Fashion Iconoclasts Have Their Day: Libertine and Custo Barcelona

13 Sep

Text, Vivian Kelly

“Just do your own thing”. How often have you heard this phrase? How often do you actually follow that advice?

Too risky, right? Yes and no. Two designers continue to do just that and THIS is a great season for them. They are [drumroll] – Johnson Hartig for Libertine and Custo Dalmau for Custo Barcelona.

Just for fun, I BING’d the definition for “libertine”.

According to wikipedia, “A libertine is one devoid of most moral restraints, which are seen as unnecessary or undesirable, especially one who ignores or even spurns accepted morals and forms of behavior sanctified by the larger society. Libertines, also known as rakes, placed value on physical pleasures, meaning those experienced through the five senses.”

In other words, don’t worry about what society thinks. Johnson has it right, and the young trustafarians who wear his clothes to go clubbing probably get a kick our of wearing a tee-shirt or skirt that says “Tax the Rich More” [ie themselves, or Mom and Dad]. As far as trends go, Johnson always does wonderful fitted coats which could be interpreted as “ladylike” and his bold navy, black and white stripes hit the “obvious print” trend going on this week at the New York shows.

Custo Dalau did what he always did – wild prints, mixing and matching unlikely textures for both his men’s and women’s designs. Sometimes it does get a bit excessive [as in a too bulky- too many furs and tweeds] but not this time. The 3-D effect he achieved was interesting and innovative, but we had to wait until the end of the show to have  look. Normally, a collection this lengthy might be a bit of a yawn but that was definitely not the case here. The Fashion List’s R. Scott French and I loved the clothes and the music. His Iphone4 enabled him to immediately download two of the songs we loved, “Filthy Love” and “Icons of Summer”. I had to wait until I got back to the room to do it on my MacBook Pro. No matter, the clothes more than made up for that.

Group 1 was called “DUAL” and covered the casual look, and was primarily about graphics. My favorite from this set was the men’s black and white lambskin leather sweater jacket in a harlequin print. This is the sort of piece a woman would “borrow” from her boyfriend or husband and “forget” to give him back.

Group #2 was called “Kaleidoscopio” and as you can guess, was a composite of geometrics stitched together from a variety of fabrics based on raffia, cotton and silk. As at Christian Siriano, there were muted colors [beige, brown and ochre] contrasted with vibrant ones [coral pink and acid green].

The most interesting grouping though, came at the end. “Mirame” featured those special occasion pieces for guys and girls who don’t have a problem with making an impression when they walk into the room. After some  discussion, Fashion Tribes’ mens’ editor, Mark Behnke and I agreed that these looks would play well in Rome, where it’s one’s duty to stand out and more, scratch that – MOST –  is better. Mark was obsessed with a bronze men’s look which I’ll search-out once all of the show images are available. I’m sure it’s great, but when I attend a Custo show, I prefer to sit back and enjoy the experience; the details come later.

The only drawback to the  3-D fabrics is that they are tough to photograph, [I gave-up after a few fails]. Nonetheless, I’m sure that these colorful pieces made a sufficient impression for editors and buyers to carve-out time in their busy schedule to take another look and to order them for fashion editorials and stores, respectively.

A big “bravo!” to Custo Dalmau this season.


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