One of the most bizarre things that may happen to you if you work in the fashion industry is how, upon seeing a collection on a runway, as a review and critic you may start guessing in your mind where the inspirations came from to form an idea of what you may write or say about it. This is obviously a subjective interpretation of fashion since a specific palette, print or pattern may immediately call to mind an exhibition or a film you may have seen. A designer's explanations of the collection may then confirm your connections or entirely dismiss them as your personal fantasy.
Riccardo Tisci for example explained that the inspiration for his menswear A/W 17 collection, showcased in Paris at the Bibliotheque Nationale while President Trump was being inaugurated in the States, was an interpretation of the American West, seen in a modern key, with tropes such as stars, stripes, totem poles and Victorian women in the West filtered through the eyes of a child (or through his childish side).
This inspiration emerged in the single/double-breasted navy jackets and coats with playful elements such as oversized buttons, or decorated with jewel-like buttons, metallic plates à la Courrèges, or red, pink, electric blue and orange toggles. Stripes and tribal-inspired motifs inspired by Native American cultures were also included in the collection and were mainly used for shirts. Tisci successfully avoided appropriating Native American moods by merging them with Japanese inspirations and this is when the subjective interpretation kicked in.
While Tisci mentioned the West, critics and commentators who know their fashion history were maybe detecting in his cartoony monster faces in bold and bright colours allegedly derived from totems an influence of Kabuki masks, or maybe the intarsia jumpers and knitted/quilted jumpsuits featuring large masks or the caricatured face of the yakko, the servant of samurai during the Edo period in Japan, as designed by Kansai Yamamoto.
At times totems were recreated using ruffles on shirts, a trick that anticipated and announced the women Haute Couture looks that followed. The Western theme came back in elegant prairie dresses with cowboy checks and continued with trademark Tisci eveningwear and with a selection of fringed designs that looked like modern versions of a Givenchy dress donned by Anjelica Huston in a black and white picture taken in 1971 by Helmut Newton (a picture used for the invitation to this show).
The show proved that Tisci is getting out of his Gothic and pseudo-religious comfort zones (maybe confirming the rumours around him and Versace?). The only somber note at the show was a minute of silence for the late Franca Sozzani, the Italian Vogue editor in chief who died in December and who was one of his first supporters.
Still you wish he had somehow mentioned the Kansai Yamamoto connection, or had at least tried to filter his homage to the West not through a child's eyes, but via strong characters from Spaghetti Western films such as Claudia Cardinale in Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West. She would have been a much more relevant icon and inspiration than his cartoony totem faces, especially considering the women's marches that took place yesterday all over the world against the new US President Donald Trump.