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  • The Invisible Thread

    Though only first opened in 2019, SVRN has already undergone a massive change. With the help of Korean architecture firm WGNB, SVRN's new build is wholly comprehensive of an identity rooted in the Kim family heritage and philosophical principles to create an open-format luxury retail space. And while serving as an epicenter of fashion, art, sound, research, and design, SVRN's Korean lineage is still felt within its walls. Beyond having common roots, there are traces of a shared compass in ethos between SVRN and many of the brands carried.  For Korean-American brothers Terrence and Kevin Kim (of no relation), and founders of IISE, their designs are rooted in a second-generation diasporic study of how to bring traces of culturally historic practices and ideologies to modernize into quality wearables which pass on a story. More of a concept than a construct, their foundation is to blow the K-Pop and entertainment cover to which much of the world would, as of recent, reduce Korea's influence. Instead, exposing them to the intricacies of architecture, traditional garments, and aspects of government— all with heavy commentary behind each collection.  As a result, they've built a steady market over the last decade, penetrating the global market more quickly than the local one, but understanding the ramifications of introducing Korean elements to Koreans, will take time to explain it's not a 'for us by us' brand. For example, their SS19 collection' Resistance' was inspired by experiences and daily life. Since protests in the city of Gwanghwamun were occurring and in front of Seoul City Hall, at the time, it aligned with resisting dictatorships worldwide, which continues today. To IISE, resistance symbolizes democratization movements relevant to past, present and future developments. "Resistance is not a symbol of conflict but a symbol of community," said Terrence and Kevin when introducing this collection. Studying history to aid innovation is a relevant practice in many labels that have emerged from Korea. And while not generalizing a people, it seems to be a consistent practice and commonality that should be recognized as a favorable contribution to this culture sector.  POST ARCHIVE FACTION (PAF) is a collective, not a clothing line, which focuses on the conscientious study of archives and their process of evolution to design new structures and patterns. By expanding their references to art forms beyond fashion, PAF includes architecture, multimedia, nature and more to see which elements can further progress their technical garments and creative integrity.  "We strive to portray the idea of "evolving uniform" in our collections. Frankly, I have not given deep thought to deconstructed designs. In the process of disassembling and assembling design elements, deconstruction and reconstruction coexist. The literal meaning of deconstruction partially exists during the designing process but does not represent the actual outcome." said Creative Director Dongjoon Lim to Hypebeast in a 2021 interview. "I believe good inspirations could come from other artists or architectural pieces, but great ones come from everyday life, as focusing on the little details makes a big difference." The harmonious blend of utility and artistic sensibility has given PAF its rapid popularity since launching in 2018. But as time shows, consistent attention to detail is always the prevalent key. LVMH recognized these traits and potential for PAF when shortlisting the collective for the 2021 LVMH Prize. As outside references guide these labels, and architectural influence seems to reign supreme, there is another brand incorporating color studies to convey its identity. XLIM, founded by Do Hee Kim, takes a unique cadence to its collections. While still architecturally inspired, their garments' play on light and color aids the brand in its practical, futuristic designs. Color perception and preference are often culturally and intrinsically linked and reflect in the ways of thinking, feeling and reacting. Korean color symbolism is built upon five elements and basic colors: blue, white, red, black and yellow.  Traditionally, blue symbolizes creativity, immortality and hope; white symbolizes virtue, truth, innocence and death; red symbolizes the sun, fire, production, creation, passion and love; black symbolizes existence; yellow symbolizes light and vitality. And while Do Hee Kim finds ways to blend these elements to create XLIM's own compass and meaning, the impact of its garments can broadly be felt through its hues. This may not be Do Hee's intention, but it is undoubtedly a thought worth contemplating when XLIM can be celebrated for its architectonic form and palette.  The latest to join the SVRN family, who continues to push the sustainability and innovative pedal, is JiyongKim. The young eponymous label is carving its way through natural process methods and deadstock textiles. For SS22, the collection focused on the sun's unfathomable powers. Its "Daylight Matters" theme evaluated the act of protecting against color fading by using heavy-weight fabrics inspired by sun-bleached workwear, curtains and tents. Each piece is distinctive from the next due to its pattern cutting of vintage materials and avoiding the reliance on traditional dyeing and production methods which incorporate excessive amounts of water and harmful chemicals. Instead, JiyongKim employs natural sun-faded effects developed through exposure to the sun, wind and rain for months per garment. One can link this approach to Korean architectural philosophies of including harmonious balance with nature by nullifying the profligate nature of today's fashion. While acting as a crux of intersectionality, SVRN and the labels above share many core principles and values which SVRN has implicated in its new space. Reconciling a modern with the natural world using materials like volcanic rock and blackened wood with Venetian plaster and stainless steel weaves a more intricate story for the garments and objects within the space. And while serving as a source for current and sub-current trends, something SVRN will never do is compromise its fundamental principles of balance, harmony and intensive research, much like this contemporary class of Korean designers.    Text by Shahrnaz Javid  

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  • Elements of Runway — the Finishing Touch

    After further discussion, it would be wrong not to talk about Runway's most delectable garnish. After all, what are we, if not the masks we wear daily? So, to close the 'Elements of Runway,' we observe the face, Runway's finishing touch—absorbing as much of the spotlight as the garments themselves.  To be clear, 'face' is extended to everything, shoulders and up. For the better half of this series, we've spoken from the heart on Runway and its magical storytelling. Unfortunately, this aspect of the show is prone to blindspots or blatant disrespect, and sometimes we witness styling take a painful turn.Hair, we can't get around it. Everything from the style it's worn to how/if it's covered, is controversial, and just about everything from skinheads to turbans and lace fronts have found their way down the stage. Taking inspiration without citing the source is dysfunctional. Yet, when lead hairstylist Julien d'Ys learned his Egyptian prince muse wasn't well received, he was more confused than apologetic. It was Commes des Garçons FW20, and white models in cornrow wigs stunned the audience one after the other. This was just after being ridiculed for not casting a black model over two decades and after Marc Jacobs matted yarn together to make colorful dreadlocks for their white models, supposedly an ode to Lana Wachowski.   There's a lot to be said, but most of it has already been written. Without absolving one from their misjudgment, you realize how sometimes one can be so desperate to tell a story that they forget what they are trying to say. Sadly, history has shown its comfort in massacring the ethnicities they so often wish to replicate and to take it a step further—fashion is no different. So, although vehemently unacceptable, it was no surprise when the Sikh Coalition had to reprimand Gucci in FW18 for sporting turbans that would later go on to retail for USD 790. But it wasn't just the turban; there were other head coverings: scarves, bandari masks and cropped golliwogg doll ski masks, to name a few. Though the garments themselves told one story, it was apparent that the styling's theme was anything other than its authentic origins. Appropriation aside, styling in tandem with the collection can be a seriously impactful tool. Alexander McQueen is a master of overt commentary. For FW95, Highland Rape went past preying on women's sexuality and instead spoke to England's rape of Scotland.  "[This collection] was a shout against English designers... doing flamboyant Scottish clothes. My father's family originates from the Isle of Skye, and I'd studied the history of the Scottish upheavals and the Clearances. People were so unintelligent they thought this was about women being raped—yet Highland Rape was about England's rape of Scotland," commented McQueen to Time Out (London 1997).  Though graphic, the visual execution of bruised skin through tattered and torn garments made this presentation all the more real. Moreover, the details of this make-up, extending from the body to the face, vividly illustrated a nation's alleged threat of rape.  Now, gearing the breaks towards fantasy and opulence—no one knows how to wield the power of make-up quite like Thierry Mugler, a pioneer of the renegade when he first entered haute couture. The late Manfred imprinted the world with his theatrical shows, and his vision brought him to stages beyond Runway. Yet, the ballet dancer, costume designer, director, and so much more knew his definition of beauty did not exist in this world. So, to circumvent reality's shortcomings, Manfred harnessed his bewitching skillset to create alternate universes that exemplified unprecedented femininity.  Manfred's avant-garde designs didn't stop at what sculpted the bodice. No, there was no limit to his creations, nor was it uncommon for his looks to have impressive circumferences. Employing latex, feathers, sequence, scales, insect-like antennas and more—the models' make-up often extended well past their skin into surreal crowns. Finding beauty in the subversive, Manfred had an eye for the underground and frequently honored this community in his shows. Most notably, when he approached Kabuki Starshine, whom Manfred approached while dancing at Webster Hall. This resulted in the make-up master doing his own to star in Manfred’s runways. In the 90s, and still today, Kabuki took the NYC scene by storm until he was an international success. Paving the way for club kids and drag alike brought these communities together in more than one way. His use of full body make-up for couture was unprecedented, and he stunned audiences with his bare chest and pearls more times than not.  This influence has grown, and body makeup has transformed into appendage-like modifications. Today, with the help of makeup technology and innovation, subversive then is a school girl compared to subversive now. And though not couture, gothic grunge maestro Rick Owens has used the internet to come across some of today's most disorienting luminaries. In 2019, Owens discovered Salvia, a visually disturbed 19-year-old angel. Alien or angel, you decide, but after one runway with Salvia’s mutant touch, Owens’ presentations haven’t been the same since.  Salvia, a trans artist and visionary hailing from Cyffylliog, Wales, has been perfecting her craft to make their alternate world the only world. Thanks to them, FW19 donned sclera lenses, a frosty contour, pushed-back hairlines and facial modifications that Owens had not explored before. Owens and Salvia’s commentary in an excerpt and quote from i-D: "This generation has to reject tattoos, and they're doing that through body modification and face work, botox and implants, which is really interesting to me,” Owens explained. “It's supposed to offend my generation, and it does. It's wonderful; it's transgressive, it's inventive, it's provocative. Ultimately it's an insult to the generation before, which is exactly what it's supposed to be!...it takes a lot of aggression and drive to do everything she's doing at only 18; I hadn't done anything close by that age. This is my homage to her. What do you think of glamour today?” he asks her. "You can use glamour in a way that is political, a way that pushes things forward and challenges perceptions," Salvia explained.  Unfortunately, their ongoing relationship grew to be one-sided. Post FW19, Owens has continued to use Salvia’s likeness and visual language in seasons since without the actual involvement of Salvia themselves. And though not payment enough, to know an 18-year-old made a lasting impression on the infernal, post-apocalyptic glamorous line is a testament to the mind-bending creations younger generations have homogonized in the beauty world.  Suppose this is all to say—sometimes the garments can only take us so far. While every component is as crucial as the next, the stage, sound, and styling have formed an inseparable ecosystem. Yet, the styling, Runway's finishing touch, maybe its most envisioning element of all.  Text by Shahrnaz Javid  

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  • Elements of Runway– The Crescendo

    Of all the senses, sound can be the most looming. A pin drop, crashing waves, or thunder are distinct sounds eliciting unique mental and physical reactions. And sound in any category of performance is key to a fully comprehensive show. For this installment of Elements of Runway, the Crescendo will look into some examples of Runway where audio acted as a magical thread sewing its frequencies from one model to the next. One way to score a collection is through a long-standing collaboration between fashion and renowned sound designers such as Michael Gaubert, Jerry Bouthier, or Richie Hawtin (aka Plastikman). Another is to choose specific tracks to ballad a catwalk. Regardless of one’s method, we want to explore why sound is so integral in fashion presentations. First and foremost, the sound must be equally as transportive as the garments, and in some cases, maybe even more. With every new era comes a unique sound. For example, when Raf Simons joined forces with Miuccia Prada, Plastikman was an unspoken gain to Prada's latest chapter— marking a differentiated direction with an alternative bass. Simons's partialness to hypnotic sounds made his co-creative director's presence felt. Simons and Plastikman's continuous collaboration was undeniably in-house, whose relationship remarkably dates back to the early '90s parties in Ghent when Simons was known as just a young designer. It's his synth–his sequencers that pulsate in unison with the models' energy—posing as a rhythmic metronome, setting the tone, and having an inverse way of controlling the audience and stage alike. Musical crescendos and building suspense that melody each reveal. Like viewing any subtitled film, you watch once for the dialogue and a second for the cinematography. The same could be said about any catwalk; when properly executed, the sound design is something to digest with eyes wide shut.  Especially with recent years and pre-recorded shows becoming commonplace, musical backdrops were given more priority when conceptualizing a performance leaving little room for technical error, as is always a lurking concern with live presentations. And with that, beautiful minds can combine forces to develop a beautiful moment, as seen in Prada FW 21. There were several moments where Plastikman echoed a clattering-like sound harmoniously with glittering platform heels trotting across Rem Koolhaas's marbled floors, bringing those footsteps from one's screen to one's ear. Pre-recorded or live shows are a preference that is hard to take. So naturally, the cinematic experience of a rehearsed shot and the edited show becomes an entirely different, immortalized body of work. But to say it tops the hundreds of hours of production spent on some eight to ten minutes before a live audience would diminish its brilliance.  Dries Van Noten, another auteur, has decades of experience in materializing prodigious catwalks with ideal music to back them. However, while running through several seasons, his dedication to specific artists and their whole, undivided tracks is not just some pattern. Instead, Van Noten intentionally sniffs out songs that accentuate his designs, like searching for truffles.  The FW 2011, both Men and Women's, collection took a remarkable level of mastery in song form— embroidering the spirit of David Bowie in his designs that season was not enough, and the slicked reddish-blonde hair didn't cut it either. So instead, not only channeling but receiving the tracks for "Golden Years" and the master tape of "Heroes" from The Thin White Duke himself, both to be broken down and remixed by Ghent-based musical duo Soulwax.  This element here didn't exist merely as a coincidence. From music to design, every conscious choice was meant to be symbiotic, as this show was an ode to the 19-year-old Van Noten, whose hero also happened to be the writer behind the similarly titled song. This level of digging and remastering gives Van Noten shows more layered storytelling, existing beyond his intricately dyed and woven garments.  Outside of the models, the sound brings the garments to life. Recapped imagery on Vogue Runway only presents a longing to have been there, curious what the atmosphere might have been in the room. Outside of recent digital presentations, sound is an element that cannot be photographed and eternalized. Sound in Runway is the coup de grâce. Text by Shahrnaz Javid  

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  • Elements of Runway — the Stage

    Presentation is paramount— a sentiment that makes no exceptions, especially in the Runway world. Now in the wake of a world presumably without the pandemic and travel welcomed once more, we look forward to the return of a fully immersive season. So in preparation for the upcoming shows, we've decided to break down the critical elements of a successful presentation: set design, sound design, and styling. Part one of the Elements of Runway trilogy dissects the importance of set design and how it serves as a pillar of Fashion Week across the globe. An ensemble with no stage means no show- while the backdrop to a collection completes a story. Before the sound comes and models populate the intentionally laid-out walkways, the audience is first alone with the stage. This is the first point of intrigue, a scene from a book that is actualized at their feet. Set design and production are unquestionably essential parts of the show, acting as a vehicle for how designers communicate a collection's inspiration, themes, and brand values.   During the height of the pandemic, many shows were brought to the audience digitally as fashion films took precedence and offered a new opportunity for expression. So, veering away from brilliantly directed films such as Dries Van NotenSpring-Summer 2022 (directed by Albert Moya) or Maison MargielaCo-Ed Spring-Summer 2022 Collection (directed by Olivier Dahan, known most famously for La Vie en Rose (2007)), we are giving priority to IRL stages. Understand this is no easy decision, but with the return of the presentations expecting an audience, we will highlight the stages that engage all of our senses.  The call to action was evident in recent years of Greta-Thunberg fever and fashion being named the second most polluting industry. Brands from every tier began greenwashing and recycling buzz words to accompany any and every release, but few were thinking of the impact Fashion Week and major productions had. With the exception of the pandemic leap year, one player using its arena to build upon the climate crisis is the luxury Italian label, Marni. For their Spring-Summer 2020 Act II, they collaborated with Berlin artist Judith Hopf, giving her the green light to create a wholly sustainable set design.  So, Hopf played with a bit of everything to create the ultimate upcycled jungle, paralleling childlike drawings and art assignments. Artificial palm trees made from PET polymers and reused plastic waste from the men's show were transformed, and cardboard elements with hand painted bark lined the walkways.  "The set is about how we think about those things we have already around us," Hopf explained. "There is no utopia or dystopia behind this concept – it follows the conceptions of diversity and difference in imagination." The creative director, Francesco Risso, was barefoot with his cheeks covered in tribal paint. And when he commented that the collection was a new beginning for the label, his words spoke true. For Autumn-Winter 2022, Risso was back with an industrial building, overtaken by time and mother nature, designed by Mario Torre. To match Torre's macrocosm of a shrub-filled tobacco plant, the air was a dimly lit mist that models needed flashlights to navigate. The collection was one of repair, of pieces given extra love and life through patchworks of different textiles sewn over worn areas; their crowns were also made from upcycled materials.  In an email of show notes sent by Risso, his insight was- The future came and went, leaving us alone, but together in the dark, but lighter than before. Where do we go after? Where are we bound beyond what binds us to each other?  Living through a pandemic filled with wars and invasions, the global sense of optimism was bleak. Yet, survival for those with a roof was rediscovering the objects and belongings that also lived with them under. Nearly 2,000 plants of bamboo, eucalyptus, carex, geranium, ivy, grass, musk, leaves and branches were all part of scenographer Mario Torre's overgrown vision, which could be interpreted as a grim hope for the future. All of the earth was returned to its respective greenhouses after the show.  Risso's indiscriminate cast tied together with his assembled collection of old and new could have only made sense on a stage as such. Had they found their way through an AMO set, the collection would have been confusing and undesirable chaos.  Imagine the original Sound of Music (1965) cast at a Sonar Festival; the script would have to be entirely adapted and no place left for war. But, again, the power of set design, the theatermaker's stage, brings a play together.  Text by Shahrnaz Javid

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