Friday, 17 February 2012

LFW A/W2012: Bora Aksu and the Vivian Girls

 [Image: still from the London Fashion Week Live site].

In an interview with Fashion Monitor before his show, Bora Aksu explained that one of his major influences for this collection was Henry Darger, an outsider artist and janitor whose work was only discovered after his death. Darger's images and text formed a huge book, The Story of the Vivian Girls, which was childlike, fantastical and expressive. Aksu gave us clothing that was definitely aimed at women rather than children, but there was clearly an air of dreams and surreal visions in his offering for Autumn/Winter 2012-13. Models sported lace headpieces, wispy backcombed hair and grey lipstick, which formed a backdrop to lace and chiffon in a palette of mink grey, pale pink, raspberry and orange.

 [Image: as above].

There were elements of schoolgirl with a focus on high Peter Pan collars, tied bows and floral dresses, with a push towards Little Red Riding Hood and peasant chic in the introduction of neat hoods. For me, the choice of music, which was definitely rooted in Eastern European or Russian folk culture, emphasised Aksu's use of traditional shapes, with particular attention paid to the waist - floral embroidery resembled elaborately decorated Ukrainian belts.

[Collage from video stills and Henry Darger's book, The Vivian Girls].

Here I've mixed stills and Henry Darger paintings, so you can see links between the two. Aksu has not chosen to copy clothing from the book, but he has taken elements of the Vivian Girls' outfits (such as collared dresses, exaggerated shoulders, nipped in waists and sharp injections of orange, as well as garments that look like watercolours) and brought them to a new audience. He said: "The way these girls are illustrated is so pure. I tried to capture this in my collection, to bring out the innocence in fabrics like the cottons and flower print."

I also think that this show has cemented Bora Aksu's commercial appeal. The clothing he's offered this season adds a dose of femininity to winter that can often be lost in the constant desire by clothing manufacturers to bring us bulky layers and heavy knits. Aksu's designs will ensure that you stay girly and ethereal, even under your scarf and gloves.

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