Marques' Almeida S/S16
Marques' Almeida S/S16

Sometimes I think I’m too old to be hip and following today’s Marques’ Almeida spring/summer 2016 show, that’s exactly how I’m feeling. Heads turned and I wasn’t the only one who raised a curious eyebrow when the Portuguese duo of Marta Marques’ and Paulo Almeida won the coveted LVMH prize for best young designer back in April. Their history of deconstructed fashion, with an emphasis on frayed denim, has never been one to which I’ve been particularly drawn. Are they street urban? Are they trendy? Or is this more of an artistic take? For most seasons previous to this one, I’ve been less than impressed and skipped them altogether last February. Perhaps I was in error.

I’m still not particularly convinced, mind you. I am so over this zombie-fied makeup look of pale faces and hair that looks like it lost a war with a nest of bats. I understand the popularity of zombies in media, but it is distracting on the runway and takes attention away from the fashion, which is ostensibly why we’re bothering to be there in the first place. Perhaps what bothered me most was when they sent a black model, the darkest of the three on the runway, out with foundation a good four shades lighter than her normal skin tone. The look was not only ineffective, but rather insulting. We don’t need this on the runway.

To their credit, though, the duo really stepped it up this season when it comes to their clothes. Yes, there’s still plenty of frayed and deconstructed denim as one would expect, but they’ve branched out with other fabrics, perhaps having used the LVMH prize money to do some experimenting. As a result, we were surprised to see a tremendous amount of chiffon in this collection, all given the same deconstruction treatment as the denim, but then layered in ruffles and frills and draped seductively across the models’ bodies. Lose the stupid makeup and this suddenly becomes a much more alluring and sensual collection. They also do a lot of work with cracked leather, giving it an aged feel that matches the deconstruction of the other pieces.

Okay, so those cinched-belt collars are a little on the kinky side for anyone not into asphyxiation.  There was also more than one #freethenipple moment as the chiffon didn’t seem especially inclined to actually cover the breasts. Perhaps the dress forms on which the pieces were created were slightly more endowed than the models. I’m not sure either of those elements are negatives in a collection that is by far the most creative and adventurous these two have ever produced.

Instead, what you’ll want to notice are the shots of color, especially that red, infused unexpectedly through the collection, as well as the very creative way they’ve layered the chiffon, sometimes in ruffles, but other times more brilliantly in flat overlapping asymmetrical panels. There’s almost a sense of peek-a-boo, now you see it, now you don’t, with several of the ensembles and that playfulness is quite fun and spirited. The closer one looks, the more one is likely to discover that this is truly an award-winning collection. The kids know what they’re doing and are doing it quite well. This is going to almost certainly become one of Europe’s top brands in the future and London Fashion Week would do well to hold onto them.

Still, though, for the sake of us old fogeys, please drop the zombie makeup. The clothes are too good to be paired with such a distraction.

Photo credit: Yannis Vlamos
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