BIFW 2011: Surprises at Asava

Two diffusion labels in a row at BIFW tonight. Asava showed ASV, a second line quite unlike its older sister, making the latter look like a step-sibling. By the time the fifth outfit appeared—a short, see-through, yellow plastic (yes, the stuff of shower curtains) cape worn over white short-sleeved shirt and bright blue hot pants—I knew something was out of step. By Asava standard, this was edgy!

I have no idea why Asava did not show the main line since in attendance were the label’s hi-so customers, but as the show went on, it was apparent that something different was sprouting after a new direction took root with the main line at last October’s BIFW show, when designer/socialite Polpat Asavaprapha had the benefit of two new design assistants.

This evening, I saw some technical aspects to the clothes I had not seen before. A shift with contrast yoke and pintucks running diagonally from the bust to the front? A nibbed-in-the-waist dress with assymetric neckline and bodice of folds? A round-neck blouse with carefully positioned darts to give the top its shoulder-fitting form? How Asava were they? You would have thought you sat at the wrong show!

Although ASV, at first, looked like another story, the pieces collectively do not encourage you to think that he was attempting to rewrite the playbook. Rather, he was just going by other books, those you find at Basheer’s. These are trend-correct clothes. They reflect the mood of the season, the runways elsewhere. Colourful? Check. Casual? Check. Short? Check!

Of course, many of the pieces still reflect the Asava aesthetic: one-shoulder dresses, draped numbers, and belted coaties (and his love for satiny fabrics), all for an imagined high style in the high life. Mr Asavaprapha is an old soul, and his love for old-fashioned glamour is not unlike Oscar de la Renta’s. And with such hands, it would be quite difficult, misguided even, to try to follow the footsteps of New York modernes such as Alexander Wang, Gurung Prabal, and compatriot Thakoon Panichgul.

Mr Asavaprapha has always tried to remind us of his connection to New York City, where he had once worked, with a fondness for naming his collections after the Big Apple, such as last year’s inexplicable The Manhattan Collage. ASV, titled And It’s All Good, interestingly (and unconvincingly), was inspired by Italian photographer/graphic designer Paolo Grassi, but it can’t escape the brand’s NYC leanings. The reference is not literal, of course, and only fragmentary at best, but one does not have to be so direct to have an effect.

A sculptor does not make a masterpiece by casting it from a mold of a human figure. Compeling sculptures do come from both hand and heart.

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