The Instant Dress

We’ve seen the future: Don’t get dressed, get sprayed!

Bella Hadid enjoying the aerosol droplets

It is for sure a moment for history. The last look of the Coperni show yesterday saw Bella Hadid emerges in nothing but a thonged panty and a pair of heels, her right arm covering her breasts. She steps on to a low platform, and designers Sébastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant—hands with equipment very much similar to a spray gun used in spray painting—begin spraying the model. The sprayers dispel a white foamy liquid that quickly cover her body in opaque white (Ms Hadid slowly removes her arms as one breast is covered and then another). Those old enough would remember this as ‘airbrushing’. Very soon a semblance of a garment could be discerned. The body-con (naturally!) dress took about seven minutes to complete or about the time it takes to cook hard-boiled eggs. Talk about fast fashion!

When the spraying stops, an assistant takes over to finish the dress. She shapes the straps by rolling the edges inwards, like you might with pastry made with thin batter, such as zhuchangfen (猪肠粉 or rice noodle rolls). She then pulls the straps down the arms to create an off-shoulder upper. She moves to the front and kneels to trim the randomly-formed hem around Ms Hadid’s calves. She takes a scissors and cuts a slit on the right side, at the front of the leg. She loosens the fabric adhered to Ms Hadid’s limbs. She opens up the slit and, voila, the dress is complete. A dress as basic as it comes. There was uproarious applause. Ms Hadid steps off the platform and struts for the appreciative audience in her new spray-on dress.

Finishing the sprayed-on dress

Bella Hadid posing in the completed dress

For many, this moment is reminiscent of what the late Alexander McQueen offered during his spring/summer 1999 show—his thirteenth at the time. Shalom Harlow, then the subject of the public experiment, stepped out in a white, strapless dress with an outer skirt over a tutu, and stood on a turntable between two robotic arms. After the pair of identical mechanical limbs flailed somewhat threateningly, they spray-painted her dress, one shot out yellow dye, the other black. Ms Harlow moved as if in orgiastic delight. She continued to spin, the audience were delirious. This was technology meets fashion as high art, witnessed live, no streaming required; a moment conceived to be deeply indelible.

Fast forward to the present PFW, the Coperni spectacle seems less hi-tech, with the robotic arms swapped for human ones. The spray exercise is more in line with McQueen’s focus that season: the Arts and Craft movement (with a technology component). Coperni worked with the Spanish textile-tech company Fabrican, founded by fashion designer and scientist Manel Torres. Vogue Business reported that the liquid used is a polymer solution that contains cotton and synthetic fibres. The fluid evaporates when it touches the skin, leaving the fibres behind, which, presumably, dries quickly. If we can 3D-print our own accessories now, will it be a matter of time when we can spray on a dress after we step out of the bath? Will getting dressed be an archaic idea? We shudder.

Screen shots: BabyGhoulYT/YouTube

Loewe: From Grass To Anthuriums

Jonathan Anderson gave men sprouting patches in June, now the women get tailflowers

It’s back to nature at Loewe. If you haven’t noticed, Jonathan Anderson has quite departed the craft period of his tenure at Loewe and moving the brand closer to what his own label JW Anderson has been offering. In recent seasons, that means incorporating objects that should not appear on or trapped in clothes. These could be organic and synthetic. Last June, he grew real grass on coats and footwear for the men’s collection. Now for the women’s this season, single-stalk anthurium forms the bodice of the clothes, or turns into bra cups. Strange is putting it mildly, but it is, compared to the early years of studied modernised crafting. When Mr Anderson joined Loewe in 2013 (it’d be a decade next year!), his stylist/collaborator Benjamin Bruno told The Cut recently, “we had to invent a fashion language for it.” Now, not only has that language changed, there is a whole new dialect.

It is hard to pair words with what Mr Anderson dreams up without us creating a new vernacular too. Or, sounding didactic. Perhaps we should put it this way: the ordinary that becomes extraordinary is also exquisite. The choice of a flower for spring is not unusual—not at all, but one that looks more like a leaf and is curved and an elongated heart-shape, and can be used to cover the upper body is of rather special beauty. At this point, we can’t tell what the anthurium in the collection is made of (fibreglass?), but a bloom with a spikey spadix (rubber?) fans the burning of our curiosity: Did Mr Anderson choose it for its potential phallic allure? Or because the real plant is not wearable as the sap is poisonous and may irritate the skin? A toxic flower is as tempting as forbidden fruit?

There is, naturally, quite a lot to see and unpack. But one notable point: Even when the not-quite-delicate anthurium is a bra cup—single or a pair—the dresses do not succumb to the sleaziness some other designers have adopted for theirs. Perhaps Mr Anderson is better at quirky than sexy. And quite far out are the shoes. One pair of them is covered with deflated balloons (a recurrent motif) that, in some, looks like slip-on mops (also called mop slippers). The home maintenance idea (or at least that is how we see it) is extended to four tops that look like massive breastplates, but could have been ironing boards! Can you bend forward in them? A few strapless dresses have front-facing paniers that seem like a side table is hidden beneath them. A quintet of curious bubble-skirted dresses sport necklines that look as if held up by umbrella ribs, but a lace version later shows that the zig-zags and the peaks are really formed by frames.

Of late, Mr Anderson is inclined to visually comment on digital technology that affects us (such as using QWERTY keys in his own collection). For Loewe, he is looking at something that appears at low resolution or is deliberately blurred—indistinct pixels. A T-shirt and a hoodie gets the Minecraft treatment, with the outlines of the garments cartoonishly pixelated. Both are worn with trousers, printed with grided blurring done on purpose. There are look-backs too. Two bib-front shirts, now in leather, recall those from his early Loewe collections, but are more deconstructed (or skewed?) than before. Perhaps the most sort after would be the new bag that is shaped like a well-filled jiaozi (饺子 or dumpling). If that is not goofy enough, there are the open-toe sandals with the upright anthurium (backed by a leaf). With the way the world is now, it really is time to put the bloom in the gloom.