Dear Shaded Viewers and Diane,
On Saturday night in Basel, Switzerland, we were making our way downward from the magenta lobby and press rooms of the adjoint hotel into the underground carpark of the city’s Grand Casino – a lit-up sign welcoming us to the Swiss Las Vegas led the way to what was to be the chosen venue for Players, the 2019 graduate show of Basel’s FHNW Academy of Art and Design. “Players is a game with no cards and no dice” read the invite, and “Players is like poker without patriarchs”. Neon-bright and chilly, some of the spirit and atmosphere of the above casino might have seeped underground, blessing location and show with an aptitude for risk, excess, and good fortune: 18 BA and 3 MA graduates presented their final works at full speed, hitting the jackpot in waxes and latexes. Basel is close enough, but happily secluded from the influence of fashion brands and trends that can sometimes sway students’ creations elsewhere. Not that these students didn’t do their internships around the world too: Eckhaus Latta, Stella McCartney, Thom Browne, Haider Ackermann, Bernhard Willhelm and Vivienne Westwood were name-dropped. Still their collections stayed intensely personal, coalescing into a parade and promise for contemporary Swiss design. Graduate Jana Colic told me that she was inspired by her heritage and childhood across Bosnia and Switzerland, as well as the kitsch and camp aesthetic of Jacques Demy’s 1970 Peau d’Âne. Her models wore marabou kitten heels and lace gloves with long, bejewelled nails, a duvet-cloud dress coat with oversize bishop sleeves, and ivy leaves. Later came Victoria Waltisperg’s witch priestesses with transcendental vision in long latex gowns and capes, then street cast models with elfin years. Growing-pains themes that often recur in the work of young designers were present here too: deconstructed clothing held together with safety pins, tears and layering, distortion and stratification, metamorphosis. But filtered through a certain playfulness and confidence that suited the show’s location at the Swiss Las Vegas. Humour and irony in particular played a role in the collection of Larissa Keller – see above the top shaped by wire hangers inside – and Janine Reitmann. Janine, who comes from the theatre and dreams to work at Margiela, explained backstage that with her collection’s underwired flowy garments and crochet scarves, shown on models whose face was wrapped in flying swiss flags, she envisioned the Swiss storm she hopes will soon take over the fashion world. If these young designers are anything to go by, we better look for our umbrellas too.