It is impossible not to be in awe of those designers who manage to carry out interesting explorations in textiles, fabrics and silhouettes, collection after collection even with the currently inhuman rhythms of fashion. Designer Kunihiko Morinaga at Anrealage has been doing it consistently and in clever ways, adding to the textile equation also art and technology experiments.
For Anrealage's A/W 17 collection Morinaga left behind his studies about reflections, light and shadows and his technological installations to focus on the layers of time and the meaning of eternity, the recurring circles and rhythms of fashion and memory.
These abstract concepts were symbolised by circles, spirals, twists and sinuous wave-like formations in a collection that was very aptly entitled "Roll".
The runway show - held at the Salon Imperial in the Westin Paris - Vendome, at the end of February on the first day of Paris Fashion Week - opened with two models in shift dresses that seemed to have been carved from a bluish/gray solid rock to resemble waves or the roots of a tree.
The models walked around a pile of blue ash-like material at the centre of the hall and then stepped in its middle, climbing on hidden platfoms that started rotating.
The catwalk show then progressed into layered designs that trapped, cocooned or delicately wrapped the body into mille-feuille configurations and tiered structures in a white, beige, caramel and black palette.
At times these tiered structures made of ribbon tapes were only employed to decorate the hem of a dress or to form a cape-like motif around the shoulders. Silhouettes varied in this first section of the show, but they mainly evoked feminine designs from the '40s.
Layers then turned into decorative appliqued crocheted or printed circular motifs, swirls and spirals on knitted tops, dresses and jackets made with a selection of different techniques including laser processing. The decorative motifs on these pieces called to mind tribal marks, Op Art works, a tree's annual growth rings or geological strata,
Other designs were instead made from a spiral pattern that allowed to disassemble them into a single strip of fabric kept together by a zip that spiralled around the body (would you obtain a Möbius strip if you unzipped them all in one go? Who knows...). The spiral pattern also inspired the designer innovative denim garments that wound round the models' bodies.
The final look – made with 99 layers of gray felted wool rather than denim – was directly linked with the opening designs that were actually made employing not solid marble but compact denim.
Denim, circles and rolls were actually the key words to understand this collection: an introductory a video on YouTube shows indeed a robotic arm operated by Sakamoto Design Technology Development Institute and noiz architects meticulously carving a roll of unspun denim fabric, transforming it into one of the two dresses that opened the show.
The pieces were courtesy of Japanese sculptor Kohei Nawa who employed 300 metres of blue denim to make them. The leftover denim powder was employed to make the installation at the centre of the catwalk venue.
The circle configuration (in a way evoking also scientific concepts such as RCA or rolling circle amplification, a term used in molecular biology research and in nanotechnology) was very symbolic, and perfectly hinted at the madness of fashion, going round and round, never stopping, but constantly regenerating itself.
The main point of the collection was once again combining technology with craftsmanship techniques, a dichotomy represented by the robotic arm carving the denim and by the human intervention that allowed the dresses to emerge from the roll of fabric.
The collection could also be conceived as a study of innovative forms and silhouettes, a theme that is becoming central to many Paris fashion shows and A/W 2017 collections.
And if you think Anrealage's textile experiments are clever but impossible in real life, well, think twice: Kunihiko Morinaga has indeed proved you can design in a technological conceptual way also functional and practical uniforms.
A while back he created unique attires for the Momentum Factory Orii workers and he has now designed a new uniform for the ramen restaurant "Ichido". Employing a special printing program, Morinaga designed a sort of lenticular pattern that allows the fabric to change when the workers move, revealing the moniker "Keep Changing to Remain Unchanged" (he accessorised the uniforms with aprons that can be worn in different ways and with four different styles of hats). It looks like the real innovation definitely starts with fabrics and textiles then.