With the world seemingly falling apart around us, bleakness, conservativeness and regression (shoulder pads anyone?) are the order of the day. But will there be any room for experimentation in 2009? If New York-based menswear label Rochambeau’s look book is any indication, then the answer is yes.
The book is anything but conservative. The images of Rochambeau’s designs are entombed within two leather covers—interspersed with paragraphs of a 19th-century treatise on the occult—then treated with active metals that react to climate change and sunlight, and finally tied together with crumbling, 120-year-old silk. Designed in collaboration with the Keystone Design Union, the materiality of the construction is designed to literally devour itself over time. “It’s falling apart,” KDU’s president David Gensler admits. “As the seasons change, eventually when you pick it up, it will turn to dust.”
The experience of looking at such an eclectic, and often inscrutable, design book is balanced by the sobriety of the line. Hard fabrics, sharply defined silhouettes, a dull palette and stark symmetry come together to form a cautious but intricate collection, made abrasive by its own barrenness. “This season is about exoskeleton,” designer Michael Venker explains. “It’s the idea of something protecting the inner layer of a specimen’s body.”
Rochambeau and KDU’s courageous effort is a welcome change. The book and the collection work together, complementing one another, giving each other a definition, a purpose. The artistic sensibility, the willingness to push forward in spite of everything, even the fact that looking at the book makes you grin enthusiastically, make this multi-media collaboration one of the more interesting aspects of this season.
“Look books are so forward,” Venker says. “Even though we don’t have a runway show, it’s important to give people an experience when they view the collection. It’s a tangible experience.” Well, tangible while it lasts, at least. By the summer, Gensler and Venker’s living look book will vanish into the ether, the victim of its own design.