Roksanda Ilincic’s Fall 2015 Ready-To-Wear collection took the old fall adage–somber colors sell–and threw every rich and plush color at it: mustards, fuchsias, cobalt blue, neon pinks, eggplant. This is hardly surprising considering Ilincic was recently named “the woman who brought color back to fashion,” but the mastery of Ilincic’s collection is not just in its celebration of color but in the harmony between the dramas of color and the meticulous architecture of the clothing, a harmony that brings her closer to a tradition of modernist art than it might to other designers (except, perhaps, for Christian Lacroix).
In this collection and in collections past, Ilincic produces clothes whose folds, pleats and lines serve to bring color to deeper and more complex life. The pleats of this dress (here), for instance, are the perfect canvas for intense color blocking and even the more soft renderings of color in the Spring 2015 collection (here) still showcase her expertise in executing color through shape. For Ilincic, color is as much about the quiet display of space as it is about light and vision, a variation on Marc Chagall’s insistence that “when color is right, form is right.” It is this minimalist restraint that makes Ilincic’s clothing breathtaking, even if the clothes inevitably demand attention.
It takes a brave woman to wear such saturated, intense colors in a season known for its worship of black, but the silhouettes are so feminine that no one could be accused of breaking the rules of good taste. The short tailored jackets featured stunning layered peplums fanning out from under a new signature belt—two asymmetrical silver plates on black leather–and the belts likewise accented the structured coats, calf-length dresses layered over long-sleeved mustard turtlenecks and thick patterned skirts in greys and purples. Pants made a quiet appearance, peaking out as cobalt leather culottes under color-blocked coats, once again emphasizing that this is a collection committed to showcasing Ilincic’s gifts in reinventing the dress and skirt.
And who, in the depth of the cold grey November winds, doesn’t long for a bright, warm and plush stole to wrap around her body, something to ward off both the cold chill and sinking spirits? The stoles were absolute show-stealers (no pun intended), so thick and inviting that the backstage photos might have shown the models surround by cold Londoners burying their faces in the Technicolor fur as they might have once done with their childhood bears.
There’s a notable element of the girl-child in this collection, a collection less severe in its architectural lines and more inviting of a girlish spirit, that spirit who might have dressed up in pink tutus for grade school and danced on the street with abandon, her face vibrant and unafraid. This collection celebrates that girl in us—the one so often shamed and silenced—and dresses her in adult clothes that still match the whimsy and imagination of a fearless heart.
It’s a risk, of course, that such playful clothing might infantilize their wearers or turn fashion into a silly game of female “dress-up” (re: Jeremy Scott), if it were not for the intense and dramatic seriousness of the color. Color, after all, is powerful. The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle called colors “cosmic rays from God” and their link to the turbulence of emotions is likewise ancient. They have profound effects on perception–McDonald’s, for example, famously painted their restaurants orange because it made patrons eat more- and they tend to provoke violent reactions. We either love or hate color, fear or adore it.
And yet we lack a compelling language for it: try to describe a color to a friend, or even the idea of color at all. It is for this reason that it has considerable political power. Like music or dreams, there’s something subterranean about color, something unclassifiable, difficult. It has rules and history, it’s culturally bound–you can’t wear red to a funeral- but if the history of 20th century art has shown us anything, it’s that those rules can be broken and broken to interesting effect. And more often than not, it’s fashion that does the breaking.
If fashion is a public, social and performative art, it’s worth asking what Ilinicic’s collection asks us to think. These are clothes defiant of the patronizing idea that bright, girlish colors are as vacant as their wearers or that a fuchsia suit worn for a job interview means you don’t deserve the job. Or still yet, what to make of such ostentatious colors in an era of European economic austerity? Is it a symbol of the flagrant, baroque indulgence of the elite (Princess Catherine wears Roksanda) or of the irrepressible spirit of democratic change on the verge of sweeping Europe, her colors reminiscent of masses of bodies waving brightly colored flags?
Whether one wants grant so much social significance to this collection is up to the reader, but rarely do you find work that both lifts and frees without taking the androgynous, neutral paths of designers like Rick Owens or Yohji Yamamoto. In defying that masculine flatness with the rich provocations of color, this collection might be read as a kind of feminist sartorial commandment: take up space, speak and be seen. If every collection tells a story, this one tells us, yes, to ditch the black, the severe silhouettes, the grey depressions of the fall and to wrap ourselves in “happy” but it also asks us to consider just what such colors can do and why wearing color can be an act of rebellion against the codes that drive women into invisibility or vicious competition.
To put it simply, this is easily Roksanda’s best and most conceptually compelling collection, one that should make everyone, especially those who haven’t yet heard of her, sit up and take notice.
Photo Credit: Roksanda Facebook Album: Fall Winter 2015. Media photos.