Dangerous but harmless is the oxymoron which opens the show notes for Dawei’s AW’19 runway at Paris Fashion Week. Taking place in the impressive art space Palais de Tokyo on Avenue President Wilson, it’s a fitting choice given Dawei’s own artistic leanings. As the home to the Federation’s Designers Apartment initiative - a support system to help Paris-based brands to accelerate commercially - it’s also a more practical choice (Dawei is back for his second season on the platform).
Informed by a childlike interpretation of wild animals, AW’19 is inspired by a simple idea: “ferocious beasts that look very dangerous but in reality are harmless.” According to the former artistic director of Cacharel, it’s all about perception - looking beyond first impressions. After a very long wait and the arrival, aptly enough, of many four-legged guests, we get our first impressions: an opening run of models encased in heavy yet elegant wool suits. Wide, overhanging, asymmetrical collars countered by elongated coattails made for unusual silhouettes.
Next out, a glimpse of the animal - a childish scrawl on a sleeve picked out in pink with an amber mane snapped at an arm. Further references were seen in large slashes which ravaged coloured knits worn over relaxed skirting, leaving long elegant billowing frays to add a post-scuffle touch.
This collection continues Dawei’s exploration of urban tailoring in materials and shape: fabrics are nipped or gathered in folds, falling delicately; suiting is deconstructed and shoulders rounded. He is devoted to the joy of construction and his urban, minimal tailoring is the perfect pairing for Parisian fashionistas.
He explains: “I like to build and deconstruct a garment. I like to challenge the fabrics through the shape to find a silhouette which is at once dynamic, new and always feminine.” There is a touch of the 1980s here too, though fresh - here used as a springboard to the future. Checks and stripes are back (most convincingly on knee-socks) giving scholarly order to the line-up.
Returning to perception, Dawei adds, “things are not always as we imagine they are. You have to know how to look beyond appearances, dig to discover the truth.” Glib perhaps. Yet, watching a collection transition from Winter staples to garments where spiky bones are crafted from asymmetrical ruffles and pleats - it seems almost profound.