23 October 2010

An Envelope of Self

Spring 2011

I have only ever had the opportunity to handle but a few pieces by Obscur in person, however each time I was blown away by the attention to detail in their construction.  Indeed I think the superb level of construction is quite clearly evident in these photographs from the Spring 2011 collection.  What struck me in particular was the way the garments have so clearly been designed specifically in relation to the body - that is, their being worn.  Whilst it is perhaps something one takes for granted, to be worn is the very purpose of clothing, in this instance the garments make true sense only when on the body.  On the hanger they look interesting enough, however draped from a rail with barely any form belies the transformation that occurs when on the body.  Indeed I think they are garments you really have to try on in order to fully understand and appreciate.    

Discussing a fashion collection in the abstract or in terms of the catwalk, as most commentary tends - quite understandably - to do, overlooks two major factors which are inherent to the very dynamic of dress.  The first is that consumers tend to buy individual pieces, rather than an entire look, from a collection.  It is a specific piece from a specific collection which they thought spoke to who they were or evoked an overriding visceral response and emotion (I think consuming a collection is based on that first visceral response, and then a number of considered approaches with some sense of hindsight).  The second factor is that the consumer will then integrate the piece into a pre-configured personal wardrobe.  One buys the expression of an idea, but by doing so transforms that idea into a piece of the puzzle that is the expression of individuality.

The very act of purchasing a garment, the transfer of ownership, changes the meaning of a piece.  Once in my possession I can wear that garment however I want, regardless of the intentions of the designer.  Indeed to take it a step further I can alter that garment, not merely in terms of tailoring the fit, but, if I so wish - to write on it, to paint it, to dye it, to cut it, to even change the entire purpose of it.  Arguably altering a garment in such a dramatic fashion undermines the concept of buying a piece from a collection due to the ideas and aesthetics that the designer expressed therein, however to put it crudely - once you own it, you can do whatever you want with it.  Whilst I am not advocating the destruction of designer garments in the search for personal individuality, if it is something you think will better show what you want to express then I suppose it is to be not only condoned, but encouraged.

The point I am making here however is wearing the garments in a way which perhaps contrasts to their initial presentation.  What I find particularly fascinating about these photographs is the way the garments are conveyed to the viewer.  In such a stark and cold setting they evoke the necessary strength to weather such an environment.  More akin to armour than dress, I find it a curious juxtaposition of sensual fabrics and intimate construction against the body, coupled with a styling that gives it an overwhelming sense of strength.  I suppose that is however inherent to designing any form of dress, for clothing serves the primary purpose of protecting the body.  Of course a designer could equally make a statement by providing clothing no practical functionality whatsoever, however these Obscur pieces certainly do provide a protection.

To then consider the collection with the fact that these garments will firstly be bought by individual consumers, and then added to the vocabulary of their wardrobes, I do wonder how the messages conveyed by the pieces will then differ.  It is the experience and expression of the wearer that I am most interested in here.  Indeed whilst these looks are highly dramatic and convey a sense of strength, I think there is an inherent fragility also apparent that could equally be teased out by a different direction in styling.  Personally I would be drawn to pairing the beautiful outerwear pieces with a draped sheer t-shirt and knitted leggings in order to soften up the look, whilst also letting the garment make a visual statement.  In such a way I suppose it is the idea of wearing one piece that makes a statement, and keeping the rest of your outfit toned down.  I would personally seek to evoke the sensuality of the pieces, especially considering how it plays so wonderfully against the highly precise construction of the garments against the body.

Strength and fragility make rather a beautiful combination.   

Currently playing: Got Your Back ft. Keri Hilson - T.I. 



  1. The detail on the leather looks incredible.

  2. So avantgarde! LOVE!


  3. Almost surreal. So dark and vast..faceless..a dark romance for this time of year.

  4. I really like the jacket. Makes me think Patrick Wolf should wear some of this stuff.

  5. A very intense post with a rather Gothic feel.

  6. Love that you said "Strength and fragility make rather a beautiful combination." I think it's so true.
    Very interesting your editorial and very well written.

    Have a good week

  7. Haha! "Unless you're a bot..."

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  8. that leather jacket looks so supple, I want to touch!

  9. Awesome. Found the images inspiring.

  10. I'm not surprised you were blown away. And the styling is so dark.

  11. I'm not surprised you were blown away. And the styling is so dark.