PARIS, France — Last season, Chitose Abe referenced cult New York club Paradise Garage in both womenswear and menswear. The underground community of spirit the club stood for obviously resonates still, because the collection she showed on Monday was founded on the sentiment “Love will save the day,” not just a heartfelt plea in the face of a hate-filled world, but also the title of a Whitney Houston song that legendary DJ Larry Levan played to death in the Garage.
Love etc. was literally woven into the collection in a number of artfully subliminal ways. The show culminated, for instance, in pieces that were covered with badges, some of them with complete words, others with single letters, like military insignia. Abe said she wanted them to feel like patches that had fallen off a military uniform and been reapplied — repurposed — on another item of clothing, love at least transmuting, if not quite saving, the soldier’s day.
And that is also why the collection focused on the arms. There was an orgy of sleeve action, both tight and loose, because, said Abe’s able lieutenant Daisuke Gomma, “Arms are what we hold each other with.” Love, remember?
But, sentiment aside, Abe is no soft-centred pushover. As much as her new designs promoted the feel-good fuzzies, they exulted in the punkiness that kickstarts her as a designer. It’s a big part of Abe’s art that she can anchor the diaphanous beauty of her work with tough tailoring: a truncated peacoat, a dissected shearling. Here, straps defined the body, wrapping the torso bondage-style, cupping the butt. They added a wayward dynamism to the collection, even if their utilitarian value was called into question by some onlookers.
Less open to debate was a palette whose hallucinatory intensity came courtesy of Japanese techno-organzas. Misty, stoned clouds of colour wrapped the collection, floating away in a handkerchief hem, layered in dark, decadent petals. They highlighted the irresistible sensation that Sacai is always hiding something…or someone. You?