In yesterday's post we looked at two compact exhibitions that will bring back to Milan one of the co-founders of the Memphis Milano group, Ettore Sottsass. Among the members of the design collective there was also Nathalie du Pasquier.
The painter and designer developed an interest for textures and patterns while spending time in Africa in the '70s, but only started designing in 1979, joining the Memphis Milano group and creating strong visual graphics in collaboration with George Sowden.
After designing textiles, clothing, jewellery and furniture, in the last few years du Pasquier has mainly been focusing on creating decorative graphic patterns: her prints have been featured in an American Apparel collection in 2014 and her recent works, patterns and illustrations are instead collected in dedicated volumes published in limited editions, such as the 2014 "Counting".
The latter features a series of basic mathematical equations explained by fingers. The illustrations are more or less the same, but they are recombined in different ways, adding slight variations in terms of colours or background motifs.
Pierpaolo Piccioli at Valentino played with them further for the fashion house's A/W 17 collection. Showcased during Paris Fashion Week, the collection mainly consisted of evening dresses and outerwear such as luxury leather and wool coats, matched with thick-soled boots.
Piccioli was inspired by Victoriana for what regarded the details, shapes (see the high-necked style of long and slim high waisted dresses) and frilly elements. These feminine elements and decorations were turned into modern features as they were incorporated in the designs using modern techniques such as bonding and thermowelding.
The patterns of hands and numerals on halter gowns, knits, skirts, tops and intarsia fur coats were taken instead from du Pasquier's "Counting" series and there were moods and colour clashes inspired by George Sowden's pieces.
A romantic and at times monastic side from the late 1800s (at times reinterpreted in saccharine colours such as raspberry red and bright pink) was therefore mixed with a more modern inspiration to create a sort of anachronistic effect.
Du Pasquier's graphic prints were cut up, replicated and re-collaged on the evening dresses characterised by lean and elongated silhouettes that have become a Valentino signature in the last few years.
In some cases Piccioli seemed to add some extra fabric to create more fluid and loose effects in the dresses and maybe give more space to the graphics.
Other inspirations were provided by coral, incorporated into minimalist necklaces that all the models wore, while appliqued feathers forming delicate flowers on dresses and tiny ruffles cascading onto a panelled skirt were instead derived from Haute Couture techniques.
There seemed to be a strange déjà-vu sensation every now and then in this collection: the black-and-white squiggle print in the opening dresses called to mind classic du Pasquier-Sowden's patterns combined with Ettore Sottsass's 1978 bacterio (the latter was also used in Proenza Schouler's A/W 2013 collection View this photo) and many of the silhouettes seen on this runway already appeared in previous (recent) Valentino's collections.
Yet again one of the principles behind the Memphis Milano group was that of redesigning something, or recreating the banal in an extraordinary way: somehow this is exactly what du Pasquier's illustrations end up doing in this collection, adding an edge of modernity in classic designs.
"Counting" was also conceived as a way to escape from the banality surrounding us as du Pasquier invites people to concentrate on basic gestures such as finger-counting to liberate the visual marvels hidden behind non-verbal communication, and that's more or less what fashion should do as well - liberate the dream, the fantasy and the optimism from the banality of the garments.