Tadashi Shoji F/W 2016
Tadashi Shoji F/W 2016

Have you ever had one of those deja vú moments where you had to stop and check what day it was? As Tadashi Shoji’s show started this morning, there was a moment where I felt like we might be having a Groundhog Day experience where we were seeing a show we’d seen before. The tribal-print body suits  leading this morning’s presentation were very much like those Dean and Dan Caten showed in their DSquared² F/W15 collection in Milan last year. The differences are that the twins only used the tribal print as an element, not a theme, for their Inuit/Siberian themed collection. Shoji takes the print and runs it through every garment in the collection. The Caten brothers were also careful to pair the print with other tribal elements while Shoji let’s the print stand alone and then morphs it to fit his needs.

Is this another case of cultural appropriation? I think that charge is a difficult one to make. After all, tribal tattoos are not unknown in Japanese culture, either, and I’m not conversive enough in tribal patterns to distinguish from which culture Shoji’s exact pattern might have originated. Chances are pretty high you’re not that familiar with them, either. Certainly, I don’t think there’s any ill intent on the designer’s part, but it does speak to which pieces might be appropriate for one to wear.

Understand, the tribal bodysuits are only used in a handful of pieces. As the collection grows, the print morphs and become a pattern, sometimes woven into lace, other times embedded in the puzzle of shiney metallic pieces composing a dress. Shoji is very creative in how he develops the theme. In the middle of the collection, he take the pattern in an organic direction, smoothing out the lines and curving the sharp corners. Later, he makes the pattern almost cubist in its design. His approach is very creative, but he never strays from that theme at any point. Final gowns bring back the original tribal pattern covered in crystals and shiny metallics.

The aesthetic is enhanced with a wet look hair style and the super smokey eyes that I’m really, really hoping don’t start trending this season. The last thing any of us wants to see on the streets is a deluge of bad smokey eyed makeup looks. The effect works best with the metallic dresses, which have a wet feel to them inherently. Not so great a look, though, with the crystal-encrusted bodysuit. And by the way, don’t even think of trying one on until you’ve spent a minimum of three months in the gym. Those things are going to show every little jiggle, flattering or not.

One curious element on the last three pieces in the collection, and I’m really hoping we got a good picture of it, is a clear plastic sleeve on which he’s arranged crystals in a pattern. It was a bit difficult to tell on the runway exactly how detailed they were. The sleeves weren’t identical, but they really did a great job of creating a modern counterpoint to the tribal pattern. While they’re obviously too formal for everyday wear, they were far more interesting than an opera glove.

It’s always interesting when different designers take on a similar theme and this is no exception. Tadashi Shoji has given the tribal print a very different treatment that did the Caten brothers last year. While I don’t necessarily have a preference, Shoji’s is certainly a more complete treatment of the pattern as a theme. And if that wasn’t exciting enough ABC News carried the stream live on its website. I think that makes Tadashi Shoji officially cool!

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