Bold Folds

Recently, on three occasions not far apart, three individuals wondered audibly if I had heard of Nutthida Palasak. My answer was not in the affirmative. Still, they would go on to ask what I thought of her work. When I was not able to comment, they continued to extol the creativity of her designs, leaving me to feel as if I had not kept abreast with those who were being buzzed as “Thai fashion’s hot new names to watch”.

While I did not consider mentions by these three to be something then trending, I was intrigued enough to want to see what the acclaim was all about. Ms Palasak, designing under her surname, is not yet a retail phenomenon, so asking some store buyers led nowhere. At Siam Center, our oldest outpost for serious Thai fashion, the search was futile. It seemed that the only place to view the clothes was at the brand’s website: napalasak.com.

Ms Palasak, who recently showed in Blueprint in Singapore, is definitely a newcomer. While she has participated in numerous fashion events before and after graduating with an MA in Fashion Promotion at Birmingham Institute of Art and Design (her BA in Fashion Design was attained at Srinakarinwirod University), her first full collection has a grad-show quality to it: an avant-garde zeal forged to charm examiners rather than consumers. You can’t mistake the origami-derived folds, so dramatically fashioned that it is not unreasonable to assume they are painstaking work. So after all the effort, do they look beautiful? Do the designs have a point of view?

Clothes in photographs are difficult to assess since they could be the result of a stylist’s intervention. On that note, it is annoying to see actual origami pieces (and other paperworks) used as props and accessories to underscore a design concept that is not at all vague. You see, the ‘tell’ must come with the ‘show’, perhaps indicating, lest we cannot guess, that Ms Palasak may have started her designs by first folding paper.

Applying the folds to the clothes results in pieces that are rather two-dimensional. On the model, they look flat, as if the fabrics were folded before there were sandwiched to be seamed into shapes that are largely concave in silhouette. Folding cloth to create a permanent crease yields hard lines on the garment, and in this case, forms sharp angles that seem to be at odds with the natural curves of the body. I suspect this is deliberate. To be sure, these are technically challenging garments, and Ms Palasak appears to have achieved some drafting feat. She does not keep things simple; she certainly does not keep them effortless.

Since the origami treatment appears, from what I have seen, only in the front of the garment, I fear the clothes may turn out to be front-heavy. I am curious to know what is at the back, what elements are used as a counterpoint to the obverse. Unless I get to the see the actual clothes, I may never know.

Photo: Palasak

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