For her runway debut in Paris, Dutch designer Esther Dorhout Mees opened with an evocative video which spanned the two walls of her minute show space a stone’s throw from Gare de l’Est. That set the tone for a collection in which the creature within awakens into a world that is alien to it, and reciprocally. Or was it?
You couldn’t help be reminded that Dorhout Mees is a child of the McQueen generation, with the late British luminary’s dominant threads being found digested here. Could it be the influence of that swan-shape tumbling down the front of an outfit? But while others have attempted – and failed at birthing – a personal discourse in light of this, she has managed to catch the eye thanks to the treatments that have come to modify her base materials immensely.
Much of the surface embellishments was biomimetic, and was inspired by the emergence phenomenon that arises in animal packs, and more specifically, flocks of birds. Half a dozen variegated threads could be picked out in a jacquard, while a honeycomb design was created through heating (something out of the Issey Miyake books?). Elsewhere, chunky knits displayed volumes that engaged the third dimension more fully. Upper body volumes made a statement, while flowing lower bodies moved consistently with the mobility requirements of a functional wardrobe.
It may have been full of the volumes and animalistic considerations he may have had, but it was delivered with a lighter hand. And rather than keeping at bay by their formidable mien, her creations actually pull the viewer in, beckoning with the intricacy of their handcraft. That alone reminded that her design forebearers have been numerous in the quest for a redefined silhouette for the 21st century. Furthering that, the styling chosen for the shows – black contact lenses, long latex gloves and shoes that looked at once like clogs and hooves – furthered the animalistic component, as the designer indicated backstage before her show yet still showed a degree of realism.
But is mere nit-picking, and regardless of what influences come across when viewing Dorhout Mees’ work, her work is a bone that definitely deserves further picking and Paris’ creative soup feels all the richer for its addition.