#SuzyMFW: Fashion As Performance
The idea that a fashion show should be more than the sum of its clothes is not new and making an artistic spectacle on stage can enhance the vision for the audience. Antonio Marras presented his collection in the decaying architecture of a historic but abandoned Milan theatre; while Stella Jean went to Bolivia for inspiration – and some meaningful performances.
The set was dramatic enough: crumbling grandeur, dusty and held together by scaffolding.
We have seen the power of Marras in many previous shows, but this was an extraordinary performance that started with a flower fairy swinging in across the auditorium on a trapeze and ended with a brass band, trumpets held high, marching down an iron walkway set in the cavernous stage.
At the end – not even including the canoodling parade of various gender pairings on the runway – there was a finale in which each figure played up to the audience’s applause.
No wonder Antonio Marras ran out on to the red carpet for a final cheer.
But what about the clothes? There were, if taken out of context, surprisingly normal pieces like checked coats and embroidered jackets. They were always quirky, not least the hats, turbans, bead-embroidered belts and dangling earrings. All that was just in a single outfit, of course.
Marras is a true fashion original, who captured so much of his native Sardinia – past and present – in outfits that seem modern in a whimsical way. This season, dramatic draping and details came to the fore. But asymmetric ruching and tiers of crochet lace might equally be followed by a simple fall of a floral fabric.
The men, playing their part, dressed in a more sporty way with big denim jackets and shorts – although some, including one man who walked the runway while reading a book, wore variations on formal suiting.
The antique prettiness of everything that Marras does is enchanting. Add to it the live performances in the vaudeville-esque show and the result was a roar of approval and gratitude from an audience who had found it worthwhile to negotiate scaffolding to be there.
Looking to her roots in Haiti on her mother’s side and thinking about Bovilia’s traditional ‘fighting goddesses’ in a different part of the South American arena, Stella Jean produced a powerful show.
The indigenous women with their black braids were presented as power figures emerging from oppression – mostly because of their refusal to adopt Western-style clothing.
A video thanking Stella Jean for highlighting this little-known Bolivian tribe and its situation as victims of discrimination made a solemn start to the show. But, it soon developed into a colourful display of pattern and embroideries.
South American inspiration included off-the-shoulder dresses, embroidery and pompons, while white dresses with straps of embroidered designs were a happy fusion of folklore and simplicity. Sporty stripes and bomber jackets blended in with sun dresses proved that the designer understands about fashion today being all in the mix.
In spite of the show’s South American inspiration, the designer has learned over the last few seasons to keep her exuberance with tribal prints under control. A few things seemed too theatrical. But, mostly, the performance was carried out via song and music, which only enhanced the sunny energy of the clothes.