Review of Aganovich, Yuima Nakazato, S.R. Studio. LA. CA. Couture Spring 2021 Fashion Show
Review of Aganovich, Yuima Nakazato, S.R. Studio. LA. CA. Spring 2021 Haute Couture Fashion Show
New Voices and New Ways for Couture
By Long Nguyen
The last day of the Paris haute couture season, either in January or July, is customarily reserved for high jewelry – yes, the costly kind – rather than any clothes presentations. But the impact of the pandemic has made all these in-person appointments that much more difficult, and with increased travel restrictions, now with the US closing down even the limited European travels for those allowed, the big dinner parties that the jewelry brands threw each season had been in a state of hibernation since the July fall season.
The day is filled with a series of guest brands – mostly not couture in the exact definition but more expensive ready to wear or one-off garments that can be seen as couture in a new way. Perhaps, the French federation is obligated to fill this last day to keep a hold on this extra day just in case things change for the next seasons. At least the day allows other fashion voices to be heard like the Paris based Nana Aganovich and Brooke Taylor for Aganovich, the Indian designer Rahul Mishra, the Cameroonian Imane Ayissi, and the Italian Sofia Criciani for Aelis ethical and sustainable collection. New voices are never bad for fashion, no matter what they have to say or propose for the customers to wear.
As for haute couture news elsewhere, the New York-based Area designers Beckett Fogg and Piotrek Panszcyzyk launched their first ‘couture’ web-based collection as the pair moved their business towards a see-now-buy-now business model as the pandemic impacts their overall business and a greater focus on the made to order creations shown on two models, with one plus-size model wearing a blue embroidered crystal tube short dress like a coiling necklace around the body, and another in a black tailor dress-coat with paillette fringes. Customers can purchase the actual clothes at the brand website according to their measurements.
For their sixth couture collection since being invited in to participate as a guest member of the haute couture fashion week since July 2018, the Central Saint Martins graduate Nana Aganovich and the writer Brooke Taylor, who founded Aganovich in 2014 and based in the Bastile area of Paris, showed a silence film titled La Rose Envie shot inside an empty backstage area of a theater to show their new creations, an explosion of light pink against the stark barely lit backstage.
“Il importe avant tout d’admettre que comme la peste, le jeu théatral soit un délire et qu;il soit communicatif, (It is above all important to admit that like the plague, the theatrical game is delirious and that it is communicative)” was the quote from the French writer, poet and theatre director Antonin Artaud in the film’s opening scene. Artaud posited that in theater, visual poetry uses mimes, gestures, images, dance, physical theater, sound, and lighting are more powerful than words as tools of sensory disruptions.
Faithful to Artaud’s theory, the duo designers used a tight backstage tech area of a small theatre to film a runway presentation with anonymous models with total face headdress. In the film, the Aganovich designers showed the drama of life and death played out on the surfaces and the constructions of dresses in various states in shiny silk satin of red, pink, and white tailored and dress silhouettes narrating in silence with thirteen looks each with a specific name as the opening look of wearing a red double breast jacket-dress to a golden velvet long dress with pink hands at the hips and breast and another look the model holding paper money while raising the helm of the pink satin skirt.
The thirteen looks correspond to perhaps the Tarot card number 13 that depicts the image of Death. The designers excelled at storytelling using their show as a platform each time – like last season’s show ‘In Praise of Shadows’ taking place in silence with models in veiled covered faces. This time they continue to evolve their tailored base dress starting with a hybrid of a jacket and a dress that quickly dissolved into a pink crinoline dress with asymmetrical folds then onto a white formless and amorphous satin wrapped ‘dress’ to eventually taking shape as a slim fit long dress with the model holding a white heart teeming with white veins projecting outward.
In the few shorts years since establishing their business, Aganovich and Taylor have managed to master both creative fashion and narrative stagecraft – a feat more difficult with no budgets for elaborate staging, but the pair has to work harder finding a creative solution each season. The clothes themselves are well made in cuts and constructions and can easily be translated into their ready to wear operations. Clear voices with clarity of views like Aganovich should receive support however possible during these times; otherwise, the fashion industry will be much poorer, perhaps not in clothes but in ideas.
In between humans and clothes, there’s an invisible realm called memory. Looking out in such a world, by drawing the map of memory – Atlas – one will encounter other beauty forms. It’s one of the indicators to know where we come from and where we are going. It all started with a conversation. Invisible memories will be visualized one by one.
The Japanese designer revealed that from the series of conversations with Lauren Wasser, talks that spanned different continents and multiple time zones resulted in his design concept for his spring couture work.
Lauren Wasser, the former model who amputated both of her legs from toxic shock syndrome and who became an athlete training for the NYC marathon in late 2019 as well as walking in the SavageXFenty show in Brooklyn during the Spring 2020 show season, spoke about her love of ocean waves and nature and the hidden power of nature, and also within humans. Wasser emphasized the need to incorporate technology into fashion, which led Nakazato to incorporate both old and new techniques into this spring collection.
“This story began when I encountered somebody who – to me – represents the coming era of transformation and regeneration,” Nakazato said of his experiences with Wasser that changed how he views fashion and his own work for the label he founded in 2009 after graduating from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts MA Fashion in Antwerp.
Inspired by these talks over a few months that led to a greater understanding to expand the technology into the fashion realm, Nakazato embarked on a mission to find the right technology and materials. In the film, the designer showed the Japanese ‘boro’ cloth, a fabric formed by gathering different fragments from old clothes forming lively patchwork patterns, a tradition from the nineteenth-century where clothes and mattresses were repaired by adding on fabrics to the worn areas utilizing sashiko stitching. Thus a ‘boro’ cloth garment contains the memories and lives of other garments when combined with the high-tech fabrication from a machine that can create a pattern like a spider web structure, now made into a wavy 3D knit jumpsuit dress with sculptural hanging side panels protruding outwards.
Nakazato used ‘brewed protein’ – a sustainable protein material that is brewed and not made from fossil fuels from the Japanese tech startup Spiber Inc. – as the main ingredient for the fabric materials for these underlying ecru short sheath dresses and thigh leggings that comprise the base of the eight looks collection that morphed from this simple look with a colorful necklace to the more and more complicated addition of the waves made by a new process called Biosmocking, a textile modeling method for creating three-dimensional textures that were used to mold the Brewed Protein textiles into the shapes of the waves on the outfits.
No doubt, the designer is correct in his vision of combining new technology in fabricating both the materials and the forms of dress, defining couture today beyond the handicraft world of silk, satin, lace, and jacquards.
However, Nakazato should demonstrate perhaps next season how he can apply these technologies to make real clothes instead of just prototypes of sculptural oddities created as a showcase for his seasonal couture presentation. But, it is a powerful idea that he should expand on, and in this way, he can offer another way to define what couture is today.
I’ve worked around enough people and enough large luxury goods houses to know what their couture studios are like. We don’t have that, and I would never suggest so, but there’s something else that we have, that I still believe holds that kind of core value of the atelier: the idea of ‘made in-house’, that the designer’s hand is on each garment.
– Sterling Ruby on his S.R. STUDIO. LA.CA presentation
The LA-based artist Sterling Ruby’s presentation at the French federation invitation this season showed an arty short film of the collection in the do-it-you-self low-tech camera shootings in the backyard of a house in the hills of Los Angeles.
Titled Apparitions, the film was on January 19, 2021, on the last day of the Trump presidency with the mood that reminisce the centuries of America – pilgrims, puritans then and now inequalities and violent extremisms, Sterling hand made these clothes in his Los Angeles studio with an imaginative morphing of fashion, art, culture, and craft highlighting the American dress forms from puritan collars done oversized purple hand-dyed denim cuffed sleeve dress or the short white spray-painted giant collar dress, to the leaf green long chiffon dress with side panels perhaps recalling those loose prairie dress against the winds of the Great Plains to the black dress, and to the exaggerated purple-dyed headdress, denim jacket and matching loose pants that hinted at the dress of new immigrants to the country.
An orange long shirt-dress with a collage fabric shawl cape and a hat reminds of the colonial era. The business wear suit of modern America comes in the reinterpreted orange plaid suit with a giant-sized double breast jacket. Simultaneously, Ruby’s own art decorates the fabrics from the splash paint to the wool fringes in his textile-based soft sculptures art that culminates in an oversize red, white and blue plaid textile fringe coat.
75 to 85 percent of the entire collection has been made, in-house, by us. Some of these pieces are unique; only one exists. We do a lot of our own hand dyeing, and the collection is a mix of hand sewing and machine work. We cut every pattern. It does seem to have that value of couture.
– Sterling Ruby
The boxy jackets and pants in a red wool black laminated rectangular printed inserts with white words reminded of something that Raf Simons has been doing for his own men’s collection way back since the very early days and in his role as co-creative director at Prada in the women’s debut last September. But, Ruby has a very close collaborative relationship with Simons that spanned decades. Now, Ruby has added fashion and garment construction that include all the handcrafted materials and this collection alongside metal-work, oil painting, and ceramic firing.
These charming clothes reflect perhaps the more intimate relationships that Ruby has with the customers in and around Los Angeles who may be able to special order them or even make some changes to what was shown, which is the customs in the made to order category. Trunks show with select retail partners starting in February, and each garment will be on a made to order basis. Also, select pieces will be available around summer 2021 at the brand website – SRSTUDIO.com.
It is also refreshing to see a visual artist using his own art for his clothes instead of the myriads of artists collaborations omnipresent in fashion today.
The moody film shot at a paintball park in Southern California with music performed by Angels of Light offers an upbeat feel of the coming together of diverse thinking, diverse people, and diverse cultures expressed here in patchwork cloth of a dark splash paint dress with a matching headscarf.