Ennio Capasa wanted to bring some art to Costume National. After Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari guest-curated Costume's Web site in May, Capasa chose two images from Toilet Paper, the photo journal the two artists also curate, to give his latest collection some graphic punch: one a bird's wing, the other an aloe plant, both being cut by scissors. Capasa liked the ambiguity of the images—they could be environmental activists' shock tactics, or punk destruction, or something to do with decoration. But more than anything, they could be a recognition of the necessity of refreshing Costume's shtick, of bringing a new dynamic to the moody avant-garderie that is the label's stock-in-trade.
Arch-provocateur Cattelan would certainly be the right man to turn to in such an instance, so it was maybe unfortunate that his input was confined to those prints. His presence could be felt, however, in the bizarre story Capasa told about the shade of fuchsia that, in combination with Chinese red, lit a fire under the show. The powder that produces such a color is so toxic that its use is illegal in Europe. Capasa had to find a local expert who had the will and the patience to duplicate the same shade using a more legal form of alchemy. The designer's dedication to guaranteeing he would be able to use exactly the fuchsia he wanted for his collection says something about his obsessive commitment to his craft. It didn't, however, help much with his quest for a new dynamic.
The show played out as a heavy salute to asymmetric halvsies: half jacket/half blouse, half skirt/half pant, or just plain half anything. There was some skill in the way a lapel was turned into the halterneck on a bustier, and the half-a-tux had an elegance all its own. But it sometimes felt there was just too damn much going on, with a belt here, a strap there, and doodads a-danglin'. Asymmetry for asymmetry's sake. The ever-present undertow of fetish in Capasa's work was amply aired in sheer blouses over dominatrix bras, but they left one yearning even more for light. This was, after all, a Spring collection, and how uplifting would it be to see the ultra-intense Ennio with Spring in his step? Still, maybe that comes next.