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Monday, October 20, 2014

Tailoring Outside The Box: Projecto Mental Spring 2015 Collection Review


Think of a traditional African print and you'll probably think of kente cloth.  You know, that horizontally and graphically striped multicolor fabric organized in narrow strips of the beautiful colors of the earth like orange, red, brown, green and blue that signify African craftsmanship and tradition.  However, also don't forget the bevy of stamping, dyeing and wax resist techniques that conspire to create the vividly patterned colorful wonderments that are African textiles.  Dashikis, djellabas, kaftans, grand bou bous and kanzus may be rendered with wonderful color or print or simple clean textured silks, cottons or woolens.  These are all visually and distinctively African, traditional and recognized by each generation as the garbs worn by their families and the like.  

However, fast forward to today and what happens when influence and artistry creep into the borders and confines of what is traditional and recognized.  An antiquated perspective of African style is, well, antiquated.  Cultures from all the hemispheres have had influences on all the world stages and the collective countries of Africa have been no exception.  There's burgeoning hip-hop inspired artists like Wiz Kid out of Nigeria, the cult-like influence of the 'Les Éléphants' soccer team from the Ivory Coast and the striking beauties and handsome gents to hit the runways out of Ethiopia and Sudan.  Then most recently during the last New York Fashion Week I had the pleasure of discovering the polished and honorific aesthetic of Angola's Projecto Mental.

Projecto Mental is an artistic mash-up of the patented sides of tailoring with the cultivated sides of traditional Africana.  What we're used to seeing fashioned up on dashikis and djellabas the duo of Shunnoz Fiel and Tekasala Ma'at Nzinga make up in pristinely tailored trousers and blazers with a creative edge for Projecto Mental.  


Take their Spring 2015 Collection for example.  It was a collection of taking the colors and subtle silhouettes of traditional Angolan garb and merging them with the efforts of classic tailoring.  Then once that was achieved the creativity of the inspired duo took form with forward nods in construction through slight cut and proportion.  What's always interesting from a non-American fashion collection is the lack of focus on perceived Western male familiarities.  With Projecto Mental's vantage point, an idea of masculinity that is often met with skepticism by the American male consumer takes a familiar shape.  For example, much of American mens clothing encircles at the waist to emphasize the strength of the shoulders and V-torso.  Clothing that extends below the waist, such as with fuller tunic and kaftan lengths, are very common for men to don outside of the US.  

Projecto Mental's presence at a New York Fashion Week suggested a necessary bridge of Western and Eastern.  The combination of the familiar masculine tailoring aesthetic with familiar masculine Africana aesthetic created a dialogue that celebrated masculinities of several cultures.  Presumed male dress patterns are being challenged in the US slowly but surely as designers seek ways to celebrate the cross-cultural influences of world societies and hyper-gender references.  As more informed and astute men seek ways to veer outside the box, Projecto Mental's presence in New York with their first US show is one I would say was a case of the right place and right on time.  

www.ProjectoMental.com

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Beauty Of The Bloodcurdling: Skingraft Spring/Summer 2015 Collection Review

It's amazing how the pristine and unblemished can sometimes be remixed to look macabre and downright sinister.  Chalk it up to someone's vivid imagination or odd perspective.  For instance, there's someone quite beautiful and almost picturesque and organic about a papal procession with the swinging incensories.  Now in the same breath imagine the portrayed perception over the years of the mysteries hidden beneath the seemingly sinless all white robe.  The symbolic beauty of the shed blood and broken flesh as sacrifice remixed to uncover the sacrifice as more for something heinous and ghastly than ceremonial and redeeming.  


Inspiration from everywhere, even religion, the dark sides of it and the organic elements of blood, earth, smoke, air and water can serve as factors to both titillate and terrify as was the case with the Skingraft Spring/Summer 2015 collection.  


Pulling inspiration from practices of the syncretic ritual-based religion of Santeria, Jonny Cota showed a collection that cleverly brought Skingraft's dark aesthetic into the Spring/Summer season.  Not straying from the usual primary, grayscale and monochromatic color palette Skingraft's S/S collection focused on a lightness with collaborative images from artist Jordan Eagles reminiscent of smoke trails printed onto white fabrics in breezy cuts and easy sportswear silhouettes.  There was a particular focus on the dark beauty of blood, fluid or congealed for which Eagles has a penchant for, with the presence of textured and printed vibrant reds over the same gossamer lightness and languid shapes. 


Never skimping on the brand's favorite color of black, the color was present in a variety of fabrics and cuts again like fluid hooded outerwear, bondage-esque swimwear and moto jackets.  Eagles' abstract clustered and haunting fleur de lis-like prints and wovens on white sheers and in that fresh drawn blood color had an energy of the ornate elegance applied to ritual and sacrificial imagery and objects.  Of particular beauty were some amazing papery thin leathers rendered in tees, shifts and full cut shorts that anchored the brand's aesthetic as well as completed an interesting tactile balance to the presence of the blood and sacrificial references.  

 

In one runway stomp Skingraft managed to make the macabre see less so, which is what good fashion inspiration serves to do.  Fashion takes what isn't necessarily fashionable and proposes that it could be just that.  Whether you support the dark connection or not is not really the point; you should just want to wear it.  



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Photos by Randy Brooke