A Wonderland Wander

July 17, 2014

by Gracia Ventus

Comme des Garçons via The Rosenrot | For The Love of Avant-Garde Fashion

There’s a small town in West Sussex called Petworth, and in the middle of it lies a national heritage site called Petworth Park and House. We got there on a bike through the beautiful English countryside, which was blooming in yellows and purples as spring was giving way to summer. Despite the terribly small size of the town, the first thing I noticed when we arrived was the significant number of luxury cars parked by its centre. And there were more furniture shops selling posh wares in such a small area than any other place I’ve ever been to.

During the bike ride I had to wear a proper riding jacket for safety reasons. I had my Comme des Garçons coat packed in the bike case to change into as soon as we got off. As windy and cold as the ride was, I was kept very much warm and toasty in the jacket, which was incredibly light despite its protective qualities. Once I changed into my wool coat, however, I realised that the bloody sunlight wasn’t accompanied by heat. Sure, all those photons were blazing strongly as you can see in the pictures, but what you couldn’t tell was how much I shivered most of the time as I was walking about. It was probably around ten degrees Celsius, which I reckon would be a comfortable temperature for you temperate climates lot to prance around in. I might as well have been walking about in the South Poles, at the rate I was sneezing.

So anyway. Petworth House. It looks like a palace in the photo but really it’s consideredjust a manor with many rooms. Once a private property that was inherited from a member of the royal family, it has now been handed over to the National Trust. It houses several important art pieces, notably from J.M.W Turner – one of England’s most revered landscape painters. The manor is built on a private ground 700 acres wide, 7 times larger than Winnie the Pooh’s neighbourhood. As I walked on the undulating hills, around the lake, through the bushes and trees and back to the mansion again which loomed majestically in front of me, I had a faint idea why the ruling class was at the butt end of resentment of the peasantry. The feudal lords had all these huge fancy grounds handed to them by virtue of their bloodlines while the poor folks were dying of various poverty-related calamities. 10/10 would highly recommend this place as a picnic ground especially during high summer and maybe experience a bit of a Jane Austen moment.

Comme des Garçons via The Rosenrot | For The Love of Avant-Garde Fashion

Comme des Garçons via The Rosenrot | For The Love of Avant-Garde Fashion

Comme des Garçons via The Rosenrot | For The Love of Avant-Garde FashionComme des Garçons via The Rosenrot | For The Love of Avant-Garde Fashion

Now let’s get back to the subject of fashion. As I shivered and fidgeted and sneezed through my walk I began to wonder why my Comme des Garçons coat, thick and heavy as it was, failed to do the most basic job of protecting me against the elements, particularly when compared to the lightweight riding jacket. I do realise there is a difference in construction between both garments but I expected the bits of me that were covered to be somewhat warmer, but nope.

Then I pondered why functionality seem to be a low priority when it comes to designing avant garde clothes. In other branches of design such as furniture, interior, and visual communications etc, form usually follows function. But in fashion, aesthetics reign supreme in designers’ minds. The reason why I love the cold season is that I can wear my shearlings and leathers and wools and pile them on top of another to keep myself warm and cosy. Unfortunately they weigh so much that by the third hour I get visibly tired from trudging in all these layers. I suppose it’s the same with stilettos – comfort and experimental aesthetics are mutually exclusive. Or are they really? While high heels by virtue of design alone make walking more difficult than flats, clothing and textile design could potentially work hand in hand to produce radical designs that are also more functional than the current crop available to consumers. For example, I love boiled wool, but it can get incredibly heavy. I do wonder how hard it would be for textile designers to come up with the most luxurious wools that are extremely lightweight but still keep out the cold and moisture as well as say, gore-tex shell. Could Comme des Garçons create deconstructed garments in super light boiled wool? Would Rick Owens be capable of producing supple leather outerwear that are as warm as puffer jackets without the bulk? So far Gareth Pugh has shown that neoprene and leather can work hand in hand. And mixing elastane with leather is now so prevalent that every other label is making stretchy leather leggings. Not to mention the myriad of wonderful textile technology Issey Miyake has produced throughout the years. Yet I do believe there is still so much untapped potential in merging innovative textile design and cutting edge ideas to make comfortable weird clothes the norm rather than the exception.

These are just some preliminary thoughts that I have with regards to the subject hence I’m terribly sorry if I sound incoherent. If you have any views or examples pertaining to this matter, or about anything at all really, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment. Thank you again for reading my rapid fire gabble.

Comme des Garçons via The Rosenrot | For The Love of Avant-Garde Fashion
Wearing Comme des Garçons coat; Zara turtleneck; Yohji Yamamoto skirt; Damir Doma boots


10 thoughts on “A Wonderland Wander

  • nathalie

    by nathalie on July 17, 2014 at 4:39 pm

    10 degrees isn’t cold at all :)
    When it’s minus 5°c I pull out this really thick Pugh coat I have, but it’s so heavy. this one http://cdni.condenast.co.uk/320×480/Shows/AW2009/Paris/R-T-W/Gareth_Pugh/15m.jpg
    Like wearing a padded blanket. Still, I haven’t found a tech fabric that protects me better.
    But I must say, when buying clothes I definitely look for comfort, else you will not wear them as often. I didn’t used to and lived by ‘fashion over comfort’. But then I found out there’s no use in buying these gorgeous garments and luxurious fabrics if they’re going to stay in your closet.

    • Gracia Ventus

      by Gracia Ventus on July 26, 2014 at 2:37 pm

      Damn that is a nice coat from Pugh.

      Ugh yes I shrivel into a poor whimpering lump of meat in the mildest drafts while everyone else prances around in t-shirts :/
      I used to think the same way too in the beginning of my foray into designer fashion. Form first, functionality second, but the latter is now equally important, and sometimes more, when I’m considering my options.

      Anyway if I ever find myself in your neck of the woods I’ll let you know! Would love to have coffee with you :)

      • nathalie

        by nathalie on July 28, 2014 at 5:10 am

        The next time you’re in Antwerp ;)


    by ODYSSEY on July 18, 2014 at 12:16 am

    Good food for thought… I’ve wondered same at times, yet there seems to be no definitive answers. I find Rick Owens lightweight garments (aren’t all of his designs rather lightweight?) to be quite functional – for my climate, at least. Lovely scenery, pics, by the way.

    • Pret a Porter P

      by Pret a Porter P on July 18, 2014 at 1:08 pm

      I second Odyssey on this. I don’t think you can stop @ just 1 RO piece, because I feel like they actually intend for the clothing to be worn and used, especially with the deep pockets and washable knits. RO claims to wear his clothes to the gym after all. Also with RO I feel his clothes can be edgy but still elegant too because he has these Mdm Gres, old Hollywood references. And I think with his laid back Cali attitude that helps his things fly under the radar, where the true beauty of the garment is more for the wearer…if that makes sense. I saw an interview with him where he sort of says that he sometimes finds the way employees of the boutiques dress alienating to people.
      Norma Kamali also designs things that are innovative without being precious. Like RO she works well with terry/sweats. Issey Miyake as you mentioned, it’s impressive that their pleats can be washed. Where I have another pleated skirt that I’m scared to even take it to the dry cleaner for fear they will iron out the pleats. And when in doubt, there’s jewelry and bags, much easier to wear avant-garde accessories than the total look.

  • shesaidsomething

    by shesaidsomething on July 19, 2014 at 4:54 am

    You are right concerning form and function. This is also the case in Bauhaus design (which is why I love it – function is just as important as form, even more so). I don’t think these designers have enough technical knowledge to work with the body on a functional level. It would be easy to incorporate blended and technical fabrics to achieve function in addition to form. However, this is not the goal of these designers. Shame really.

    • Gracia Ventus

      by Gracia Ventus on August 6, 2014 at 5:14 pm

      They may not have the knowledge but I feel that at this point they have enough resources to look into it. Yes, It is a shame that a supreme level of comfort isn’t quite that high of a priority.

  • lis

    by lis on July 20, 2014 at 6:31 pm

    Live near the Alps and one has to adapt to wind, rain, snow, sun coming at you at any given time. Felt is breathable, non scratchy, warm, lightweight, water repellant. Not much Felt going down the runways….but its everywhere in the cultures surrounding the Alpine region. LOVE your clothes/closet. Put up an e-bay store and sell it! I want dibs!!! Shed those skins of yours! lol ;) Peace!

    • Gracia Ventus

      by Gracia Ventus on August 6, 2014 at 5:12 pm

      Oh yes I do love felt because it retains structure so well. Undercover and CdG used felt at some point but you’re right, it’s not the most popular fabric.

  • Lucinda

    by Lucinda on September 20, 2014 at 7:44 am

    Thoughtful observations and a fascinating post. I read this ages ago, as a dedicated follower of course, but neglected to leave a comment.

    I fall into the functionality trap all the time. I’m forever saying, I’m not cold, when I’m actually chilled to the bone. It isn’t quite about not having sufficient warm things, though the generally temperate weather in Sydney doesn’t require boiled wool, but rather that my style suits warmer, ‘transeasonal’ days. The reverse is also true, I know friends who suffer through heat because their personally crafted style dictates layers and often black. Therefore I find it isn’t ‘fashion’ over function, instead style over suitability. What does one do, migrate to Mexico during winter?

    If you have more thoughts on this, I’d be delighted to hear.


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