In previous posts we often looked at collaborations between famous corps de ballets and fashion creatives acting as guest costume designers. During the last few years this has actually become a common practice to introduce younger audiences to the art of ballet. At the same time, we have seen collaborations between fashion brands and choreographers on the runway – let's think for example about Opening Ceremony and the New York City Ballet Resident Choreographer and soloist Justin Peck.
As seen in previous posts, not all collaborations worked well, it is indeed very difficult to make sure the costumes by a famous designer or house do not end up hiding the bodies of the dancers but contribute to tell the story behind the choreography.
The latest experience in dance and fashion took place yesterday in Florence during the Pitti Uomo trade show when Cos launched at the Istituto degli Innocenti its "Soma" menswear capsule collection of wardrobe essentials with a performance co-ordinated by British choreographer Wayne McGregor, with music by Joel Cadbury.
The main idea behind this presentation, conceived by Creative Director Karin Gustafsson and by newly appointed head of men's wear Christophe Copin (who previously worked at Maison Martin Margiela and Hermès), was highlighting the great flexibility of the garments on offer, showing their comfort and functionality.
The garments donned by the members of McGregor's company - collarless shirts, waxed and washed cotton coats with a papery consistency and soft sweaters in which a sense of dynamism had been infused via reverse stitchings - responded pretty well to the extraordinary flexibility of the dancers' bodies.
The palette of this limited-edition capsule collection, characterised by white, navy and dove-grey, went pretty well with the colours and the linearity of the Chiostro degli Uomini (Men's Courtyard - a very apt space for a menswear collection...) at the Istituto degli Innocenti.
The choreography was maybe not new for people familiar with McGregor's works, yet the more you looked at it, the more you felt it dragged on and on. Though the Men's Courtyard is not huge, it still proved rather big for the limited cast of characters on stage and at times you felt they were isolated in their own fluid and free movements that, as McGregor highlighted, were supposed to capture everyday gestures and transform them into new narratives.
Yet the fictions McGregor constructed didn't come to life, they didn't move or excite, but left you cold, looking like abstract dance experiments in which the clothes often erased the bodies of the dancers.
This probably happened because McGregor's dancers usually wear bodysuits or designs that reveal their bodies and therefore allow you to study better the movements and the lines created by the muscles. In the Cos choreography, you felt the dancers in their pristine "Soma" office wear were instead building a climax that, suffocated by ample coats and fluid sweaters, never came and that left you deeply unsatisfied at the very end.
Some pieces from this collection became available at the Florence shop right at the end of ther performance; others will launch in September online so that the capsule will be available to a wider audience and, while this may be a commercial success especially because the wearable clothes on offer conform to the current genderless agenda, the performance accompanying it was surprisingly boring, even though it was put together by an award-winning choreographer.
Maybe it would have worked better if the presentation had been shot as a short film in a closed space like a theatre as that would have given the camera the chance to focus on close-ups of the bodies and the fabrics. Yes, it would have looked like an advert, but, the "Soma" performance wasn't certainly Martha Graham's "Lamentation", it was indeed a marketing operation masqueraded as art.