Monday, 30 March 2020

Fashion in the Time of Covid-19: Christian Wijnants Home Comforts

An enveloping creation designed by Chrstian Wijnants shown in Paris last month. Cover picture and all photography by Elli Ioannou 
As the Paris haute couture shows and men's fashion week are cancelled in June and July due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we take a look back at some of the best collections of the Autumn/Winter 2020 season. Belgian designer Christian Wijnants showed one of his most accomplished and evocative collections that also seems just right for our times. Story by Jeanne-Marie Cilento. Photography by Elli Ioannou

 Padded, voluminous coat with
 broad, soigné lapels.
DURING these days of coronavirus, when we must stay at home, Christian Wijnant's vision for his Paris autumn/winter 2020 collection seems prophetic. The new collection is all about cosiness and comfort, the clothes providing a sense of enveloping protection and ease.

The voluminous knitwear and fluid prints are just right for working or relaxing in a domestic environment where suits and tight clothes are not needed. Even just a month ago when Christian Wijnants held his show in Paris on a freezing February afternoon at the Palais de Tokyo, the world was a different place.

Today, it was announced that it will be months before there is another fashion show in the French capital. The country's governing body, the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, has officially cancelled the upcoming men’s and couture fashion weeks because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The spring/summer 2021 men’s shows were originally scheduled for June 23 to 28 with haute couture taking place from July 5 to July 9.

The Camera Nazionale della Moda, which oversees Italian fashion, has also postponed its men’s shows from June 19 to 23; they will now take place alongside its womenswear week in September.
The Council of Fashion Designers of America is also advising designers not to show resort 2021 collections in May and June and has postponed its menswear week.

So far, Florence’s Pitti Uomo and London’s Men’s Fashion Week, both of which take place at the beginning of June, are still scheduled to go ahead. However, the cancellation of fashion's most important menswear weeks and the couture shows has cast a shadow over the industry, which has been affected, like every other business, by the pandemic.

The Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode has officially cancelled the upcoming Paris men’s and couture fashion weeks because of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Drapery was one of the highlights
of Wijnants new collection
Talking about his collection shown in Paris last month, Christian Wijnants says he was initially inspired by a winter Sunday afternoon spent at an historic museum: "The collection is about serenity, having a peaceful mind and feeling comfortable and cozy in the clothes you wear." Like an exhibition at a museum, each piece in the collection has a story to tell.

The designer created motifs seen during his gallery visits to create new designs for the fabrics used in the new collection. An electric blue suit with generous proportions is embellished with Picassoesque faces that suggest the Modernist avant-garde. He says an exhibition by Wes Anderson at the Fondazione Prada in Milan also inspired some of his prints.

Christian Wijnants has always made a focus of both knitwear in his work plus vivid prints and they are key to this collection too. The designer also showed great dexterity with draping flowing, chunky knits ~ which may sound like an oxymoron ~ but were in fact sumptuous and soigné. He says he wanted the designs to have an architectural structure but still with a sense of fluidity.

"The collection is about serenity, having a peaceful mind and feeling comfortable and cozy in the clothes you wear."

The fluid drapery of a sage green,
knitted ensemble.
The Belgian used varied techniques including handmade crochet to create new silhouettes. The expansive coats and fluid, colourful suits looked both stylish and loose enough to be comfortable at work or play.

A standout for this season were the designer's  new accessories including tote bags, platform loafers, sturdy sandals worn with socks and combat boots.

The colour palette ranged from mint, pistachio and pink to tangerine, dark green, blue, black and white. The fluid, knitted creation (see at left) in sage green has long, fluttering bands that flow around innovative, wide-leg knit pants.

Another standout knit ensemble was a bright orange, layered top with matching flowing pants (see below) that worked liked the beautiful drapery of an ancient Greek sculpture. Glimpses of a bare arm or back amid the swathes of knitwear gave the billowing pieces a surprising elegance.

Long, padded coats have broad, curving lapels that give them a regal yet sporty look. Their bulk was offset by the slender, semi-transparent shirts worn underneath (see white coat above). The designer also used light, silky fabrics like orange taffeta to create fluted panels that worked with the body and fell in natural, relaxed folds.

Expansive coats and fluid, colourful suits looked both stylish and loose enough to be comfortable in any situation 
Layered knitwear in bright orange with wideleg pants.

Overall it was a beautiful collection where knitwear was used in new and innovative ways. Because Wijnants combined similiar tones and hues for tops, skirts and jumpers he gave the collection a real sense of cohesion.  While the ample proportions did not overwhelm but added a sense of richness and luxury.

Still working with movement and fludity, the designer also created a series of dresses in mesh, covered in long strips of fabric in red, orange and white that kicked out like Twenties' Flapper dresses. A bright blue version was mixed with a sleek mohair coat in a matching deep hue.

There were lots of new abstract patterns and prints that looked both artistic and flattering to wear. The blended knits in black combined with pink or orange were like paintings. The knitted dress and coat, (see below) was a wonderfully skillful combination of different volumes, colours and shapes that would suit any body type while being warm and snug.

Overall it is a beautiful collection where the signature knitwear is used in new and innovative ways

Wonderfully skillful combination of volume, colour
and silhouette in knitwear. 
Today, Christian Wijnants is a masterful designer with a strong vision for his fashion house. But when he was growing up in Brussels he didn't start out with fashion as his focus. He went on to study Latin and mathematics at university before doing a year of fine art where he learned to draw.

He moved to Antwerp in 1996 to study fashion design at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts.

Christian Wijnants talent was already apparent when his graduate collection won the Christine Mathijs special prize in 2000. Then a year later he won the Grand Prix at the Festival de la Jeune Création in Hyères. He went on to gain greater experience working at the ateliers of Dries Van Noten in Antwerp and Angelo Tarlazzi in Paris before launching his own label in 2003.

Christian Wijnants talent was already apparent when his graduate collection won a special prize

 Belgian fashion designer Christian Wijnants
in Paris last month.
Two years later he had won the Swiss Textiles Award. He was also teaching knitwear at the Antwerp Fashion Academy, showing his early fascination and passion for knits that has underpinned his collections along with his grasp and interest in vibrant patterns and prints.

In 2012, the designer also won the European Woolmark Prize for his knitwear. The following year he took out the top award at the 2013 International Woolmark Prize with a jury that included Donatella Versace and Diane von Fürstenberg.

In 2016, the Belgian opened his flagship store in Antwerp designed by Swedish architect Andreas Bozart Fornell. Wijnants usually shows four collections in Paris during the fashion weeks, including two pre-collections and two runway shows on the official calendar. Two years ago, he launched his first shoe collection and since Winter 2019 he has also presented two menswear collections. Today, Christian Wijnants studio is based in Antwerp but his collections are sold all over the world.

Highlights from the Christian Wijnants Autumn/Winter 2020 show in Paris
 A bright blue mesh dress had plenty of sassy movement and was worn with a sleek mohair coat in a matching hue.

Brilliant orange knitted ensemble of jumper and skirt work with socks and Wijnants' new sandals. 

Electric blue suit embellished with a Picassoesque print inspired by the Belgian designer's forays into museums. 

The ample silhouettes of the knitwear was followed through to capacious, double-breasted suits.

Still working with movement and fluidity, the designer also created a series of dresses in mesh covered in long strips of fabric in red, orange and white that kicked out like Twenties Flapper dresses' fringes.

Another beautifully draped dress in an original, abstract print, one of Christine Wijnant's signatures. 

Deep blue knitted top and skirt that would be snug and comfortable to work at home. 

Long, fluid coats were a highlight of the collection in warm, rich colours. 
The finale of the collection held at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris for the Autumn/Winter 2020 season.

Subscribe to support our independent and original journalism, photography, artwork and film.

Thursday, 27 February 2020

Christian Dior Paris: Streetstyle Autumn/Winter 2020

Striking a pose at the Christian Dior AW20 show in Paris held in the Tuileries Gardens. Cover picture and all photographs by Elli Ioannou for DAM

The French fashion house Christian Dior is working with the Louvre Museum to fund a five-year restoration of the Tuileries Gardens. This season's Autumn/Winter 2020 ready-to-wear show was held in the park ~ one of Paris' most beautiful gardens established in 1564 ~  in a vast ochre-coloured structure embellished simply with Dior in black above the entrance. Elli Ioannou captured the effervescent streetstyle at the show for DAM
 Tap images for fullscreen slideshow or scroll down to see highlights from Dior Streetstyle

Subscribe to support our independent and original journalism, photography, artwork and film.

Monday, 17 February 2020

Ronald Van Der Kemp's Vision for Upcycled Couture

Shimmering and sculptural gold gown made from recycled mixed media at Ronald Van Der Kemp's SS20 haute couture show in Paris. Cover picture and all photography by Elli Ioannou for DAM 
Dutch designer Ronald Van Der Kemp's label RVDK is at the forefront of the upcycling movement in fashion, a highlight at Paris Couture last month. Other fashion houses such as Maison Margiela and Julie de Libran also presented collections using repurposed materials. We look at how RVDK's latest Spring/Summer 2020 collection embodies the high end of sustainable fashion. Story by Jeanne-Marie Cilento and Elli Ioannou

Designer Ronald Van Der Kemp
backstage in Paris
RONALD VAN DER KEMP'S haute couture collections are soigné, beautifully-cut and avant-garde, some of the best clothes on Paris runways. Yet his RVDK designs are all made from repurposed fabrics and materials. He is one of the first couturiers to take on the challenge of sustainable fashion for the upper echelon of the fashion world.

"Since 2014 we have been on a mission to reinvent the notion of a couture house for the future," says the designer. "Creating couture from unwanted materials because we believe what's deemed useless today is able to be remade into beautiful pieces tomorrow. We keep those discarded fragments and turn them into an evolving wardrobe."

There are also ready to wear designers enthused by upcycling and the possibilities for changing the way fashion is produced. Young British designer Bethany Williams only uses recycled and organic materials and won the Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design last year. She was one of four of eight LVMH Prize finalists using repurposed materials in their collections. 

Another Dutch designer, Duran Latnik, uses pre-owned pieces from famous labels to create eclectic collections of refashioned clothes. He has also worked with Browns Boutique and Liberty London. Upcycling even has a certification process now called “UpMade” to make sure brands are meeting the right criteria. .

"We are on a mission to reinvent the notion of a couture house for the future."

A beautifully-cut gown that recalls
Grace Jones in her '80s heyday
Designers who are concerned about the extraordinary amount of waste and landfill created by the fashion industry are at the forefront of the upcycling movement. Barely one per cent of new clothes and fashion accessories are recycled. It's estimated that by 2050 the industry’s contribution to annual global carbon emissions could rise to 25 per cent. Consumers are responding to the crisis and increasingly looking for fashion that is ecologically sustainable and ethical in the way it is made.

Van Der Kemp says the aim of  his brand is to fuel "a mindful movement for the sake of beauty and for the sake of our planet." He launched his RVDK label during Paris haute couture six years ago. His first collections were made up of limited-edition pieces for all seasons, created with existing fabrics by hand, in Amsterdam ateliers.

The luxury ecommerce company, Net-a-Porter, was the first retailer to buy van der Kemp’s collection. His clothes have a high profile following now and are worn by singers including Lady Gaga and Katy Perry and models Kate Moss and Karlie Kloss.

Ronald Van Der Kemp first started his career in fashion as a creative director, head designer and consultant for brands such as Guy Laroche, Celine and Bill Blass, working in New York, Paris and Milan. He originally graduated in fashion design from the Gerrit Rietveld Academy of Art and Design in Amsterdam in 1989.

For this latest Spring/Summer 2020 collection in Paris, Ronald Van Der Kemp created 38 looks using 15 pieces from previous collections including seven upcycled items and 21 new editions and styles. All of the new collection was made with existing materials that came from leftover fabrics.

The designer says his aim for the label is to fuel "a mindful movement for the sake of beauty and for the sake of our planet"

A wonderfully luxe coat
made of black and gold scraps 
The couturier did not produce any new textiles for the collection and all of the materials used for shoes, bags and sunglasses were also made from existing products. His sources are wide ranging and include the fabric archives from the late Dutch couturier Frans Molenaar, vintage couture collections, out of season stock materials, upcycled jeans, interior fabrics and unused leathers from other brands.

This collection was inspired by the glamourous nightclubs of the Eighties such as Le Palace and Club Sept where Grace Jones and Jean Paul Gaultier partied. The “Boucherite Guilt-Free Fur Trash Coat” (image at left) is made of small pieces of gold and black scraps from previous seasons. Van Der Kemp wanted to created the look of a "luxurious fur coat" while making a statement against unsustainable fake fur.

The coat was hand-made by Carpet For Life, a small organisation that works to empower Moroccan women in small villages in the Sahara. It generates an income to preserve their heritage and support their communities by using traditional Boucherite weaving techniques to make carpets from leftover clothes or fabrics.
All of the new collection was made with existing materials that came from leftover textiles

A sleek, shard-shaped bodice
that shows the RVDK
tailoring virtuosity
In contrast to the voluminous faux coat, a sleek blue satin and suede corset gown with a bodice constructed from asymmetrical shards, demonstrates Van Der Kemp's ability to create wonderfully tailored gowns.

There were also stylish, pared-back, black and white looks like a long dress with a leather harness back and wool, sateen trumpet evening skirt with over-embroidered lampshade petticoat and leather-dipped finger gloves that had a dashing Grace Jones aesthetic. The monotone looks were mixed with dashes of brilliant colour like bougainvillea pink, glossy gowns with wide shoulders and slimline black cigarette trousers worn with draped and ruffled tops.

Ronald Van Der Kamp shows his mastery and imagination using upcycled materials and how they can be used to produce coherent and captivating  collections. Utilizing the skilful virtuosity of haute couture ateliers like fine tailoring combined with repurposed materials, the designer has found a way to make high fashion more sustainable. 

Consumers and some luxury manufacturers are beginning to understand the colossal waste of unsold clothes and unused textiles in terms of both the production process and their eventual disposal. Ronald Van Der Kemp's vision of upcycling means that highly desirable clothes, handbags and shoes can be created from repurposed materials while landfills are alleviated.

Tap Photographs to See More highlights from the RVDK SS20 Haute Couture Show in Paris

Subscribe to support our independent and original journalism, photography, artwork and film.