Spotlight on Asian creativity at Paris Fashion Week with Beautiful People, Anaïs Jourden, Ximonlee
On the last day of the Paris Fashion Week, three emerging Asian labels were sandwiched in the calendar between heavyweights like Chanel and Louis Vuitton, and proved they were worth a slot on the Parisian catwalks with their innovative, high-calibre collections. Beautiful People and Anaïs Jourden, which premiered last season, both confirmed their potential, while Korean-born Chinese designer Ximon Lee was a resounding success with his debut show in the French capital.
On Tuesday, Beautiful People showcased the kind of fashion you can shape according to your whims, a sort of work-in-progress with limitless possibilities. Endless fun is to be had tying and untying, stacking, layering, lightening up, undoing, splitting and transforming, in fact customising an entire wardrobe. The collection by Beautiful People features very simple items in linen and lightweight crinkled cotton: tops, knitwear, skirts, outerwear and summer dresses with a lingerie feel, in a palette of natural hues ranging from off-white to sky and dark blue, pink and wine-dyed maroon, with a twist of lime.
Thanks to long strings, a finely pleated skirt can be tied at the waist or hung round the neck like an apron. Elsewhere, the same skirt envelops the body, turning into a frilled dress or, wrapped around twice, it adds volume to an extensible dress, while it can also fold down the back, like a train. Micro-tops with shoulder straps are layered over knitwear, little corsets unbutton over a dress, jackets can be zipped up or unzipped at whim, or hang from loops down the back for greater ease of movement.
“We invented a technique called ‘side C’ which enables us, through a special stitching method, to use the inner and outer sides of garments and their lining in every possible way. It's a sort of third way besides deconstruction and recomposition,” said talented Japanese designer Hidenori Kumakiri backstage. Kumakiri launched his women’s ready-to-wear label Beautiful People ten years ago. Since last season, he is distributed in Europe by Tomorrow London. Beautiful People currently has 80 multibrand clients and operates five directly owned stores, three in Tokyo and two in Osaka.
Anaïs Jourden’s style was equally summery, but the register was totally different. As the venue for her second Parisian show, young Hong Kongese designer Anaïs Mak chose the dark ambience, bathed in subdued red light, of Whisper, a strip club in rue de Berri, not far from the Champs-Elysées.
But there were no half-naked strippers treading the club’s carpeted floor for Mak, who instead chose a series of young ingénues clad in dazzling white dresses made of cotton or lightweight embossed fabrics. Some dresses, also featured in pale pink, fit the silhouette snugly, others are more flowing and asymmetric, enlivened by frills and darts.
Anaïs Jourden’s young women play the glam yet slightly subversive lady, looking worldly as they perch on vertiginous stiletto-heeled mules, slipping on glittering jackets or draping sheer veil-like tops over silk jumpsuits or moiré-patterned sets.
The scene changed completely at Ximonlee, which took us for an evening stroll on the wet cobbles of a gloomy garage, barely lit by pale neon lights. Ready-to-wear label Ximonlee is based in Berlin and produced in Shanghai. For its maiden Paris Fashion Week show, Ximonlee went for a high-impact style, with gender-blurring silhouettes styled in rare, shimmering fabrics.
With dripping hair framing faces that seem to glisten with droplets of water, wearing colourful clogs whose still-fresh dye dribbles down the sides, male and female models amble forward wearing traditional Chinese tunic dresses with raised collar, buttoned along the side. The tunic dress is replicated in all sorts of materials: in monochrome jersey with plain clip fastenings, in a mauve-check waxed fabric entirely covered in sequins, or in a sheer bluish organza veil decorated with yellow embroidery in the shape of dragons.
Ximon Lee cheerfully blends uber-luxe outfits, featuring sumptuous men’s and women’s jacquard suits in glittering damask fabrics, inspired by ancient Chinese tapestries, with simpler, highly contemporary looks, like the shirt and oversize boxer short combos in black satin, or the denim overcoat with white topstitching.
Lee, who is 27, already has quite a career behind him. He was born in Korea and grew up in China, before moving to New York, where he studied at the Parsons School of Design. He was the assistant of Prabal Gurung, Calvin Klein and Philip Lim, then launched his own menswear label in 2014 and won the H&M Design Award.
Based in Berlin, he has now added womenswear to his range and shows also in London. “Now I’d like to establish myself in Paris, to gain more visibility and better showcase my artisanal work and extensive fabric research. Next time, I’ll show during the menswear week, which is better suited to our production schedule,” said Ximon Lee backstage. The label is distributed by a dozen multibrand clients, chiefly in Asia but also in the USA.
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