Pardon me, I’m just here for the art.

This is how it always feels at a Jean-Charles de Castelbajac show; there are fashion patrons, then there are art patrons, often sat next to each other, but with very different interests. De Castelbajac is a very popular, very heavily collected artist. Designs on his clothes typically follow the theme of his paintings, which are priced slightly higher. How he merges the two is always a matter of interest, but the show itself also feels a bit like the opening of an art exhibit.

Unfortunately, this also brings up what may be the biggest criticism for de Castelbajac: is he really a fashion designer, or is he an artist just playing with fashion. There have been seasons when I’ve been duly impressed by both the artistic graphic and the design. I’m sorry to say, this is not one of those seasons.

Let’s chalk the disappointment up to the fact that rather than the unique lines and faces we have previously seen in de Castelbajac’s work, he’s been playing more with sets of lines. While the concept has worked wonderfully well in his art work, as seen on the walls outside and leading into this morning’s exhibition, the effect on the clothes is rather boring. We’ve seen this before. We’ve seen the silhouettes before. There’s not enough “fresh” here to generate any level of excitement over the fashion.

What we do have are some very bright primary colors. Very bright. Jean-Charles is in a happy mood at the moment and that comes through in sunshine rays of red, blue and yellow that are so bright he decided they needed dark shaded sun visors. I wish I was kidding. The visors are a distraction.

There are two exceptions to the boredome. One is an all-white lace body suite with a clear plastic coat trimmed in white. The design in the lace is what makes this piece cool. The plastic coat sets off the whole look. Had he gone down this road a bit more I would be writing a very different review. The other exception is to take the concept of external bias stitching, which we’ve seen elsewhere this season, and extend that as painted stitches running down the model’s arms. While this is more of an artistic rather than fashion move, it’s still well done and one of the few things that really stands out on this runway.

I like Jean-Charles de Castelbajac as an artist. I’m not as impressed with him as a designer; at least, not this season. I almost wonder if he is too happy to be sufficiently creative. I’ve heard that can be a problem: not enough angst. For the time being, one’s money is better spent buying the art.

Photo credit: Gio Staiano

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