Tuesday, 17 November 2015


COS' press days are my absolute favourite each season - I can't wait for them to come around. And, each season, I walk away with an idealised wishlist of garments that's never going to come to pass. Not least of all because the pieces showcased often encapsulate the feeling of the collection but are a little too avant-garde to make it into many stores in their ultimate form. Instead, we're normally given more readily palatable versions.

However, if there were ever a collection where the feeling and sensibility was the key component of the garments, it's COS SS16. Upon first glance, the words diaphanous and pure immediately come to mind. As per, there's a lot of thought going on and a wide array of sources and inspiration but that doesn't necessarily read in the garments. Instead, you are overwhelmed by that aura of purity and the background noise of reference and witty interplay remains firmly in the background.

The white, blush and sand and stone tones, the textures, silhouettes and lengths display an obvious awareness of traditional Japanese clothing and 20th century Japanese art movements. Renate Aller's photographs of sand dunes and the hand-drawn lines of Jan Schoonhoven's minimalism are both quoted inspirations. Origami techniques, authentic welding using 20th century machinery, man-made and natural fabrics and painstaking detail are all employed in the collection and, yet, calm perseveres.

Calm is the underlying theme of the collection - or, rather, reinterpreting calm. There is a lot going on but it is all quiet interventions, expert tweaking of the familiar to create something that is a balance of both contemporary and classic.

Three themes run through: drapes and folds, craftsmanship and re-inventing. And through these themes we see seemingly simple garments with a lot more going on than what meets the eye, garments that focus on the process of making and which are involved in an inseparable dialogue with the human form.

Draping, folds, cut-outs, low backs and thin, wispy materials all play at hiding and revealing the body and the contrast with the textures of the fabrics and subtle flashes of flesh makes for highly sensuous clothes in the most literal of ways: the senses themselves are engaged, sight in the glimpses, sound in the swishes and touch in the textures. These are clothes made for bodies, for the interaction with human forms to make them truly come alive.

This is also true of the menswear where the palate and sensibility is a little more weighty, in tones of grey and in fabrics that are more solid and less floaty. However, this same sense of playing with the senses, playing with the form is still ever-present. As is craftsmanship. A crisp driving coat is made of a jacquard which is not merely an embellishment but embossed right into the fabric, weighing it down so that it skims forms, interacts more closely with them instead of hanging away. Another coat in a transparent grey, again, plays with the body in the revealing of flashes of flesh normally hidden away in such garments and is welded together using 1950s machinery in England. The devil is in the details, each piece tells a story, is more than itself. Gendering of garments and cuts also comes into question as necklines such as deep boat necks come into play, revealing areas we are used to seeing on women - the collar-bone and shoulders - but which are somewhat surprising and alluring given the unfamiliar context.

Reinvention runs throughout the collections but is, perhaps most obvious in the denim. Not only is it being presented as a plausible formalwear option and being given new silhouettes and contexts, it is also being physically reimagined. One of the most striking displays were the accessories that, as first seemed just very COS, restrained and pretty, but were actually man-made compressed recycled denim embossed stones in silver settings...Kinda mind-boggling, right?

COS SS16 may be their most editorial collection yet. As I said, what is key is the sensibility and the concepts at play, more than the clothes themselves - the debates, the discussions and questions that they encourage. But before the collection can float away entirely as something that is too conceptual and all idea and no substance, it is weighed down by dresses, shirts, suiting and knitwear that (much of) will fit immediately into wardrobes and an emphasis on making and craftsmanship that almost puts some couture to shame.






























(In the Kerlin Art Gallery with food by Black Sheep Foods)


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