Earlier this month, one of the most anticipated shows of Paris Fashion Week took place delivered a collection of almost heartbreaking beauty. Chanel? Celine? No. Sacai.
If you haven’t heard the name, don’t panic. The label, by designer Chitose Abe, has been a slow burner, selling well in in Japan but only appearing in Paris a few seasons ago.
The first time I encountered Sacai, I was roaming Dover Street Market with one of the store’s ethereal young assistants. He stopped beside a rail of light, linen dresses.
‘This is a new label, Sacai,’ he murmured. ‘The designer trained with Rei Kawakubo. It’s amazing ….’ Four years later, this has become a lumbering understatement: Sacai is now the best-selling label in DSM’s staggering library of brands.
Look no further than the clothes to explain this. SS16 offered a vintage-based cornucopia of pattern recut into silhouettes that were seemingly haphazard but shaped masterfully to the female form.
A rich scarf print featuring buildings, tigers and leopards; wild florals, the colours of stained glass windows; paisleys and Peruvian blankets were layered, laser cut to create wide lace effects, heaped one on top of the other, tied around necks, dangled from waits.
Abe’s currency is deconstruction, a technique which her countryman like Rei Kawakubo pioneered – and still excel at. But whereas Comme adheres to bold canvases of (usually) black, Abe has plumbed a wealth of pattern and print, and all the worlds each can contain.
While I adore deconstruction, I can’t bear lazy patchwork. There was a glut of it in the 1990s: small labels, now dead, who would staple-gun lace onto denim and sit back. There’s an aspect of mash-up in Sacai but Abe trained by Kawakubo as design cutter and it shows.
Classic pieces – biker jackets, bombers, shirts, sweaters – are pulled apart and put together again, gorgeously askew with just enough to show you where it’s from. And much has been made of Abe’s way with backs. Over and over again, in reviews, the words ‘front-on catwalk photography will never do them justice’ appears.
Nothing is ever quite as first seems. ‘I want to do something different and fun and not always elegant,’ Abe told the Washington Post. It seems she has: intelligently quasi- conceptual design; bursts of colour and print; the references – to activewear, to militarywear, to rockabillies and flower children. Haven’t heard of Sacai? You have now.