Tommaso Aquilano and Roberto Rimondi love nothing quite so much as an obscure reference. This season it was Henri Matisse’s Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence in the South of France, known for its colorful stained-glass windows and its elemental black and white murals. “I want those entering my chapel to feel themselves purified and lightened of their burdens,” Matisse once said. A tall order for a church, let alone a fashion show. But we can understand the instinct.
A year ago, Aquilano and Rimondi based a collection around the work of Paul Gauguin. It was fabulous, colorful, bold, and a little bit risky. Unfortunately, this show didn’t achieve the punch of that one. Blame the layers. In an apparent attempt to evoke the chapel’s light-filled space, the designers added sheer overlays of organza and chiffon, often embroidered with flowers, to many of the looks. More often than not, the apron-like appendages wound up weighing things down rather than raising them up. Big dragonfly appliqués were likewise more ponderous than inspiriting. The designers were better off when they lifted blocky prints directly from Matisse’s canvases. A leafy pink and green print used for a pleated silk dress was a beacon in a collection that otherwise felt a little murky.

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