Beauty and Imperfection
“A sweet disorder in the dress / Kindles in clothes a wantonness: / A lawn about the shoulders thrown / Into a fine distraction: / An erring lace, which here and there / Enthrals the crimson stomacher:
A cuff neglectful, and thereby / Ribbands to flow confusedly: / A winning wave, deserving note, / In the tempestuous petticoat: / A careless shoe-string, in whose tie / I see a wild civility: / Do more bewitch me, than when art / Is too precise in every part.”
In this short poem, English Restoration poet Robert Herrick (1591-1674) describes the imperfect manner in which a particular lady is dressed. Every element of her clothing is a little disorderly. But it is just this “wild civility” that the poet finds so enchanting.
Consider also the so-called Dissonance Quartet in C Major by Mozart (K 465), in which the disharmony is rendered somehow musical, indeed melodious. Herrick’s poem is perhaps his most celebrated, while the “Dissonance” is probably the best of the six quartets Mozart dedicated to Joseph Haydn.
In short, these “imperfect” compositions are both, somehow, truly ... perfect.
In the collection, what at first appears dissonant, graceless and exaggerated is rendered harmonious, because it is part of a design that has been projected a priori:
the ideal garment does not adhere to a definite form; the imagination must be given the freedom to divine the silhouette of the person wearing it. The resulting shapes are suggestive of a new bodily geography whose boundaries have been left undefined. The identity and the proportions of the body are left intact; nothing intervenes to change them. It is left to the air, in all its intangibility, to define the relationship between body and clothing, structuring its essence through the judicious interplay of masses and volumes.
From this arise forms that cannot be easily associated with predefined shapes or recognisable images. Indeed, dissolving in their peculiar abstraction, they defy any form of identifying cliché.
The compresence of dual cultures – East and West – leads the observer to seek a mental image in the blend and interplay of tailoring techniques, fabrics, decorative motifs and traditional costumes. Here is the same aesthetic of “imperfection” that we find, for instance, in the culture of the tea ceremony (wabi-sabi).
Materials are chosen for their physicality, their three-dimensionality, from Asiatically patterned jacquard-weaves and pinstriped duchesses, to masculine grisailles and rush-matting effects in gothic darks and silver-lurex patterns.
The defining garments of the collection are the trench coat, blazer, shirt, overalls and opera dress.
The asymmetry, the volumes so pronounced they seem to be carved in stone: here are echoes of the Roman peplos, and the soft, simple lines of oriental costume.
The colours – lapis lazuli, garnet, beige, ivory, charcoal – are produced with natural pigments, with touches of pale pink, gold and silver.
The essence of the garment has no depth. It is not hidden by the surface; it is all out there on show. Each item, therefore, becomes nothing more (or less) than an outer casing, inseparable from its physical manifestation and externality.
“Art cooperates through resistance. In this sense, fashion can have social aspirations, but not political ambitions, because if it did, it would be inclined to define them in terms of freedom.”