Suzy Menkes at Couture: Bouchra Jarrar, Yiqing Yin, Dice Kayek
Is it sexist to discuss, as a critic, fashion from a woman’s point of view? I don’t think so. Because if female designers have themselves in mind, that does not mean that their vision is exclusively personal.
I am reviewing three designers showing during the Paris season, whose only connection is gender. Yet at the same time I believe that they represent, in different sartorial ways, the needs and desires of women today.
There is a reason why ‘Shed My Skin’ was the title of Yiqing Yin’s couture collection, because ultra-sensitivity to both fabrics and feelings is the essence of the output from this Paris-based designer of Chinese origin.
As delicate as ever, so that some outfits with their fragile fabrics seemed mere wisps across the body, the designer had a clear theme. The show was devoted to snakes – both their sinuous movement and the transformation that occurs each time they shed their skin.
But this was so very far from the more typical sexed-up fashion of snaking outfits. Instead, Yiqing Yin seemed to focus on the fragility of the shed skin – while at the same time giving her softly draped dresses some strong shades, moving, for instance, from dim turquoise to bright blue.
The tension between body and clothing was handled with subtly and grace. And even when a snake hissed out of a pattern of its own skin on a slim dress or a glistening silvered surface, the designer succeeded in bending its shape to her fashion vision.
A setting in ancient cloisters created a peaceful scenario for Bouchra Jarrar – in keeping with the spirit of sense and sensitivity that is behind her fashion vision.
Although she still had tailored trousers as a key element, they were softer and silken. The focus was on an ultra-subtle exposure of skin, from a bra top through to finely pleated, long chiffon skirts to bare backs.
Draping satin in a wash across the body with a Grecian effect was just one way that the designer had softened her approach from previous collections. Bouchra Jarrar seemed, in this demi-couture line, to have got the point that today’s fashion has no precise seasons – and that women choose how and when to cover or drape their bodies.
A pale pink satin dress, rippling over the body as the model walked the stone pathway, projected a gentle vision of womanhood.
As the models walked past the noble stonework and sculptures at the Decorative Arts Museum, I thought how well the Dice Kayek look fitted with that timeless artistry. Ece Ege, the Turkish woman who, with her manager sister Ay?e, is behind the label, knows how to cut a fine trouser suit, and her black tailoring lit with white seemed timeless.
Then, POW! The collection flexed its muscle with bold inserts of colour and pattern related to a particular era: the 1980s and the artists of that time, from Jean-Michel Basquiat to Roy Lichtenstein.
The programme notes spoke of the “decadent and flamboyant” art world, but there was not much depth brought to this statement, other than a colourful star exploding on angular black dresses.
The best was the base: the well-cut clothes, including a puff of a white cotton shirt, which a modern woman would be drawn to for its elegance and ease.