The chairs at Chitose Abe's Sacai show are arranged not in rows, but in circles, and she has the models do figure eights up the runway. This season that was more vital than usual. Abe has infused her clothes, which have always had a 360-degree appeal (from the front they look like one thing, from the back another), with new couture volumes for Spring. She opened with a
sack-back dress, its excess fabric reined in by a ribbed sweatshirt band. To follow, there was a skirt-and-top look, the latter of which jutted out from the upper back so exuberantly, it was as if the model was keeping a knapsack under there. Nothing stuffy about either piece, though, despite the old-world connotations of haute couture. That has to do with the modern way Abe constructed the collection's sack-back silhouettes, cocoon coats, and trapeze dresses out of sporty fabrics.
The unexpected mix is the essence of Abe's aesthetic; what we saw here was trademark Sacai, only supercharged. Previously she's preferred tonal shades, but today she turned up the brights: sky blue, emerald green, highlighter pink, and an electric coral that looked good with neon orange. The floral print that she used for a trompe l'oeil dress and gown (they looked like duchesse satin sweatshirt and chiffon skirt combos) was another surprise. But where Abe got really creative was with the show's menswear materials. True, they're more of a common sight at Sacai, but not the way the designer treated them this season. A Prince of Wales check that she bonded and laser-cut to resemble athletic mesh appeared as the sleeves of a baseball-jersey sweater that looked as if it was layered over a suit jacket and skirt in that check. It was a mash-up of a mash-up of a mash-up. But let's not overthink things: What it was was one hell of a clever dress, in one hell of a clever collection.