PARIS, France — Chitose Abe considers it her mission to explore hybridization at Sacai. For her, it’s not just about piecing things together. She wants to merge them, create new life. It’s been an undercurrent of the current season – Dr Frankenstein consulted at Gucci and Marni – but Abe has been riding this pony for years, and with this collection, she elevated her mission to new heights, staking incontrovertible claim to the concept of the fashion hybrid.
She called her collection “Constructionism”, to convey an idea of all the items that are taken apart and recombined, like building blocks, to make Sacai. Her definition had an academic tang. This one was better: LEGO. For Chitose, the process is playfully intuitive (a lot like her, in other words). It’s how she manages to combine a puffa, an MA-1 and a peacoat in a single, seductive piece. But there was also a sly wit in this collection, tricking the eye with deliberate mismatches. Follow the footwear. Or track Lexi Boling’s stripeage.
The outsider status of Japanese designers liberates them to do things that make no superficial sense, but which still possess an intense interior logic, Abe’s old mentor Rei Kawakubo being the best example. Their fetishisation of other cultures is one of fashion’s most enduring fascinations. Abe leavened her signature hybrids with a rich but odd seam of Native American iconography. Her bags were branded Manhattan Records, Tokyo’s one-stop shop for obscure house records from North America. Such cross-referencing was subtle reinforcement of a cultural engagement that is unique in fashion. How often do you get the opportunity to look at something in a different, maybe uncomfortable new light and let yourself wonder Why Not? Chitose Abe does it all the time. It’s a new beauty.