One of the many reasons I enjoyed living in San Francisco was the variety of independent shops and the resources they provided me. A frequent haunt was Kayo Books, where I would burrow into their inventory to study the style of pulp cover art, which successfully pulls off doom & distress smothered in erotic overtones. This is the holiday season in which weak attempts are made at erotic doom & distress by a hard-partying zombie army of girls in scary makeup and vinyl nurse outfits. It may seem that the spirit of Halloween is as cheap and empty as that six foot inflatable skull that sits on the doorstep warning kids in a scratchy metallic moan to, Beware! Turn back! Thankfully there is real substance to be found inside pulpmags like Weird Tales, complete with frequent contributions from Lovecraft and envelope-pushing cover art by Margaret Brundage.
Perhaps it makes sense that Donna Rhae Marder has never made wearable garments aside from Halloween costumes. Pieces from her “Paper, Scissors, Thread” collection seem to be tailored to fit phantoms, the shapes molded by all of the small disappointments of girlhood. “In 2001 I began working on a series of little girls’ dresses. These works are material manifestations of lost girlhood. They are physical expressions of small disappointments, like unfulfilled parental fantasies, and large tragedies, like lost and missing children. The poetic foundation for this work is poignant but not hopeless. Despite heartache and loss, we can recall the bright hope and promise of every child and retire our fantasies. Finally, I named the pieces for specific girls, though I could have probably named them all for my own little self.”
All good comic book artists have a signature style when drawing the characters’ anatomy and postures. Aitor Throup has taken his characters to the next level, sculpting them and then making a garment pattern based on the pose of the character’s form in motion. He calls this process, “branding through construction”. “As a child I was constantly (and still am) drawing the body in motion. I spent my time attempting to give each of my drawings an anatomy of their own. And then one day, something amazing happened: Tim Burton made BATMAN. And in his interpretation of Batman’s mask, he succeeded in giving anatomy to an inanimate object.
I honoured this pivotal design classic by creating a wool jacket with a built-in three-dimensional Batman hood/mask. The cut of the jacket was based on a sculpture of the body in a particular ‘superhero pose’, so it hung in a slightly distorted way. Therefore the whole piece (not just the hood), had its own anatomy. The accompanying trousers were also based on the idea of ‘every-day superheroes’. They were two pairs of trousers interacting with each other: the cut of the internal pair was based on the human muscular system of the legs, creating a sort of fabric version of an anatomical ecorché. The external trousers consisted of exaggerated volume and multiple pleats and darts, concealing the internal structure. Should the wearer ever be called to Superhero duty, he could find the nearest phonebox, turn the trousers inside-out and put his hood up.”
Tanya is a Belarusian model that has been very popular over the past couple of seasons. Her strength lies in the the ability to morph easily from Pre-Raphaelite fantasy - heavy on the nostalgic view of nature - to Chobit, a modern fantasy dreamed up by CLAMP.
The structural elements in the products that we use, the buildings we live in, the clothes that we wear and even the art that we create have a life cycle. Structural origins are functional and relevant but throughout time become deconstructed and nonfunctional. Eventually rooms in a house or construction details in a garment become nothing more than empty gesture. On the other hand, there are fully functional traditions that have been buried by empty gesture, like storytelling. Aitor Throup’s MA collection, “When Football Hooligans Become Hindu Gods”, is a three-dimensional comic that communicates the story of redemption and transcendence told through fabric structures that are based on a platform of football casual.
Throup’s wearable transformation from football hooligan to Hindu god
Recalling memories of raising sheep in southern Idaho is a life far removed from the constant city-hopping I’ve done over the past several years. The sheep operation was physically and financially demanding with little free time, but what I miss is my connection with natural surroundings, being part of a greater organic whole. Catherine Campbell, a Harris Tweed cloth producer from the Isle of Harris, relates to me this connection I’ve lost over the years: “Harris Tweed is well known for the colours of the cloth representing the landscape. I think the most beautiful colours are those we see around us, wool blends that have a touch of brown from the hills, yellow and red flecks of flowers, together with hints of purple heather or the different shades of blue, green and turquoise in the sea.”
For his s/s 2007 show presented in Paris earlier this week, Hussein Chalayan astonished the crowd with self-contained fashion retrospectives - garments that transformed themselves to represent styles from chosen eras. The magic was made possible by a collaboration between Chalayan and the team behind special effects for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, who microchipped the garments to perform to the tune of the designer’s vision.
Footage of the shapeshifting garments starts midway through this video coverage of the show.
Chalayan is the first big-name designer to inject this kind of technology into fashion, forging the inevitable path ahead. There’s really no telling which direction the industry will take with this first effort. A few considerations regarding the use of technology in garment design with a purely creative intent (apart from functional intents such as RFID chipping for monitoring inventory or theft prevention, nanotech swarms repairing fabric tears and weaving computer and communications technology into the textiles):
1. How will the market respond?
2. Technology of this sort will probably not escape the fickleness of patent law and its stifling of creativity.
3. The possibilities of personalizing clothes are endless, opening up a whole new dimension for bespoke.
Mixed in with the novelty shapeshifting garments in Chalayan’s collection were wearable clothes, appropriate for the s/s season (which deserve mention later). If patent infringement nonsense doesn’t stifle the magic and hinder progress from the example he has set, there will come a day when the integration of technology in garment design will be seamless and practical, and will rightfully be defined as ready-to-wear.
When I asked Noriko Seki and Keiichi Muramatsu of Everlasting Sprout what defines their aesthetic, they politely guided me back to the poetic concept for the label: “Sometimes we encounter something lovely and charming, Sometimes something cruel, even grotesque. ‘Something’ can easily leap across the boundaries of picture books, fairy tales, yet, music or paintings. We can feel ‘something’ in the texture, odor or even taste. ‘Something’ is hidden here and there…”. Something in the creations of Everlasting Sprout strikes a chord that refuses to be classified.
Reviewing the s/s 2007 shows from Milan was an educational exercise, pushing past the standard reports on Versace, Prada, Gucci, Armani, Fendi, Ferragamo, etc. Despite being severely limited by knowing only one language, I made an effort to find more complete coverage. Favorites include well-known labels like Missoni and Bottega Veneta as well as some precious gems like Amuleti J obtained through a little mining.