Two threads worked by emerging designers — sport and fairy-tales — come together in Petra Ptáčková's fanciful, charming clothes. The Czech weaves modern costumery from an elaborate mix of materials, volumes, adventures, and sheer arcana, resulting in fantasy-wear that has nothing to do with sex appeal and everything to do with a "magical realism," a term she borrows from literature.
Currently based in Prague and Paris, Ptáčková studied at the Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne, where she discovered a passion for haute couture and its recherché techniques. With a hybrid style all her own, she's constantly traveling, forever on a quest to uncover forgotten ways and ideas. Every bit as spritely as her designs, she says the people who wear her collections are "open-minded dreamers with no boundaries. We create our own tomorrow."
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Atelier Brut is a newish street label out of Bucharest, Romania, that seems to revel in scrappy impropriety. Designer Andrei Dinu cobbles together deliberately chintzy sweaters and shirts (130-140 euros) — and a strange necklace hybrid of rosary beads and ID cards — from recovered bits of upholstery and needlepoint embroidery that's common in Romania. He also repurposes furniture in a way that melds old and new — a collision of jarring styles in one piece.
Recently Dinu has begun experimenting with financial ticker symbols. "Since techno-capital is a foreign, unknowable entity anyway," he says, "high finance aesthetics might as well be used as abstract decoration." The result is not just another reproduction of Tumblr aesthetics, he notes, but genderless, placeless, timeless pieces that are nonetheless one-of-a-kind.
This video, with its discomfiting portrayal of languid Romanian slackers, goes a long way in explaining the Atelier Brut ethos...
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BORN is a new crowdfunding site with a focus on style. Dewi Bekker is a new men's designer with a collection to fund.
While studying fashion design at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague, Netherlands, Bekker interned with Bernhard Willhelm and Hannes Kettritz. Those familiar with Willhelm's work will recognize his cheeky experimentation in Bekker's playful take on menswear. She says she's searching for the perfect balance between the mundane and humorous through her use of unconventional materials — cork, tape, felt, plastic beads — and bright color palette.
So far she's reached just over 10% of her €8000 goal on BORN, based in Luxembourg, with two and a half months to go. If she reaches her goal, she'll use it to create and produce a new and second collection. In the process she may have also discovered the next business model for rising designers.
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That thing you've always wanted to do, tote around a fishbowl as an accessory, is now possible, thanks to the London designer Cassandra Verity Green, who's made quite the splash with her first collection since graduating from Central Saint Martins. Aptly called Neptune's Daughter, the range is based on the 1949 aqua-musical of the same name, starring the quasi-mermaid actress Esther Williams, as well as the designer's own grandmother, a 50s beauty queen. Hence the swimming caps, bright tights, and a bubbly insouciance.
While she brings a playful sense of avant-absurdism to the notion of luxury It bags, Verity Green is primarily a knit designer. So framing those eye-popping mobile fishbowls are her unique frizzy style of knit, incorporating coral-colored or transparent threads and crystal beading to create biomorphic shapes and prickly textures resembling undulating underwater sea anemones — not unlike the Internet phenomenon Seapunk. The result is a vibrant, slightly retro look that serves as both the bait and the catch.
Like Scarlett Johansson's emotionless alien character in Under the Skin, Melitta Baumeister's silicone pieces resembling leather, cotton, and knit — "casted garments," she calls them — imply an authenticity that their molecular sophistication can't give them. While they are made in recognizable shapes — a tank top, a dress, a biker jacket — their rubbery tactility and harsh, clinical shades of black and white give them away. The notion of going to extremes to perfect what has already been perfected is at once mesmerizing and mind-boggling.
“I consider what is fake and what is real," says the German-born, Parsons-taught, New York-based designer — who, at the upcoming spring 2015 shows, will present only her third collection since earning her MFA from Parsons. "And I consider the loss of tangibility and the importance of experience," by which she means she's playing to an online audience as much as an in-the-flesh audience. “I find advanced technology that is able to replace or simulate reality extremely interesting. What else could be in store in tomorrow’s world?"
Melitta Baumeister is available at Dover Street Market New York
VAVA sunglasses may be new (as in one month old), but the concept is so totally, so squarely from another era — the 80s. In particular, the unisex label looks to techno music of the era, an optimistic new sound that emerged from once-glistening, now-blighted cities like Detroit. Those contrasting extremes, promise and disillusionment, inform VAVA's two lines: the White Label draws from simplicity and purity, while the Black Label looks to darkness and the underground.
For Portuguese-born, Berlin-based designer Pedro da Silva, this sense of idealism isn't just conceptual; it's practical, too. The frames are created with cellulose acetate from Mazzucchelli, artisans of acetate since 1849, and the lenses are made from Barberini crystals. The flatness of the two lenses again harks back to the 80s and its preoccupation with computer graphics, while the cubed hinge, exclusive to VAVA, is influenced by the artist Sol Lewitt and his penchant for bold shapes.
With its inviting name, Come for Breakfast's spring 15 men's collection is a welcome feast for the eyes — a sweet and savory blend of childlike insouciance with more adult themes and silhouettes.
Launched four years ago in Milan, Come for Breakfast is both a women's and men's line, though the men's side seems to be gaining more traction. For spring, designers Antonio Romano and Francesco Alagna were inspired, they said, by "scribbles, the pages of an old diary, the curious staring of children and their way of portraying the world around them." Thus, the duo looked to the wee years with playful, oversized volumes and paper-placemat drawings, but using sequins and leather for a collection fit for both daytime alertness and nighttime cocktails.
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You might not guess it from the following eight words, but Oslo-based Australian men's designer Kevin Azzopardi is something of a purist, some might say control freak. No fan of the current means of production, he isn't comfortable with the idea of sending designs off to a factory and getting the finished product some time later, as if by magic — someone else's magic.
He recently completed a trilogy of collections that explored the manufacturing process and the notion of creative control. He had his men's pieces sent back from the factory in an unfinished state, which he and his team then completed. In so doing, Azzopardi reassumes responsibility and authorship of his garments.
For spring 2013, Azzopardi skipped the runways and tradeshows, instead meeting with buyers personally in their retail space. But rather than present the collection awkwardly from a suitcase, Azzopardi collaborated with Norwegian furniture designer Mads H Pålsrud on what he calls a Mobile Sales Unit, a wooden contraption wrapped in latex that folds out into a mini-stand. "A moment of pop-up bliss," he says.
Here it is in a film made with Icelandic artist Erna Einarsdóttir...
For fall 2013, Azzopardi made another radical departure. Rather than design a collection of garments, he focused on shoes — only shoes. He created exactly two laces-heavy styles, a high-top and a regular low-top, made by the same manufacturers who produce sneakers for Lanvin and Balenciaga. Who says conceptualism is dead?
Midway into the three-hour-long graduation show that ended the year at Brussels' renowned La Cambre fashion school, a young woman stoically stood in the middle of the runway while each of her fellow models fiercely ripped a piece of her Louis Gabriel Nouchi attire off. She herself removed the last piece of clothing covering her privates. A pause followed, fittingly, and the sweaty audience rushed outside for a drink.
"Hot" had actually been a buzzword long before that rough striptease, and not only because of the scorching heat in the venue, Schaarbeek Halles. The show's catalog, shot by Emmanuel Laurent, reproduced Steven Meisel's iconic 1990's CK One campaign, which itself reprised Richard Avedon's legendary pictures of Andy Warhol's Factory superstars. Like Avedon, Laurent photographed full-frontal nudity, and it's safe to say the brown-haired stud stole the show. Kinkiness was also prominent in Fabien Verriest's portion of the show, who came up with what can only be described as "power-bottom pants," trousers constructed to bare the male derrière.
Aside from these shock tactics, the show didn't exactly break new ground, as one could have expected from an institution that counts Olivier Theyskens as an alumnus. Some of the looks seemed a bit derivative (of Comme des Garçons) and the stagy choreography sometimes did the show a disservice. But there were some nice moments, like strips of flowery fabrics at Eddy Anemian, fur trapped in plastic at Julian Klausner, and nice houndstooth pants at Naomi Coureau. I also noticed particularly inventive accessories, like Alexandra Kengen's sneakers, Delphine Baverel's leis worn as leg warmers, Verriest's noisy wooden sandals or Samantha Cazenave's sparkly sneakers.