Sharp Edits #Ten

...Basel and its creativity, diversity and complexity

by Mariel Reed
There is something to be said for the creative communities in smaller European cities. Often I find that they are excellent advocates for working together, as one. I guess when there aren’t too many of them, creatives come together and seem to make a much bigger impact, with their whole community’s support. If not for the influence of the breath-taking medieval architecture juxtaposed to modern marvels, Basel in particular must be noted for its own creative community. Basel’s beauty was not the only highlight of my weekend trip to this historic Swiss city.

March 17th marked the Institute for Fashion Design Basel, Academy of Art and Design’s first ever reinterpretation of ‘The Fashion Show’. The fashion course’s Creative Director Priska Morger took the phrase, ‘Doing Fashion’, and translated it into a series of performances specifically choreographed by Alexandra Bachzetsis to represent each graduate’s collection. Models, dancers and some of Basel’s handsome inhabitants performed and showed what it means to ‘do fashion’.

 The shows achievements in delivering fashion in such an unconventional form were debated during the VIP dinner, but I thought its success was in its ability to convey fashion to an unconventional yet conventional audience.  Unconventional in the sense that most of the attendees were not your regular, black-donning fashion folk. Conventional in the sense that everyday people were able to watch the show in excitement, intrigue and awe. Basel’s community of supporters and professionals cheered loudly as the show went on.

 There was some validity in the point made that the audience did not have the best opportunity to see the clothes. With a catwalk show, viewers can see an entire collection with an allotted time to study each look. The ‘Doing Fashion’ show conveyed more of an essence of each collection, showcasing highlights from each and adding movement, which allowed the audience to see what the garments looked like on a body doing other things besides walking.  A few of the students were left unhappy. Some performances only displayed one look, but the point of the show was to make fashion interesting; to take movement and portray fashion as an action.

 Cosima Gadient took an entirely different approach to presentation. Each of her seven models was stood high amongst the audience on spotlighted chairs. The inspiration for her collection was the femme-fatale; a strong woman “with an aggressive attitude, but in a sexy way”. Cosima creates variations of baseball caps adorned with lace or fringe and iconic bomber jackets, which are floor length. These pieces represent the stereotypical male strength that these women have embodied.

 It was all in the details with Tosca Wyss and her elegantly clean menswear collection. Although the pieces may look simple from afar, each is made with uniquely fine detailing such as a double collar on a shirt or a hidden button on trousers, taking  “strictly coded garments out of context and piece [ing] them together to a new entity”. Her performance consisted of boys dancing, to varying degrees of intensity, showing the versatility and styling of the collection.

 The graduates’ collections were impressively complex. One Graduate, Jennifer Gadient created double silhouettes using clear, inflatable plastic garments. Her collection was inspired by the word ‘immersion’, the idea of being fully absorbed in something—in this case, your clothes. Through a clear, inflated PVC parka, you can see an entirely different shape forming from the clothing the model wore underneath, displaying a combination of modern and traditional materials.

 Although Marlen Keller’s idea was simple, her work certainly was not. By creating a gigantic red rectangle that spanned across 5 of her looks, Marlen created 7 (5 used during her performance) individual looks that worked together as one. Marlen also used a technique to erase the fabric. By adding a solution to the cotton-blend, she was able to wash away parts of the cotton, leaving intricate circular and striped patterns.

 With such different collections, it is apparent that the students at the Institute for Fashion Design Basel have spent quite some time focusing on self-discovery. Anna Tirinzoni came to the Institute for that exact reason. By the end of her studies, Anna had created a manifesto by which, she positioned her final collection, based on the principles of brotherhood, the Japanese Yakuza and revealing duality within identity. Her manifesto included tenets such as, “Our appearance has a strong attraction, as a group or as individuals – we see ourselves as an individual unity.” And “We do not show everything. We keep our secrets.”

Each student's work was welcomed by an enthusiastic audience; one that had come to enjoy the show. Although Basel is a small city, it certainly didn't feel that way. The stadium seating suggested--and proved a large turnout. Members of all walks of life came out in support of the graduates. The designers themselves varied too, in style, concept and ideas for the future. One student has applied to the Royal College of Art in London.

The diversity among the students was a sign to me that although this community was small, everyone is accepted, and divergence is encouraged. If only we could see this happen in the fashion capitals. Not one person came to the show to be seen. Each was there to see the show and support the graduating designers.