Uma Wang’s SS’19 collection shows a calm, mature confidence and is a clear sign that this Chinese designer has clearly settled into her slot on the Paris schedule after previous outings at Milan and Shanghai. While many of her contemporaries rely upon the false theatricality of industry buzz, filling their front rows with high profile individuals that misdirect from what might be lacking in a show, Wang’s restraint in this area indicates a refreshing integrity.
This is reflected in an austere and authentic stagecraft. Theatrics are eschewed for the undressed backdrop of the church of Saint Medericus. Its Gothic interior partially under construction, scaffolding adds an uncanny, modern-installation vibe which sits uneasily with the interior of the church’s nave: indeed, nestled alongside the Pompidou Centre, the venue is as much cultural conduit as functioning church. This juxtaposition of the traditional and the contemporary is at the heart of the mechanics of Wang’s thinking, and of Chinese fashion more generally.
The collection itself is no surprise: Wang’s style rarely wavers from its commitment to a draped, amorphous, regal aesthetic. Yet with each collection, she manages to infuse her approach with new subtleties. This season is no different. The 33 looks presented call to mind a tapestry of colonial histories, rich with colourful depictions of strong female characters; the decision to play freely with various signifying codes, drawn from radically alternate periods of dress history, allows for unexpected combinations and quotations to take place. Tailored, masculine suiting is subverted with flourishes of femininity such as a ruffled cape or ruched, layered skirting. Slouchy silhouettes - Wang’s signature shape - appear roundly voluminous and billowy, detailed with oversized pockets or long sleeves, sometimes redundant and hanging limp on the body.
Themes of travel offer images of nomads and voyagers. Models carry large, striped bags asymmetrically on either shoulder. Rather than weighing down, these accessories seem to almost empower their wearers with the journey’s potential. These are wayfarers dressed for comfort: even the eveningwear is roomy and practical yet in sumptuous printed fabrics. Wang expert use of colour ranges from pure white and creams which pass into muted caramels and fawns; dusty pinks and rusts are punctuated with pops of black until the collection culminates in arresting blocks of reds and golden sunsets.
Wang is as much a storyteller as she is a designer, building on the same narrative each season but in a slightly different way. While many designers plunder history, Wang respectfully allows it to shape her sagacious vision. As the show notes state: “A new force is twisted with the local vitality, and some flashback memories from far away are overlapping with a new reality.”