What is couture today? Beyond the opulence and glamour of beautiful garments, how much attention is paid to experimentation? If Rad Hourani’s haute couture show is anything to go by, serving as the unofficial closing ceremony to three days of couture in Paris, plenty.
By entering the hallowed circle of invited guests of haute couture, Hourani, the first Canadian designer to ever do so, joined experimenters such as Maison Martin Margiela and Iris van Herpen in challenging and shaping fashion into a wider manifesto of humanity.
Out came the first model, androgynous and sporting a black bowl cut, clad in an all-white outfit that echoed the lab coats worn by the assistants seating guests minutes earlier. Billed as “high collared shirt, jacket in length #2, trousers with fabric bands on the sides,” was a study in superposition and unexpected volumes. Here, there are no labels, no names. It isn’t even a description for the length, to dissociate the garment from any particular height or body type. Hourani challenges notions that are ingrained from birth, and attempts to midwife a spiritual awakening. Look after look, he brought forth austere, uncompromising silhouettes of mathematical precision that would appeal to discerning fans of avant-garde designs.
Jackets, shirts and trousers were built in the manner of buildings, folding, and layering elements on top of each other to achieve their final aspect. His creations, worn by hieratic models rendered genderless, exert the fascination of abstract art. If anything, this is an abstraction of body and clothes to liberate the soul.
But does this abstraction of cloth and body truly free the soul, or does it trap it into a new norm? As his models took a final turn, their faces hidden by black masks featuring a disquieting version of Hourani’s face, one is left with an impression of normative aggression. Through his #10 collection, is he producing the blank canvas on which to project, or is he providing both the questions and their answers?
- Lily Templeton