Know Your Labels: Isa Arfen
In a new installment titled “Know Your Labels,” we highlight new fashion brands that deserve The Megaphone Treatment
A good designer informs the way you will dress, a great designer informs the way you will want to dress. During the process of great design though, when that which is in the hand of the artist becomes a transactional spoil at the hand of the consumer, where does the magical mental switch occur? The answer might be imbued with the notion that the newest crop of young designers to make not just noise but universally digestible music are redefining the sense of female power that has long been tethered to clothes.
When we get dressed, it is to express ourselves — to articulate the things we don’t want to say, or don’t know how to say. With time, the model for all of those expressions naturally experiences a shift if only because as we grow older and earn further liberties, our opinions change. The assumption, then, is that so too will our purported style cues. Where five years ago we may have been at the helm of an idea that hyper-literalized our femininity in conjunction with blatant sexuality, right now, that literalization is being scaled back. And if anything can stand as a proof of that concept, it’s the clothes we’re starting to respond to.
For me, first there was Rosie Assoulin — just two seasons later, the designer maintains that her clothes aren’t about fashion, they’re about a woman living in her most comfortable state of happy. If that seems esoteric, consider this: Assoulin has said, on more than one occasion, that her gauge of success is measured by whether or not she can make a girl feel elegant in sweatpants.
On a more casual plane, where Isa Arfen‘s clothes are concerned, beauty and wearability remain championing leads. What’s powerful about this sense of clothing being not about itself but much more something larger is that it doesn’t take drama or over styling, or an extensive spiel from the person behind the clothes to explain what they’re meant to convey.
In scanning the spoils of her last (and only) three seasons, it seems as though what started as a modern, utilitarian effort to use stereotypically formal fabrics (stiff satin in bubble gum pink and emerald green — constructed to fit a woman while maintaining an air of manliness) and unexpected silhouettes (gown blouses and t-shirts) became a further curtailed edit (refined chambray, denim, the layering of white blouses under navy and black crop tops and full skirts) for the following season, Fall 2013.
By the time Spring 2014 came around (which the designer just showed in Paris) there it was again — that very Assoulin-esque sense of a girl living in her most comfortable state of happy. But what constitutes that sense? Is it the way in which the clothes can — or do — just speak to you? The articulation you can feel but not quite talk about? Maybe it’s the seemingly reticent sense of sexy that ironically says it all.