There are different ways to introduce innovations in fashion: some designers do it through theatrical runway shows; others through visually striking pieces employed as metaphors for higher concepts. Noir Kei Ninomiya opts instead for ingenious construction techniques, using only one shade - black - as the name of the label suggests.
For the A/W 17 collection showcased during Paris Fashion Week, the designer actually let a bit of a romantic mood seep through his dark soul via solid splashes of bright ruby red.
The collection opened with a red faux-fur (a material he had introduced in his A/W 2016 collection) jacket with a black collar: the garment was made of squares linked together with metallic hooks. He then employed the same technique for a wrap, a dress (though for the dress the squares were transformed into soft cylindrical elements) and a coat.
Trench coats and biker jackets - staples of Kei Ninomiya's wardrobe - made again an appearance, but there was a new technique here.
Leaving momentarily behind his fascinating silver ball chains constructions that created in previous collections an intriguing blind-like effect, Kei Ninomiya looked at the possibilities offered by ribbons and used bows to decorate trims on black pants or as the functional straps of a pinafore skirt.
The flower-embroideries on velvet sweatshirts were pretty and the romantic dresses made with rosettes of tulle linked together by hundreds of rivets on a faux leather trellis structure pointed at the theme of the collection - flowers - maybe interpreted as symbolic fleurs du mal (the designer studied French literature before moving onto fashion).
There were strong connections with Rei Kawakubo in two oversized, eccentric and verging towards the monumental upholstered faux-leather pieces, a jacket and a shoulder brace, though these designs are to be considered more as tributes since, before going solo, Ninomiya was a pattern cutter at Comme des Garçons.
Kei Ninomiya excels at importing techniques from other disciplines: his dresses made with squares of fabric come indeed from modular architecture; the sheer trench coats are directly linked with the principles of traditional Japanese architecture and in particular with the shoji, the sliding panel made of translucent paper on a wooden frame that forms the interior and exterior walls of a house, a feature that ensures privacy, while creating an ever-changing visual experience as the light and shadows change.
The collection closed with two voluminous designs in metallic red, they were new geometrical versions of the black A/W 15 jackets that looked as if they had been made by inflating and quilting black bin bags.
While these techniques may look like a backlash to traditions they aren't, they are just ways to find alternatives. So, while architects like Kengo Kuma may be trying to find alternatives to modern skyscrapers designing structures rooted in traditional buildings such as Japanese tea houses, Kei Ninomiya does the same: his pieces may look extremely futuristic and irreverent, but they are actually finely crafted with artisanal know-how.