Philosopher Walter Benjamin introduced a concept that he named the “optical unconscious”, referring to the most infinite details that our eyes perceive without us realizing - but which are nevertheless generating associations and emotions.
This is something Christian Wijnants seems to master: by subtly confronting references and playing with nuances, he gives an impalpable aura to his silhouettes. Take the first look, a woolen black tunic paired with airy muted pink trousers: the juxtaposition evoked a day vs. night, summer vs. winter feel, a hushed clash that induced a somewhat eerie poetic contradiction.
This was followed by a black mesh cage dress embellished with bright stripy fringes, which provided a delicate interaction between the volumes and the movements of the textiles. The seeming mismatch between fabric and color gave way to powerful, utterly unclassifiable outfits: a satin icy blue suit, made to look minimalist rather than David Bowie-esque; a textured knitwear ensemble in neon orange with matching socks, a pop of color elevating an otherwise slouchy garment to a statement.
Here lies Wijnants’ strength: rather than working around concepts, he creates dialectics between cuts, textiles and tones which might seem opposed as first — and discreetly but radically changes the assumptions we unconsciously make about them. In other words, the devil is in the detail…
Olivier Theskyens provides a wardrobe where staple pieces are recontextualized – starting with classic signifiers of sexiness transformed into bold statement.
Leather with satin opened the show, one evoking bondage, the other boudoirs: yet cut into a long blazer, matching crocheted miniskirt and a high-rising blouse, the references suddenly seemed to point at Trinity from The Matrix.
A babydoll nuisette worn as outerwear winked both at Catherine Deneuve in Bunuel’s Belle de Jour — and Courtney Love in her heyday.
Flipping and turning codes inside out, he introduced a bold leather jumpsuit worn under a delicate burnt orange velvet robe; or a bustier dress layered with a sheer, oddly effortless petticoat.
Bras were apparent, at times worn as a top of its own, at others poking out of an oversized suit.
High necklines and short hemlines ran through the collection like a golden thread - contrasting decades, femininities and wardrobes, towards what could be seen as a sex-positive, empowering collection.
A German conceptualist (though some might argue he is more of a deconstructionist), gazing at the City of Love: this is the impression Lutz Huelle gave today, as he confronted Parisian classics with contemporary codes of cool, turning both on their heads.
An oversized suit, reminiscent as much of a young Coco Chanel as early Helmut Lang, came in neon fuschia, and was worn with the ease of pajamas; a bomber jacket and matching trousers were sharply tailored in gold-tinted moiré.
A deconstructed denim skirt was paired with a timeless blazer; glimmery disco pants were worn with a classic camel coat.
This mix and match was followed by multifunctional garments, such as dress-meets-robe-meets-coat; or an elongated shirt wearable both as a jacket or a tunic. Peacoats were sliced into two and patched up with a denim jacket.
The message this seemed to deliver was one inviting us to reflect on our hybridized existences, between dress codes as much as generations.
Yohji Yamamoto is as much as sociologist as a poet: he creates garments that are odes to beauty and yet critical of society. This season was no exception, as he introduced corseted dresses worn back to front, coats with necklines transformed into enveloping scarves, or dresses composed of layers of frayed ruffles.
Questioning the relation between history and avant-garde, luxury and second-hand, he actively refused signs of opulence, but rather created a sort of “arte povera” out of textiles that looked repurposed rather than bling. Graffitied oversized trench-coats brought in touches of color to an otherwise — no big surprise — all black collection, while, in parallel, quoting rebellion and counter-culture and elevating it to an ornamental status.
A play on volumes, with XXL flounces and extra-wide pockets took the attention away from the female form, time and again experimenting with almost extra-terrestrial shapes. Making experimentation a continuous quest towards breaking down clichés and subcategories, invoking yet simultaneously reframing classicism, Yohji proved, once again, that, in his own words, “misunderstanding is understanding.”