Designer inspirations. At times they seem pulled out of thin air at the eleventh hour, at others so arcane as to be irrelevant, and sometimes just plain irrelevant. So it was with hesitation that one looked upon An Vandevorst and Filip Arickx's creative source material for Fall, set up backstage like a mascot in a small glass case. The work of Dutch artists Maarten Kolk and Guus Kusters, it looked like a piece of brown felt formed into the body of a bird, with actual avian legs and claws. Into its tail, a bit of newspaper had been stuffed. "They give the skeleton a new skin," said Vandevorst. "We use almost all the elements that you see here."
They did, and it all sort of made sense. The designers had turned Spring's Joan of Arc into a sharper, more modern girl in shiny-buttoned woolen admiral's coats, twisted and cinched at the waist with harnessed and buckled knee boots. As each model walked out she stopped midway and took a slow turn to reveal some sort of bustle-cum-tail feather, whether it was pleated shirting jutting out of a jacket vent, a leather crinoline frame, or even a bit of newspaper. You could spy cotton shirting printed with newspaper, visible from pushed-up sleeves, and the designers also used the real McCoy to stuff into pleated skirts for a kind of padded-out effect.
By the end the contrivance in all its various forms grew a bit old, but the clothes didn't, particularly all that terrific tailoring and a few bias-cut silk gowns worn with cutaway jackets or tumbling, rough knits. And is it so big a leap? Giving birds a new set of feathers is what designers do every season.