Fash! Geek: The Next Savage Beauties

The Next Savage Beauties

When I put out an opinion poll out on Instagram about who could â€" and the wording has to be carefully done â€" aesthetics aside, what young designer working today would leave a lasting legacy like Lee McQueen. the names that came up pleasingly revolved around London.  Simone Rocha.  Christopher Kane.  J.W. Anderson.  They’re brands with surefire longevity in the making (or in Kane’s case, already made).  There were also some curveball answers like Jeremy Scott or Alexander Wang, who are perhaps diametric opposites aesthetically of McQueen’s.
To conclude a series of posts stemming from the Savage Beauty exhibition at the VA, supported by American Express, I thought I’d put together a list of designer that have a) drawn direct comparison with McQueen on an aesthetic level but several more that place innovation and experimentation at the heart of what they do, hence why I might see their work in otherworldly vitrines under the scrutiny of a museum curator twenty years from now.  Groundbreaking isn’t a word that is you see in fashion show reviews today unless used as hyperbole.  And yet McQueen, for all his love of the historical and the traditional did break new ground, whether it was in the cut of a silhouette or in his mode of showmanship.  Therefore I’ll re-phrase my own question.  Who is currently innovating fashion and and pushing it to somewhere that can be called the new.
The one name that did get bandied about it on Instagram was unsurprisingly Dutch designer Iris van Herpen, if not for the stylistic and thematic similarities, then for her demi-couture approach that only recently saw her branch off from haute couture to ready to wear.  Still, her work is no less considered as incredible close-up shots of her fabrics from her latest “Hacking Infinity” A/W 15-6 collection reveals.  Her work simply does not come from the realm of convention nor is it bounded by a sense of reality.  For her latest collection, van Herpen imagined the biosphere of another planet and the textures that might inhabit its terrain.  A stainless steel weave is burnt so that it glimmers with hues of an oil-slick and then pleated and shaped into circular formations.  A 3-D hand woven grid-like textile is created in collaboration with Aleksandra Gaca with the infinitive effect of an optical illusion.  And in an ongoing bid to constantly look beyond fashion, van Herpen also works with the professor of architecture Philip Beesley to design sculptural dresses made out of fractal like geometries.  Crystals grow from beneath the vertiginous heels of Noritaka Tatehana, crafted from 3D printing.  McQueen had already begun to probe the dystopian questions of what happens when the world is rife with genetic modification or environmental damage.  Van Herpen has set herself the path to take that probing further down the line, aided by technologies in fabrications that McQueen would probably have delved into himself. 
Kunihiko Morinaga of Anrealage has probably drawn more comparisons with Hussein Chalayan than Alexander McQueen but his shows which have decamped from Tokyo Fashion Week to Paris for the last two seasons deserve praise for their willingness to use the show to open our jaded eyes to something really new.  Last season for Morinaga’s Paris debut, he played with photo and heat sensitive inks on white garments so that faint patterns would be revealed when shone with laser-like beams of light.  This season, the effect was more dramatic as the effect was inverted with seemingly black fabrics made to reveal hidden patterns under ultraviolet light.  That effect was pre-empted with blacked-out garments printed with fade-in/fade-out patterns.
But in the final portion of the show, out trooped ensembles in black that had embedded in photochromic patterns that can only be seen when under UV light.  The UV spotlights moving around revealed distinct patterns of polka dots, floral prints and checks that would then disappear into darkness as soon as the UV was switched off.  It’s difficult to assess where all this supreme fabric research and innovation can go in the practical world but what Morinaga is doing is shining a spotlight (literally) on what is possible and in the world of textiles, there’s still so much potential for experimentation yet to be exposed.  Anrealage shows are a feast for the brain.  You leave excited about what’s next.    
A video posted by @susiebubblevid on May 21, 2015 at 6:08am PDT
A video posted by Susie Lau (@susiebubble) on Mar 3, 2015 at 8:55am PST
The Unseen isn’t a fashion label per se but is perhaps an entity that might have piqued McQueen’s interest.  Founded by self-proclaimed alchemist Lauren Bowker, who studied printed textiles at the Royal College of Art, The Unseen is more like a house of exploration, focusing the metamorphosis of materials.  Booker has been creating chromic colour-chana inks that can then be applied to various disciplines, with fashion being one of them.  Alongside Bowker, The Unseen now based in the Vaults in Somerset House consists of anatomists, engineers, chemists and pattern cutters, who collectively aim to put their “magick” into bespoke projects.  Their work is primarily based around inks that are sensitive to wind, heat, moisture and light and they in turn have been applied to couture pieces that act as a spectacular showcase for what The Unseen can do, such as a winged cape that changes colour upon contact with the air around it or a skull cap glowing with Swarovski spinel stones that visualise the heat loss from the head graduating in colour from orange to red to green to blue to purple.  Their latest piece entitled “Eight Sense” is a coded couture piece which changes in response to real-time digital media as it aims to discover and investigate the human state of being by using a physical garment linked with human magnetism.  So…basically… a wearable mood ring?  You might ask, who really needs that?  But when the effects are so beautiful, it brings into question have we used alchemy and chemistry to really make the visual feel of a garment look as beautiful as it can do?  You’re more than welcome to find out more by visiting The Unseen as their continue their explorative residency at Somerset House.  I’ll be delving deeper into what their “magick” entails soon enough.  

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