Saturday, June 22, 2013

Van Hongo, 2013 collections

It's that time of year again -- Izumi Hongo of Van Hongo has created two wonderful collections this year, and I'm reviewing both. All photos are courtesy of Izumi, and the complete lookbooks can be found on Van Hongo's website. My previous reviews of her work can be found here, here, and here.

Spring/Summer's Atelier Delight shows a departure from the previous ones in its generous use of prints and color . While the previous collections mostly contained solid pieces, here we see quite a  few prints:

The clash of color panels with stripes, horizontal and vertical, in the bright colors of Mexican serapes, is almost startling compared to the earlier collections, but the brightness is tempered by simple silhouettes in Van Hongo signature shapes -- most pieces are flowing and loose or columnar, none are particularly body-conscious or targeted toward a traditionally femme silhouette. I definitely appreciate this preference for the artful geometry over the commercial sexualization of female body. The now-familiar nod to androgyny is also present, in a very playful way:

Here we have an interesting use of a tie-like accessory, which both undermines and underscores the borrowed-from-the-boys but very feminine (without being too precious) look. (It is also worth noting that the pieces of Van Hongo's collections work well together -- they all can be combined with each other, making each collection as modular as Swedish furniture.)

Van Hongo's signature crossover tops and baggy trousers (executed in fluid jersey and stiffer cotton) are also present:

Some of the trousers looks are reminiscent of her previous collections, with new touches of coral pink and classic wine red; in others, the jackets are worn open and are longer than the previous version, creating the impression of the pulled-together insouciance.

And this is perhaps what I find so interesting about this collection: while a lot of pieces are modest and even work-appropriate, the use of color and accessories makes them more than their basic appearance would suggest:

Classic? Of course. Stodgy? Hardly! And may I have an "amen" to the pockets on that skirt?

Autumn/Winter's Softened Decoration is using heavier fabrics and more structured silhouettes, as one would expect in an AW collection, but the prints and silks make a return, for which I am grateful.

The print on this cardigan is almost Marni-esque, and the off-center buttons and silk fabric recast this fall staple as a true statement piece.

The print also works in a skirt, in the signature asymmetrical Van Hongo shape. Many of the pieces actually seem to be perennial favorites, such as Izumi's snuggly mohair knits:

There are a few of those, which are also available in the online shop. (Disclaimer: I have one of the long capes. It is an incredibly warm and comforting piece for a cold winter. Also, a useful tip to stop mohair from shedding: put it in a ziplock bag and freeze for 3 hours. Works amazingly well!)

The overall impression I get from Van Hongo's latest is the tendency to pare down the shapes:

While folded seams and neck detailing give the dresses above an unusual shape, it is still very simple, sheath-like silhouette. It is wearable but not boring, and I enjoy seeing that: it feels like artistic self-assurance when the flourishes can be kept minimal, and the geometry of the garments, their unique outlines are created by masterful tailoring. After all, is there a greater feat for a designer to make a shirt and pants outfit and yet make us want it as if it's something we've never seen before?

One of the joys spotting talent early is that one gets to watch how the creative development unfolds with time -- the change in the esthetics, the evolution of the color schemes and silhouettes. I am also thrilled to see that Van Hongo has an online shop now, and that the label is successful. I hope it continues to expand; I am looking forward to finding Izumi's pieces in boutiques stateside. And of course there's a certain thrill in saying, "I knew this label way back when!"

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