Ennio Capasa recently spent two weeks hiking with a friend in the Golden Triangle, somewhere between China and Burma. It's an incredibly volatile region, ruled by drug warlords, so the frisson of terminal danger was never far away. But Capasa's main takeaway from the trip was his encounter with an offshoot of the Miao tribe. It inspired a flicker of ethnic influence in his new collection for Costume National. And it really was not much more than a flicker: the extended shoulder of a Miao cape, some layering, a band of color that reflected a woven tribal pattern. To sublimate such a profound experience in such a reductive way suggested extreme discipline. Equally, it implied an inability to let go. But that's exactly what his supporters wish Capasa would do.
Looking back over years—decades?—of Costume National, it becomes apparent that the key to his womenswear is the tuxedo, the apex of sleek male tailoring. In today's show, the first and last looks embodied Capasa's alchemical transformation of the tux, from the relatively conventional to the utterly exploded. Those two looks bracketed a sober dissection of his ongoing addictions: black, navy, asymmetry, androgyny, a formal take on punk. Sébastien Perrin found a track by We Are Wolves to play underneath the show that seemed an ideal aural counterpart to the defiant edginess of Capasa's clothes. And that was the rub: There was nothing challenging for the designer in that formula. It felt like a variant on something we had seen and heard before.
Anita Pallenberg was on Capasa's mood board. For boys of his generation—those, at least, with a particular predilection—she was a goddess, a Circe they would willingly follow to Hell. But Hell no longer holds surprises for Capasa. He needs to come back.