There were 300 models backstage in Paris’ Cirque d’Hiver for the Atelier Chardon Savard 1st and 2nd year students' collections show, clad in what looked like pliable slime, dressed in deconstructed football-inspired corsets, glow-in-the-dark-painted fabrics; fabrics with motherboard-cum-houndstooth prints that looked like tribal textile; doll heads; fake fingernails and cracked eggshells. There were offbeat poets in a grunge-and-roses-inspired collection, Mad Max dominatrices in fringed ends and rope, inspired Italian umpires, cauliflower shapes blooming out of a ballooned body, huggable summit climbers, geekwannabes. The designers who created these ensembles were apparently out-of-the-box thinkers, the rebels, and the audience encircling the stage during the show whooped with each new experiment. It was like a circus, with the delightful freaks and outcasts of the world gathered under one space to show the collections of their ringmasters.
The talent of these emerging designers, said Lola Chardon, the school's Communications Director and daughter of the Atelier Chardon Savard's founders Cyrille Chardon and Dominique Savard, was not the point of the event. The school's curriculum is aimed towards encouraging the students to, in a phrase, be out there. “They have to create clothes where people look,” said a teacher. You would certainly look with curiosity at a collection that used basket weaving as epaulets or squidgy eye-mask-with-blue-gel-material as a jacket (although there may be no answer as to why). The collections’ titles gave more insight into the designers’ intentions and inspirations, with names like Laos Birmaine, Valhalla and To the Moon and Back. The meaning behind the Holi Fucker collection, a colourful collection with ponchos, became clearer upon the discovery that holi is a Hindi festival and one of its rituals is throwing colour at each other.
The characters presented in the final year students’ collections following were generally more multi-dimensional than the younger students’. The garments’ proportions, fit and finish were given more importance, and there was a focus on technical skill. Clearly, the school’s pedagogy was effective. There were intricate, well-moulded forms, galaxy-printed pseudo aliens, a baby doll floral circle-skirt dress, the seemingly organic growth of a long white vest on burnt velvet, edges like crumpled paper, actual rolled paper, and adeptly-cut fabric that fell and fit on models’ bodies. With the playful, the kooky, the strange and the beautiful all under one roof, you definitely had to look - and hopefully feel too.
-Ria de Borja
-photos by Tim Grenard