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IA London: Beautifully Broken

There are times when the beauty lies in the emphasis given to the wounds/scars. Whether physical or emotional, the result is an experience that undoubtedly transforms the individual from the inside out. In these last years, we can say that we have also been transformed: affected, broken, and changed in a hard process to which we have had to adapt without the option to choose which pain or challenge to endure and which not to endure…building resilience. “After the last two years, I think we all feel a little broken”, reads the press release from independent avant-garde label IA London (@ia_london) by designer Ira Iceberg (@iraiceberg), who for this season was inspired by the Japanese art of Kintsugi for her latest collection called “Beautifully Broken“.

Before we talk about the collection… what is Kintsugi? In fairly general terms it refers to an ancient Japanese art in which the emphasis is on repairing cracked and broken pottery with lacquer (urushi) and the join is finished with decorative gold or silver powder [‘kin’=gold, ‘tsugi’=joinery]. The aesthetic appeal of kintsugi is due to its unique use of gold or silver overlay on urushi lacquer, which emphasizes the breakage and repair as part of the object’s history and canonizes the beauty of imperfection, which embellishes the appearance of the original ceramic object. This endows the pieces with great appreciation, as owners and repairers take pride in the restored piece, as the obvious damage shows the time and care invested in the repair.

This practice is said to be related to two Japanese concepts: wabi-sabi (侘寂) and mottanai (もったいない). Wabi-sabi demands finding beauty in the flawed or imperfect while mottainai expresses regret when something is wasted. Kintsugi repairs offer a visible result and a philosophical argument to darning as a celebration that cannot be limited to the traditional understanding of repair (no visible traces that the object was repaired), turning the “new” piece, now endowed with a new visual, tactile and emotional experience, into visible accounts of the life of a user and their object.

To conclude and continue with the collection, what if we were to take the concept to the human being as an object…his body, his mind, his being. How would such art look as applied to the body, which, with the turbulent, changing, and eventful panorama that began two years ago, has undoubtedly been broken?

Beautifully Broken: The collection

“Beautifully Broken” featured ready-to-wear pieces and some other conceptual garments to the Kintsugi theme, crafted from recycled samples from the brand’s previous collections. Black was the predominant color throughout the collection as if the color choice was made to reference kuro urushi (black lacquer known for its fantastic sheen and depth) as background color, or the timelessness of the body. The appeal of the pieces was emphasized by the interplay between the three-dimensional elements, and juxtaposition of original imagery that adorned the pieces:

  • floral-themed elements in different presentations and dimensions: large-scale natural flower patterns placed on different parts of the garments; a floral radiography pattern with protruding threads to resemble the three-dimensionality of the stems; and frontal and lateral x-ray images of skulls and chests interposed with flowers in sections that might be assumed to be injuries.
  • series of original printed artworks such as the “Fallen Man” asymmetric long jacket and the “Masculine” net top and leggings, which provided a unique personalization for this season.
  • reference to Rei Kawakubo: Kawakubo’s silhouette on one of the pieces was accompanied by the phrase “her energy comes from freedom…her energy comes from her” (similar to the Japanese designer’s phrase “my energy comes from freedom”).

Many of these patterns gave the appearance of being broken and at the same time united, referencing both the theme of Kintsugi and that of the brokenness and resilience that human beings have experienced in recent years.

An a la carte personalization that gives rise to truly unique designs, our own Kintsugi pieces “repaired”/personalized by the designer, highlighting their artistic value and encouraging self-expression. The looks were completed with the iconic Trippen footwear, also designed around the concept of the ancient Japanese art.

Taking her vision for this collection to another level, Iceberg used the Chance Operations method to define the connecting order of the pieces; the method is based on the term introduced by John Cage to designate techniques that open up the compositional process to chance. “Merce Cunningham and John Cage mastered the method in choreography and music; it has never been applied to fashion, and I was interested in trying it out,” the designer commented in her show notes.

The presentation of the collection was no ordinary one, as it marked the designer’s official debut on the LFW calendar. Being a special occasion, the designer held her own initiation ritual, as the runway show took place at the Mandrake Hotel, under the Liana Verderocce Black Tree, inspired by the intoxicating South American ceremonial tree and its hallucinogenic grains, which indigenous cultures and shamans have used for thousands of years in healing and religious rituals.

While very few designers have carried part of the Kintsugi concept in their collections, we only found with Iceberg’s collection a new and profound way to apply it.  The name of the collection is undoubtedly very attractive and appropriate, but at the same time, it gives food for thought in many ways, because what in fashion can be beautiful if it is, so to speak, broken? But… perhaps in the case of the collection, the designer suggests that broken is not damaged, but that what is broken is transformed. A transformation in a person’s view about their life, a Kintsugi of the body and mind: a repatterning/reprocessing of one’s self.

Through the floral motifs that adorn the various pieces between the patterns of the skull x-ray views, along with models of different ages decorated with full and half-golden scars, beautiful does not necessarily have to be young and perfect (without flaws)…a beautiful mess full of imperfections, and scars highlighted by time, exposed vulnerabilities celebrated as parts of one’s new self.

Undoubtedly, it is a collection that leaves us a lot to think about. On a personal note, I wonder what the collection would have been like if it had been for men?

“Beautifully Broken at PFW

Did you miss the show during LFW? Don’t worry, you may have the chance to see pieces from the collection again at Paris Fashion Week, as IA London has partnered with renowned Parisian showroom NO SEASON (@noseasonshowroom) for the Fall 22 sales campaign. The collection will be available at No Season from March 2-8 at 8 bis rue de Braque – 75003 Paris.

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