Scene by Suzy Menkes: Arbesser, Bratis, Valextra
Arthur Arbesser: Vienna Calling
For a designer to have a distinctive voice, there has to be a vision.
From the strains of Schubert produced by a piano player’s hands, through to a spread of all-different antique chairs from his native Vienna, Arthur Arbesser knows how to set a scene for his storytelling.
It was a visual leap from art pieces in an abandoned industrial building last season to this Viennese rhapsody, but in the meantime the designer has been shortlisted for this year’s LVMH Young Fashion Designer Prize.
Arbesser’s vision is to create the kind of clothes that express current fashion normality, but to make them in exceptional or interesting fabrics.
The designer likes either to source these materials from Austria, or to be inspired by his country’s legacy – hence Loden used in a modern way, and a Wiener Werkstätte-like pattern on a coat.
I liked the mixes of timeless and digital-age fabrics: a shiny silver shirt and skirt, and girlish dresses with a slithery touch were two examples of ‘normal’ clothes made exceptional.
With a handful of models occupying the chairs as they listened to the pianist, there was some idea in this static presentation of how these clothes looked off the rail and on the body.
The Greek-born designer is not allergic to needle and thread, he just has an exceptional ability to drape and shape.
Showing in an apartment where the owner’s art collection inspired him, Bratis created wraps, pleats and folds in simple fabrics such as wool crepe or viscose jersey.
Based in Milan with a fashion education from Amsterdam, the designer succeeds in taking the Greek heritage of creating a garment using a single piece of cloth, while never turning it into a ‘grand opera’ look.
An interesting development this season was a collaboration with artist Justin Capp, who moulded a leather ‘frame’ to contain body and draped dress.
Valextra: Modernism is in the Bag
Purity has always been the benchmark of Valextra. Dangling bits and bobs is anathema to this brand, where functionality is concealed inside or at the edge of a smooth surface.
The work of Japanese architect Tadao Ando was the inspiration for the minimalist surfaces and ‘decoration’ appearing only as subtle light and shadow.
I was alarmed to learn that leather moulded like concrete or steel was at the heart of this new collection. But, whatever the engineering behind creating the bags, they did not weigh in the hand.
Bally: Colour-up the Swiss Mountains!
Milanese accessory designers make a big effort to present their wares throughout the fashion season, but some get drowned out by the fashion shows.
So Bally made sure that it would make a mighty splash by using colours so hot that the company’s connection with Switzerland and snow was blown away.
A vivid pink handbag, a purple jacket (and bag to match), shoes green, red and yellow – sometimes all at once – ensured that all eyes were on this once ladylike brand.
The films of Wes Anderson, especially The Royal Tenenbaums, were the inspiration for designer Pablo Coppola, who was captivated by re-interpreting the 1960s. A-line skirts were given a lift with slingback straps and medium heels or with three-tone flats, while exotic skins for jackets and bags gave a lush glamour.
And Pablo did not forget the Op Art culture of the period either, creating an optical illusion with a white pochette attached to the front of a larger black bag. It was a big change at Bally writ large in black and white.