Saturday, October 22, 2011

Africa Fashion Week 2011: Day - 1 Alexander Koutny [South Africa/NY]

Much has been made of cross-border appeal in our increasingly global village - fashion beyond borders, if you like - and its insatiable appetite for newness. While it may yet be a distant and daunting dream for many out-of-Africa designers battling constraints from funding to infrastructure, Johannesburg-born and Central Saint Martins MA graduate Alexander Koutny is already fluent in international speak. His home-coming collection brought with it a dark turn - a detour of sorts from his recent flirtations with print, but it also hearkened back to earlier collections when black was his base.

Obvious heaviness aside - wool, tights, leather, heavy coats and layering, however gorgeous, don't exactly scream Spring however you cut it - but, incidentally, it's the strong finger on cut, technique and detail we are most curious about here. Seen from a sculpted origami jacket with strong angular shapes (the statement jacket to end all statement jackets, save for a Viktor and Rolf creation) to a layer of mesh peeking from a boxy, asymmetric layer, mesh skin tight leggings paired with a silk blouse and hair extensions playing the role of embroidery; it's an artful tug-of-war between dark and light from which neither ultimately prevails because they are so beautifully combined. Many pieces started as simple crew necks, from which they became an angular cocoon dress in one case and an asymmetric piece with padded sleeves in another.

For a designer who left South Africa to escape 'commercialism', his attention to detail is hardly surprising and bears the traces of an aesthetic fine-tuned and understood over time - this level of effortlessness doesn't just happen. Sadly, the fine art of approachable construction that distinguishes Koutny isn't obvious in these one-dimensional photos; this strikes us as the sort of collection you meet one-on-one and deconstruct, layer by layer. In the absence of that, however, Koutny has evidently returned to South Africa fully formed with a strong point of view and his own self-assured take on international chic. We await his future projects somewhat impatiently, while we hope for a forecast of more lightness and less wool next summer.

- SLiq

Photos courtesy of SDR Photos

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