Bora Aksu is not a label especially well known in the US. There are no direct outlets and US buyers rarely attend his very popular runway shows. Why, I don’t know. You’ve almost certainly seen his designs in collaboration with retail brands such as Topshop, Nike, Anthropologie, and People Tree. Across Europe, his designs are well known and well respected. Even Dolce & Gabanna have referenced his influence in their creations. Aksu is a wonderful designer, though certainly not the most gregarious personality in fashion. Perhaps it is that absent self-promotion that keeps him from being a more well known and well regarded personality in the states. Nonetheless, this is a name, and a collection, one really needs to know.
I would be hard pressed to say exactly what it was we first noticed about Aksu’s Fall/Winter collection. The show started with seven models standing in silhouette. As the lights came up, it was the full look, not any particular element, that one noticed. The look was a bit like that of a stereotypical Swedish farm girl, but one with a quiet, understated wild side. There are no old fabrics here. Everything is contemporary, which looks … interesting. Aksu’s inspiration was the outfits his mother wore to boarding school, and one can see that influence strongly throughout the line.
Let’s start with the rose braid in the hair. Since we’re still fairly early in the day I’ll avoid calling the braid thing a trend, but it is a bit surprising that we would see braids two shows in a row. The braids are what provides a significant part of that innocent school girl look, though. Without those, let’s say for example the hair had been down and straight, the look would have been considerably more aggressive and perhaps created a less welcome aesthetic.
Then, there’s the poofy, over-sized sleeves. Were they done in cotton prints or organza, I would question Aksu’s motives and possibly his sanity. This is a silhouette we’ve not seen since the 1970s and wasn’t necessarily one we were anxious to see revived. What makes the difference this time around is that the sleeves, indeed most of the ensembles throughout the show, are leather. Fabric choice totally changes the look as well as our thoughts about where these ensembles might be appropriate.
Also factoring heavily into the looks is the use of laser-cut mesh. This is a very important element not only because they are done in leather, but because they provide a semi-transparency to the faux-aprons on many of the dresses. Look carefully below the mesh of the first look and one sees yet another skirt beneath it hitting just above the knees. This is Bora being practical. This is a fall/winter line after all. A girl needs to stay warm.
This is an extremely interesting collection. Along the way, Aksu plays with sheer sleeves a bit and tosses in some soft pink and white ensembles that might rather feel a little more girly at first glance. But the amount of leather and heavy fabrics used here is overwhelming. My favorite comes toward the end with an absolutely tremendous deep red cloak that is so voluminous it looked almost academic in the final walk, yet there is an unmistakable beauty that would have me wanting to gift it to the family matriarch if she were still living.
I’m not sure what might be the general reaction to this collection. On one hand, there is an obvious prettiness to it all, with the braids, the shoes, and even some patchwork. Yet, the extreme use of leather on these pieces gives them a much edgier look and creates an odd juxtaposition. Exactly where is one supposed to wear these clothes?
I’ll make one suggestion: probably not an outfit one should put on before going out to milk the cows. I can see the cows taking some offense.