked slightly reminiscent of Buckminster Fuller's models of his domes.
Then the designer moved onto a series of looks inspired by a technique he has already used in his previous collections: he slashes fabrics or faux leather into Venetian blind-like strips that then he links together via silver and metal balls. In this case he used white pearls to give the designs a subtle luxury edge.
Biker jackets were reinvented with sfogliatelle-like sleeves formed by layers of fabrics, or they were shaped by strips of fabrics in grid-like formations.
Among the most wearable pieces there were two designs in black denim (this is the first time Ninomiya uses this material), an apron dress with a layered hem and a jacket and skirt characterized by a riveted motif that from far away created a check effect.
Showpieces included a bulbously cocooning stiff cape and bomber with exaggerated silhouettes, but the most extraordinary pieces were the final dress in a satin-nylon fabric and a mesh-armed biker jacket with black flowers appliqued on the shoulders.
It may be difficult to highlight themes and ideas just by seeing images of the collection, but close ups allow you to understand better the techniques employed: Ninomiya is clearly interested in creating protecting yet revealing armours that cover the wearer's body while playing with juxtapositions of sheer and matte fabrics, but his construction principles are mainly based on architecture.
Ninomiya takes indeed one technique - say strips of fabrics woven or anchored together - but varies the size, orientation and density of the strips. This trick allows him to deform, alter and transform the final design. There is one important point to make in all this, the final results may be architectural, but they are never ridiculous or unwearable.
There's certainly dark in such a collection, but it's a sort of ingenious kind of darkness that will easily pass the test of time.
What would be intriguing for Kei Ninomiya? Employing Vantablack, a fabric made using nanotubes and created for military and astronautical use that was created by Surrey NanoSystems, and is considered as the blackest material around. Yes, Anish Kapoor may have won exclusive rights to the material a few months ago, so it may be tricky to be able to use it, but the blackest shade in the hands of Kei Ninomiya would be truly something to see.