There are art references that often keep on popping up on different runways. One of them is definitely Sheila Legge, Surrealist Phantom at the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition in London.
This picture of Legge shows the artist with her head camouflaged under layers of petals forming a spherical flowery configuration where her head should be.
A similar figure appeared already in Noir Kei Ninomiya S/S 18 presentation, but Legge seemed to return on the runway for the label's A/W 18 season.
Showcased at the Faculté de Pharmacie during Paris Fashion Week, this was the first collection that the designer presented with a proper runway show. So far his presentations had indeed been intimate affairs in Comme des Garçons' showroom.
Styled by Japanese floral artist Makoto Azuma, the models in the show sprouted blooms on their heads and faces: floral arrangements were used as decorative elements intertwined with their hair or they were employed as masks to recreate the Surrealist Phantom effect in an uncanny way.
The designs included dresses made by dense formations of tufted tulle blooms or fabric petals, coats engraved with flowers, coats with panels of faux fur, quilted dresses and skirts and Kei Ninomiya's beloved trench coats and pleather biker jackets: the former were spliced with panels, the latter were characterised this time by a cropped silhouette.
The palette was obviously monochromatic and revolved around black, with some sparkles of electric blue in tiny decorative embroideries of roses (after all, as the late Hubert de Givenchy once stated, "The little black dress is the hardest thing to realize, because you must keep it simple").
In a way this was a less complicated collection compared to the previous ones: Kei Ninomiya's grids of flowers, frothy tulle confections and contrasts between sheer and matte garments were still there, but he also offered his fans the option to go for basic black trousers, matched with a cropped blazer for a functional chic moment.
Juxtapositions and contrasts remain the engines behind Kei Ninomiya's modus operandi: that's why he decided to play with soft knitwear, but then knitted his sweaters and dresses around seamless rigid structures, the results were rather intriguing with woollen skirts that seemed supported by hidden crinoline-like hoops.
Volumes were often exaggerated in pure Rei Kawakubo's style (understandable since she's been a mentor for him), but they still verged more towards the wearable than towards the eccentric (see the wide quilted skirt).
The most intriguing thing about this designer remains his quest for "no sewing" solutions: having worked at Comme des Garçons as a pattern-maker he has developed a series of clever strategies to avoid using traditional thread and experiment with more avant-garde alternatives.
One of them consists in folding and pleating tulle and organza on supporting grids that shape and mould the body, or in anchoring multiple floral elements via metallic hooks and circles.
The last designs in the show were covered in rosettes and at times evoked the studies Kei Ninomiya did for Moncler's Genius project, launched during Milan Fashion Week.
Hopefully the fact that his star is on the rise will not mean Kei Ninomiya will abide with fashion trends, it would indeed be a shame as, given more time to work on his free-stitching techniques, the designer could easily become a master in creating modern and modular sculptural and architectural designs.