Early in the morning we emerged out of Junya Watanabe and Sophia Neophitou of 10 Magazine said, “That’s all you need – one good idea.  No theatrics, no elaborate set, nothing else.”  That’s how direct Watanabe, and later Comme des Garçons‘ show were.  One bloody good idea, explored deeply with conviction, feeling and an utter disregard for pleasing critics or buyers, just their own feeling of natural instinct and intuition.

In the Comme showroom, for both collections a different story will unfold as is normally the case.  That’s ultimately the clever thing about the Comme empire.  An explosive good idea can then filter into product that then physically goes on people’s backs and the link between the idea and the product is never at all tenuous.  it boggles me when I go and see the extraordinary array of what is supposedly a dreaded word – product – if you treat the p word with respect and trust that the end customer isn’t just after easy t-shirts and sweatshirts, then you’re on to a winner.

But back to that one good idea.  Let’s start with Junya Watanabe.  Abstract.  Graphic.  Bold.  These elements were drummed into you through cut out plastic, leatherette and patent formations and it seems Watanabe was less concerned with going down that well trodden patchwork, denim and biker path that has essentially been his bread and butter but more about an overt and optimistic expression.  It was so joyful to see, the normally sedate Japanese editors next to me were bouncing up and down and clapping at each look.  We all gave each a look, as if to say “Gosh, this is BRILLIANT, isn’t it?”

A cacophony of references came to mind as the show played out.  For me it was primarily Robert and Sonia Delauney’s Orphism artwork and the latter’s brilliant clothing sketches.  I also thought of Oscar Schlemmer’s 1922 Traidisches Ballett and their sculptural surreal costumes.  A more realistic influence might have been Jean Paul Goude’s installation pieces that were at the Image Makers exhibition in Tokyo, which is coming to an end.  A more modern reference could be Los Angeles artist Bruce Gray’s circular and colourful paintings.  The list could go on and on but you could never accuse Watanabe of lacking originality because the final vision rendered on the body ultimately has an entirely different effect from a sculpture or a painting.  The models weren’t wearing “artwork”.  The graphics moulded to them and they became almost one being, accentuated by the plastic hats with Lego-esque hair pieces painted on and the swash of solid colour on one eye.  Some familiar Watanabe signatures such as the striped t-shirts and the biker jackets were worked in with patent circle shoulders but by and large this was Watanabe pushing himself beyond his comfort zone, and perhaps borrowing a touch of spirit from his boss and mentor Rei Kawakubo.

Whatever the cause, the effect was that Watanabe’s show had me bouncing out of the venue, despite having a monstrous cold and fever.  It was one good idea, which hit me hard and got me wondering how this will play out on a larger scale – on the streets, in stores and filtered down into other people’s collections as all things Comme normally do.

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Later in the day in a derelict warehouse building with weeds growing outside and crumbling floors, we were into the red with Rei Kawakubo at Comme des Garçons.  Describing it as a “red” collection sounds simplistic and one quick look at the pictures and you might think it’s just that.  In fact it was a cry to all of us to feel something, anything.  Extreme emotion is can be hard to find in most fashion shows today and by rendering every silhouette in red – associated with emotions that range from anger and danger to love and passion – it was drummed into us that we should feel.

Of course, this would be a redundant exercise if the colour red was used simplistically.  Kawakubo would do no such thing.  Red rosettes that also resembled open wounds engulfed the body.  Shredded up red leather was layered up into cape-esque silhouettes.  Bandages twisted up and formed into rings tied around the limbs.  What looked like blood splattered pleather was scrunched and built up into layers.  Kawakubo retread techniques like constructing cages, body-morphing patchworks and contrasting textures that in one true shade of red, had an arresting effect on the eye.  The brain reacts violently to red.  Does it hail danger?  Are we lustful?  Do we think of blood and gore?  Or does the heart flutter?  I’d say we’re tipping more towards love and passion than bloodshed and anger but with Kawakubo, you just never know.

It may be pure coincidence that on the day the collection was unveiled, I was also reading about teargas used on pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong and the first steps towards violent combat in Iraq.  Kawakubo would never be blinkered to these events.  That’s why her work does make you feel things.  You reach in deeper than you would with other collections.  It can’t all be about aesthetic pleasure.  There’s got to be some pain too.  I left the show in a different state from Watanabe’s.  There I was bouncing.  This time round, I had to sit quietly by myself and think about it.

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Dreaming.  I’m going to say it in a small voice.  We don’t get to do enough of that D word in fashion these days.  Celine/Balenciaga-isms, faux-minimalism and the all important bottom line sums up the bulk of the mainstream fashion landscape.  Sure there’s quirkiness, there’s modernism and of coursethere’s an abundant of choice.  But few have the scale, the vision and the conviction to make people really feel like they’ve been struck by a devastatingly moving moment where beauty for beauty’s sake strikes you down.  Beauty for beauty’s sake is a theme we have been seeing emerging this season as we seek the uncomplicated, the pretty in a cocoon of loveliness.  That can feel like it’s just surface-level stuff.  Those that are masters of beauty know how to go beyond the surface.

Leading the charge is Dries van Noten, and as exemplified by the brilliant “Inspirations” exhibition, which just finished up at the  Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris (moving on to Antwerp’s MOMU next year), his rich layers of referencing have often begotten many a dream, from which you emerge with a slightly disorientating feeling of giddiness – a fashion high.  A feeling that you had drunk too much beauty in.  That’s what I felt like anyway when I came out of the SS15 show.

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If he were to construct a section devoted to this particular SS15 collection at an exhibition, John Everett Millais’s Ophelia painting, examples from the arts and craft movement,which rejected industrialism and went back to the beauty of nature, the pre-Raphaelites, Shakespeare’s Midsummer’s Night Dream and girls swaying with complete abandon at late 60s to 70s festivals like Woodstock and Stone Henge Free would all be there.  And so it was that a perfect melange of Titania, 1969’s summer of love and Mother Nature itself worked their magical way into the fabrics.  Van Noten described it not as a collection but “just a lot of nice clothes in nice fabrics.”  Nice doesn’t quite cut it.  That bit of self-deprecation makes it sound dull.  It was more than just “nice”.

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The show opened with nothing but silence of the countryside – as in birds gently chirping away, the faint noise of trees swaying in the wind and the quiet hub of flora and fauna.  And of course the snap of the camera.  The models walked down a beautiful tapestry forest floor, created by Argentinian artist Alexandra Kehayoglou (there’s a wonderful making-of video on van Noten’s website), quietly padding away and seducing you in striped silks, lush paisleys and geometric skates, mirrored embroidery that was anything but hippy dippy and sheer organzas dusted with metallic powder.  Van Noten balances print, texture and colour so well, it’s almost a second nature to him.  That was half the magic of the collection that the clothes looked so desirable and as the pulse of the Oscar and the Wolf track, “Strange Entity” built up and we heard the singer intoning, “I’ll take good care of you” it was as if the collection was calling out to you.

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When van Noten talked about festivals, the default image in your head is the gurgle of “What so-and-so wore at Coachella” and the drivel of banal festival fashion that pops up on the high street every year.  This was about as far and away from that category of festival attire as you could possibly get.  Nuanced, observant of surroundings, and beautiful as opposed to attention-grabbing – if only festival gear could reach the high echelons that Dries did.

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You’ve probably heard and read about that simple yet supremely effective finale gesture where instead of marching down the runway like drones, the models in a sweeping cascade proceeded to sit or lie down on that lush tapestry.  No contrived performances.  No theatrics.  Just a simple physical movement of the body.  We were then invited to go and be at one with those fabrics and nature.  We were inside a darkened space of the Grand Palais but for a split second, you could feel the expanse of a meadow.  You could smell the grass.  You could touch the wet moss.  If you weren’t seduced by this display, then as the soundtrack continued to sing, “you’re heartless”.

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>> When people ask me how I am, in the course of many, many fashion week small talk chit chat sessions, my default reply has been “Oh you know… just chugging along.”  Chugging, as in moving slowly through the motions as opposed to downing kegs of beer.  Whilst I’m doing all this fashion week I’m going to indulge in a bit of outfit recapping.  I’m just going to assume that none of you are rabidly trawling through images of my good self so hopefully it’s not all old hat to you. An editor said to me that if I showed up wearing all black at a show last,  she’d be mega sad.   Well amongst the floral,  the prints and the from from fluffiest,  I have been attempting to dip my sartorial pen into a black inkwell, albeit decorated with iridescent splatters (Julien David) or black crochet flowers (Simone Rocha).  Funereal black my way.  I did also resume normal Su Bubs style in most other instances with most joyful wearing experience going to the Somewhere Nowhere mesh/furry/marabou candy floss combo sweater.  I’m also going to pat myself on the back for finding a jacket from Comme des Garcons A/W 13 collection featuring the crazed artwork by Daniel Michiels at a bargain basement price of £150 in Tokyo…. because obviously that takes errr… real skill and errr… effort.

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download (2)Photographs by Koo for The Cut and Phil Oh for Vogue.com – wearing Marc Jacobs floral top and skirt, Topsham vest,  Louis Vuitton shoes, Prams raffia bag and Loewe sunglasses.

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7461-Le-21eme-Adam-Katz-Sinding-Susie-Lau-Mercedes-Benz-New-York-Fashion-Week-Spring-Summer-2015_AKS8169Photograph by Koo for The Cut and Adam Katz-Sinding of Le 21eme – wearing MM6 white shirt and black cut out top, Simone Rocha skirt, MM6 bubble wrap clutch, Comme des Garcons floral bag, Simone Rocha for Dover Street Market shoes

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tumblr_nbigirYRhX1tkv02zo1_1280Photograph by Koo for The Cut and Tres Okay – wearing Julien David net top with iridescent lame, Luke Brooks hand painted shorts, MM6 cut out top underneath, Simone Rocha for Dover Street Marker shoes

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1409131697_hg_full_lPhotograph from NSS Mag and by Nam for Grazia.it – Wearing Jens Laughs en white shirt, J Brand jeans, Comme des Garcons jacket and hand painted shoe cover, Print All Over Me x Buried Diamond name clutch

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1409151640_hg_full_lPhotograph by Koo for The Cut and Nam for Grazia.it – Wearing Chanel denim shorts, Somewhere Nowhere fluffy sweater, Christopher Kane belt, Sophia Webster shoes, Chloe bag

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Susie-Bubble-milan1Photograph by Phil Oh for Vogue.com and from Polaris Journal – Wearing Sacai top, Comme des Garcons sleeves, Balenciaga shorts, J.W. Anderson red twist bag and Peaches and Cream earrings

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download (3)Photograph by Koo for The Cut and Phil Oh for Vogue.com –  Wearing yes, one of those Mansur Gavriel bags that apparently everybody wants.  Lucky cow me. Worn with J Brand X Simone Rocha jacket, Brooke Roberts knit top and cycling shorts, vintage sheer jacket and A shish X Top shop sandals

And finally, for that extra bit of “Me Me Me”, I thought I’d just say thanks to BBC iPlayer for giving London Fashion Week a chance to shine and also making my parents slightly more enthusiastic about this fashion thang, after years of incessant nagging about when I’m going to get a “proper” job.  I haven’t yet watched it in its entirety so I am counting on you to tell me whether I sound and look like a complete imbecile in it.  I asked Steve to review it for me whilst wearing headphones so I didn’t have to listen to my own voice saying things like “Hi, I’m Susie Lau and I’m a fashion blogger.”  He gave it the thumbs up but obviously there is that whole biased boyfriend thing.  I’ll let you be the judge of whether it’s up to scratch or not.

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First day of Paris Fashion Week down and it can no longer be called the “sleepy” day.  Jacquemus’ shiny happy people on the beach antics, Anthony Vaccarello saying “Hey it’s A to the V” with to-the-point typographic dresses and a view of fetishised women straddling spinning office chairs up on Tour Montparnasse for Hood by Air’s part deux show.  And that’s just day one.  Making a Parisian debut though was Japanese label Anrealage designed by Kunihiko Morinaga.  Anrealage is no newbie in Japan and having seen three of his brilliant shows in Tokyo, each dealing with different propositions of aesthetic-based tech – be it UV glow in the dark materials, injection moulded plastics to form silhouettes or mechanical hem lines – it was difficult to know what to expect for his first show in Paris.

Entitled ‘Shadow”, the press notes were unsurprisingly cryptic.  “Where there is the light, the shadow appears, where there is the shadow, the light exists.  It lights the clothes white.  It shadows the clothes black.  Shadow the light.  Light the shadow.  Even if the light disappears, let the shadow remain.  Even if the shadow disappears, let the light remain.”  Not to generalise or anything but you’d be hard pressed to find a more typically Japanese set of press notes.

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This shadow/light poem though did explain the first half of the show well enough.  Garments from the side view and from most angles were cast in harsh chiaroscuro light – a midday shadow contrast between black and white rendered in different fabrics and silhouettes.  A lace trench coat, a crochet dress, a cotton biker jacket, a studded coat and laser-cut ensemble all had light and shadow spelt out in literal black and white fashion and accessorised with the amazing sculpted and corseted headpieces by Katsuya Kamo (a long time collaborator of Anrealage).   This part was to be the commercially minded but no less interesting entree to the main plat.

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Two models emerged in a plain white dress and a trench coat.  They stood in the centre of the catwalk surrounded by light lamps.  They had placed their arms over the dress and the coat, in a reverse fashion to how you’d stand when you get scanned by security in an airport.  The light started to beam strong.  For a few moments you were wondering what was happening to these white garments.  Was there going to be some sort of projection or light show on the dress?  No that’s just silly theatrics that is used purely for showing off (*ahem* Phillip Plein…).  Morinaga is going for something far more radical and permanent.  When the lights dimmed, the models emerged and where their hands had been, you could see a shadowy outline around it.  The light had basically turned whatever area of the dress that wasn’t covered by their hands and limbs into a hazy grey area.  The science?  Well, I’m not sure if I’m saying it all right as there was no detailed explanation in the press notes (guess Morinaga is keeping the secret locked away…) but it’s basically light sensitive ink that had been applied on to the dress strategically and as soon as it comes into contact with light (and possibly heat too), the fabric’s colour state changes.

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And so and so forth the show went.  Models then came out with black cut-out pieces to illustrate how a stencil can be used to create the light-derived colour change.  It was a demonstration of “Here’s one I made earlier” as I suspect you have to actually stand in the light for a long period of time to get a very intense dark colour.   In the catwalk setting, sometimes it was hard to discern what had actually happened because the colours were so faint, especially with the dresses at the end where beams of laser traversed up and down the body drawing out what looked like a dot matrix pattern in blue on a white dress.

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Still we applauded because the process was so fascinating to see and because of the effort that the Anrealage team had put in to make their mark in Paris.  We were seeing not a theatrical stunt but an experiement straight from Anrealage’s investigative laboratory where Morinaga is striving hard to push things foward.  You could make comparisons to Alexander McQueen’s S/S 99 collection where Shalom Harlow was sprayed with paint by two robotic arms, which in turn was inspired by a performance piece by the artist Rebecca Horn.  In that instance though, the transformation process was savage and intended to shock.  Here, Anrealage was quietly demonstrating a technique that whilst not new in a scientific sense, nonetheless opened our eyes to possibilities in clothing that changes its state as it reacts to the environment. It’s a mighty great leap from Global Hypercolour, that’s for sure.

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092314-FWN-ANR1-superJumboImages from Firstview via New York Times