Steffie Christiaens: experimentally strong

You have never seen a fashion crowd move with so little fervour. Here we were assembled in the forecourt of the 18th century Monnaie de Paris, while inside was to be the showing. It was not just doors that separated us, however. For today mother nature gave this city its first true glimpse of spring 2011, the wind still and the sun gently warming, and this group of visual appreciatives simply opted to bask in the moment. A moment made longer by French champagne and initially interrupted by little else than the sound of a waiter struggling against the laws of physics as his tray and its glasses found themselves connecting with the cobble stones.

Somewhere nearby a bell tower heralded the arrival of three in the afternoon, door men begged us to go in, and slowly people awoke from this sun kissed Sunday siesta. Buyers marched to their seats, ever eager to take their front row position, while the rest of us did little more than meander away from our source of assured warmth. Was it a sign of things to come? Not for a moment. We were here to witness the unveiling of Steffie Christiaens’ fall 2011 collection and while it was to include some electric colours, it offered little in the way of what you might describe as ‘winter brights’.

Instead it was a collection you might describe as progressive. Experimenting with shape and texture, Christiaens’ collection certainly isn’t straight down the centre nor main stream, but at the same time it isn’t what you’d typically term ‘alternative’. Instead it leans towards futuristic, with a heavy infusion of experimentation thrown in for good measure – this is, after all, Christiaens’ first solo collection.

And as a first collection it’s a strong opener; Christiaens has a history that includes work at both Balenciaga and Maison Martin Margiela and it shows. Where pieces emerged as interpretations of basic concepts there were always an added element or two; high waisted women’s trousers in a powdery ash colour were shaped largely as you’d expect them but came with the a wrap waist and a bow at the rear. Crocodile skins were ingeniously cut across shoulders, the texture and dye giving the impression that you were beholding armour and not a decadent quantity of an exotic leather. Such strength, however, wasn’t consistent. While experimentation in the women’s part of this autumn / fall 2011 collection lead to stand out dresses such as the near-avant garde, cobalt blue piece pictured above and others of a similar ilk, there were those pieces which felt like experimentation for the sake of it. And in some ways that’s an unfair criticism: they’ll appeal to someone and Christiaens no doubt had her vision for the certainly-avant garde pieces, but they never came off as feeling of the same calibre of other pieces within the offering.

As a first collection it still remains strong however, and we look forward to seeing exactly where this Dutch designer is able to take her career. You can see all of Steffie Christiaens‘ autumn / winter 2011 / 2012 collection by clicking on the thumbnails below and browsing through the photos.