The duo behind Ka Wa Key are like two sides of the same coin: Jarno Leppanen’s focus lies in the communication of brand message via visuals, film and performances, while Ka Wa Key Chow, a graduate of the Royal College of Art’s fashion menswear, creates the design. This season, only their sixth collection, they have found the fine balance of presentation and choreographed performance, creating the perfect platform to showcase their combined poetic language.
The collection, inspired by images of handsome and mysterious buddhist monks, focuses on the idea of reincarnation and rebirth. “The main character explores the idea of wanting to belong and to be part of something,” explains Leppanen. “It is a reflection of a journey of a mind and how everything in one way or another is a full circle,” Indeed the brand is no stranger to shifting forms, having already shown at fashion weeks in Shanghai and New York, they are now back on schedule in the city where it all began.
“We had this idea that one of the monks dreams about being a model for the late Chinese Photographer Ren Hang”
During the presentation, three male dancers perform exquisite pirouettes and balletic whirls, showcasing delicate dungarees made from colourful Irish linen resembling denim. Bodies shudder as they interact with listless models wearing the brand’s signature hand-painted fabrications, finished with techniques such as devoré. This season includes knitted tunics, scarves and bags, all slung nonchalantly against oversized jackets and loose trousers, shorts and underwear. One model wears a standout orange raincoat, embellished with vibrant jellied dyes, inspired by the earthy tones of the buddhist muse.
The performance itself was a collaboration framed, choreographed and co-directed with Bryn Williams, as well as input from the performers. “We wanted the story and relationship to evolve between the dancers, who improvised their movements and gave their own development to the story,” Leppanen says. In one of the most emotional shows on schedule, the dancers take us on a multitude of journeys, different every time. Metaphysical and sensual explorations of life, love and suffering, culminating in a breathtaking series of exchanges and distorted embraces reminiscent of Michelangelo's Pieta.
“We had this idea that one of the monks dreams about being a model for the late Chinese Photographer Ren Hang,” Leppanen adds. Amid the daydreaming monks and wistful, longing gazes, SS19’s presentation highlights just how perfectly the symbiotic artistry inherent in the brand works, in this seamless blend of performance and product.