When the first model walked out in what looked like a wedding gown with a vast train, made from what looked like a parachute in army green, at the AF Vandevorst show on Friday, one had to ask if this was supposed to be a déjà vu couture moment, as in those fabulous wedding gowns that often close those shows, or a design intended to chime in with the WWI centenary events this year.
It was a striking beginning for a show which started as it meant to go on. What followed were other eye-catching looks that put a new spin on sculptural fashion. Think starched embellishments attached to outfits that were structured to jut out at angles like literal walking sculptures.
Beyond the fashion, the designer also managed to transport his audience with a hypnotic sound track which sounded like Bjork, and the simple, yet dramatic staging of having models walk onto the catwalk through a veil of smoke and lights, with the smoke rolling over the runway like mist.
There was definitely a hint of the army or a Lawrence of Arabia type in the sexy, utilitarian gear of these women who walked in beiges, greens and browns to begin with, showing what looked like stiff sculptural flourishes added to some of the designs, like a hairdo sprayed tight that winds out at an unthinkable angle from the side of the head.
The army theme continued, with one model walking in what looked like a flag wrapped around her, and another wearing a sort of boiler suit that looked like an American military design.
But then the color scheme expanded, and the looks became less utilitarian, wartime trench coat or wartime women in trousers were replaced by something more glamorous or feminine.
The sexy boiler suits in silky materials were one theme. Then came lipstick, red lopsided jackets and skirts or a dress that was bunched together like a ragamuffin doll’s crumpled outfit; shirt style dresses with the buttons undone; and luxurious plays on kimonos with jackets made of panels tied sexily with a belt and decorated with light motifs. And there were suits that looked a little Yohji with their shapes and patterns.
This collection represented a wonderful play with materials that, rather than looking like an average bit of draping, looked modern and unusual. There were wartime outfits, and masculine looks for girls, that were sometimes boyish and sometimes feminine, as well as lots of fabulous twisting of the materials into something cool.