Mixing politics – and especially protest movements – with fashion runs the risk of looking somewhat disingenuous, the idea being that to commercialise and commodify social movements can serve to undermine their message. But – for better or worse – this is something that has been cropping up this season, from the perpetual eco/ethical manifestos of Vivienne Westwood to Chloe Sevigny at Opening Ceremony who was influenced by, among other things, the Occupy movement. There seems something perverse about turning an anti-capitalist movement into high-end fashion, but fashion can and does reflect the social climate and here that is no exception. So finding the 1968 protests in France as the core influence behind the Heohwan Simulation show was not as surprising as it may have been in a season when political and social discord was not so high on the fashion agenda.
Heohwan Simulation, the label set up in 2010 by Korean-born designer Hwan Heo, managed to sidestep any overt politicisation by focusing on editorial spreads and key fashion editors from his chosen year of social unrest. Research consisted of fashion magazines from 1968, which combined with images from the protests formed the basis of collage prints that appeared on silk tops and trousers. Other motifs came through in biker details on jackets rendered in non-traditional fabrics that added a spirit of rebellion, and the repeated oversize funnel neck that felt like a nod to images of Beatniks and existentialists from 1960s Paris. Pierre Cardin’s cocoon shapes were also a central reference for the silhouette, which was updated by the use of velvet patchwork and fur detailing.
Multi-award winner Hwan Heo is clearly interested in the narratives that clothing can construct – this collection is the fourth of the Heohwan Simulation Critique Collection Project, a ten year vision that aims to re-tell stories from fashion and social history each season. With a clean aesthetic that sits well with a contemporary audience, Hwan’s fanbase is growing fast. And with a style doesn’t rely too heavily on direct historic references it will be interesting to see which era he turns his hand to next.
Runway photography: Marc Aitken