Putting the Real World on Trial at Eckhaus Latta

Since we have fashion fever as always at MADE, it is no bad thing to mention the classic Audrey Hepburn movie “Funny Face”—a spoof where a Diana Vreeland-esque magazine editor and Fred Astaire’s character Dick Avery-thinly veiled on Richard Avedon-chance upon geeky, literary obsessive Hepburn in Paris and transform her into a fashion icon. Now imagine if that movie was reworked by the Belgian surrealists Andre Breton and Rene Magritte—whose manifesto was to "put the real world on trial"—and if the stars of the film were 1990s Antwerp performance artists— after all, Belgium is France’s neighbor. It gets close to what we saw at the Eckhaus Latta show.

Ironically though, this designer duo is fully American—even if their brand name sounds slightly Flemish. Since they are New York-based, it would make sense if they had passed by the recent Magritte exhibit at MoMA while researching this season.

The collection featured an intellectually-led riff on texture and proportion play, underpinned with a casual way of just throwing something on—jackets deliberately half-worn, cardigans hanging onto the body for dear life via the sleeves rolled down the forearms. Chunky asymmetric knits and structured separates in washed mohair or boiled wool prevailed, but with a quiet 1990s deconstructed simplicity that harked to the aesthetic of the Antwerp fashion crowd from where, among others, Dries Van Noten, Anne Demeulemeester and Raf Simons graduated. Color-wise, it was a poetically muted affair, with painterly tones that Magritte himself would approve of: putty pink, smoke, bleached saffron, ivory, tobacco, coral and ochre.

That imaginary performance art movie might have been set in a hospital: the bizarre, chunky footwear evoked plastic hygiene shoe covers, and a male model stepped out in an oversized sporty version of a nurse’s uniform—after all, doctors do tend to take themselves seriously, as do Belgian intellectuals. But even if Eckhaus Latta’s collection felt serious-minded or "real world on trial," it had an irresistible ease about it: Once deconstructed, as the designers would surely encourage, there would be some wearable classics in there for off-stage everyday life.

Photography by Chris Swainston

Follow Mary Fellowes on Twitter @MaryFellowes

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