BIFW 2011: Floral Issue

A garden’s bounty has always been a source of inspiration for designers, especially when it is springtime. I am thinking of McQueen’s Sarabande spring/summer 2007 show, where real flowers were used to festoon dresses, some revealing the crinolines beneath.

In the case of Issue’s Flower Poem, however, the designs cannot be directly traced to blooms as we know them. Sure, there were floral prints and flowers, but there were no petal sleeves or tulip skirts. There weren’t even rosettes! That is perhaps why flowers had to be worn as head gear and on top of the clothes the way you would decorate pavilions of a garden wedding. But when you take away the flowers, do you still have poetry?

Designer Bhubawit Kritpholnara clearly has a predilection for the theatrical, often bordering on the kitschy. Given the theme, it was, however, surprising he did not bring the garden indoors. Before the show began, the catwalk looked oddly rustic. It was lined with woven straw mats, giving the impression of a rural home somewhere upcountry.

When the models eventually appeared, I could see where the flowers went. They were festooned on braided hair, entwined over shoulders, or gathered at the waist. What happens when you try to delineate Carmen Miranda, but end up channeling Eliza Doolittle with too much to drink?

I have nothing against the use of nature’s beauties as bodily adornment. It does, however, bother me when flowers are garlanded and employed without considering the true creative value they could give. A bridal bouquet, for example, is never conceived independent of the bridal gown. I doubt anyone was expecting ikebana, but whoever created the floral works for Issue was no Sakul Intakul.

In the end, it was really fashion versus styling. And the latter won. The floral pieces (sunflowers as large as faces!), while no art themselves, so often overwhelmed the clothes that you could easily fail to notice how banal the garments were. Neither hippie nor Liberty nor Laura Ashley, the garden party frocks, baby-doll dresses, and house coats were, quite simply, unspectacular. It was more so minus a pastoral context, which if existent, could have meant something, considering the theme Flower Poem. By the end of the show, I tried not to see the kinship between Issue and Pratunam.

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