The "noir" section in the name of this label says it all: a protégé of Rei Kawakubo, Kei Ninomiya has so far mainly focused on one and only colour – black (if you do not take into account the splashes of red in his A/W 17 collection). Yet his S/S 18 runway opened with a few white dresses.
The latter were made by successions of organza pressed strips pleated in accordion-like formations to create trellis-shaped structures.
Has the designer given up black, you may wonder? Au contraire: the white organza origamis were indeed kept together by black thread and the white was not a neutral chromatic choice, but was to be interpreted as air or space.
Though on a visual level white prevailed, black was still the protagonist of the garment, the shade that told the story behind this collection.
Black drew the outlines of see-through PVC jackets, highlighted the transparent knitted PVC harnesses that framed sensible black knitwear pieces, and became the colour of choice for the intricate looped three-dimensional floral motifs decorating necklaces, coats and mille-feuille leather biker jackets with voluminous sleeves.
Soft black pinafore dresses and white knits held together by yarn threaded through eyelets anchored to a semi-transparent mesh offered variations from these sculptural studies, but then the latter came back towards the end of the show with garments in which black leather strips traced the contours of honeycomb-shaped organza structures.
The concept of impalpable air was evoked in the final fluffy pieces that were actually ruffled rigid tutus built on solid PVC with matching round headdresses à la Sheila Legge, Surrealist Phantom at the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition in London.
It is clear that Ninomiya expresses in these elaborate designs in which he finds alternative solutions to sewing, a rigorous process derived from architecture rather than fashion.
At times you can spot in Ninomiya's surprising form-finding techniques, a combination of Gaudi's suspended catenary networks, in other cases the wool thread self-organising frameworks of Frei Otto come to mind.
There is a logic code, though, behind Ninomiya's structural elements and a passion for materials and for finding new solutions. Fashionistas with magpie eyes may not like his passion for basic black, but it is hard to deny that there is art behind these crafts and that some of these designs are definitely more timeless than the ones pumped up by major fashion publications and by enthusiastically vapid influencers.