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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Images from Firstview via New York Times