The models' faces during Noir Kei Ninomiya A/W 18 presentation were erased in a romantically dark way: fashion fans may indeed remember how flower masks hid the models' heads, calling to mind Sheila Legge, Surrealist Phantom at the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition in London.
Kei Ninomiya continued his exploration into the possibilities of organic materials as accessories during Paris Fashion Week, applying this time the concept to the headpieces of the models on his label's S/S 19 runway.
The fluffy white wigs sitting on the models' heads evoked memories of the stainless steel sponge pieces on Comme des Garçons A/W 17 runway, but at Ninomiya's show they were actually made with something more poetic - white dandelions - that left a fluffy trail and seeds behind the models.
But if organic materials were on the models' heads and on the designer's mind, the clothes were another matter – synthetic materials triumphed indeed from the very beginning. The opening coat was a giant construction of clear PVC creating a dense ruffled configuration evoking not tailoring techniques, but the topiary horticultural practice.
Then came biker jackets (a staple of Comme des Garçons and of Rei Kawakubo's protégé Kei Ninomiya's wardrobes) made by anchoring to the main structure see-through black-edged clear PVC ruffles.
The material was also reinvented to create trellis-like constructions to wear as overskirts and cross-body harnesses matched with shirts.
The construction worked wonders when the pieces were created by pleating, folding and twisting fabric strips and anchoring them to ribbons of leatherette.
On Dior's S/S 19 runway we saw macramé-like effects created from twisting and knotting tulle, this was more or less the same principle, but the final result was more solid as the strips were larger and thefore contributed to give the designs a firmer aspect.
There were more architectural constructions and configurations, from waving felt and leather motifs forming boleros matched with long black dresses to aprons made with PVC strips, coats formed by multiple layers of organza and jackets with sleeves made with articulated stratifications of fabric (Ninomiya favours these sort of armadillo-like armours). Even what looked like the simplest piece - a faux leather dress - featured striking details such as ribbed shoulders, ruched sleeves and an open back.
The most flamboyant pieces looked suspended between the masculine and the feminine realms especially when matched with formal uniform-like attires such as a white shirt and black trousers.
Thick metallic brocades provided a break from Kei Ninomiya's beloved black: the fabric was employed for designs that pointed at historical trends and in particular at the Elizabethan times and that wouldn't have looked out of place if used as costumes in a conceptual version of Shakespeare's "Hamlet".
The show closed with more outlandishly voluminous cocoon-like constructions made with wing-like elements attached to the internal structure of the designs.
Noir Kei Ninomiya's inventive sculptural silhouettes derive from the fact that the designs are made combining together small parts with geometrical shapes. This is very much a mathematical process of addition and substraction that provides the designer with the final result - an innovative silhouette.
The main limitation behind these designs is not the fact that the collections first and foremost revolve around one colour, the designer's favourite shade, black, but the fact that Kei Ninomiya often employs plastic-based materials that do deteriorate with the years and, while a few companies have recently pledged to go fur free, others are opting to go plastic free. That said, Kei Ninomiya has proved collection after collection that the same pieces can be produced using fabrics (or they could be made employing recycled plastic).
Time will tell if Kei Ninomiya will leave behind plastic-based materials to focus on fabrics, but at the moment his aesthetic is working: the designer is in the second season of the Genius Group project, a collaboration with the Moncler brand that has so far included also Valentino's Pierpaolo Piccioli, Simone Rocha, Craig Green, Palm Angels' Francesco Ragazzi and Fragment by Hiroshi Fujiwara. Though supported by entertaining launches, some of the pieces created for this project are destined to remain in the experimental/exhibition realm, yet, bizarrely enough, Kei Ninomiya's construction tricks seem to have been translated quite well into Moncler's vocabulary.
Moncler is well-known for its shiny and glossy quilted jackets (think about the ones favoured by the Paninari in the '80s) and Kei Ninomiya's black padded jackets with woven sleeves or covered in padded scales may prove successful with a younger generation of Moncler consumers on the lookout for something quirkier. In a nutshell, maybe Kei Ninomiya is not just sprinkling seeds on his runways, but ideas that do have the potential of turning into innovative and commercially viable products.