I love the post-fashion month time, because it’s the right moment to look closer at collections coming from smaller brands that often deliver more substance than the usual, runway big-players. For a couple of seasons now, I’m in absolute awe with Renaissance Renaissance, created by Lebanese designer Cynthia Merhej. Last spring, Merhej told the story of runaway princess searching for a life of her own making. For autumn-winter 2023, the Renaissance Renaissance designer continued that charming story, imagining her heroine weathering the winter months in a makeshift wardrobe made of pre-existing and new materials. But as conductive as that narrative is to Merhej’s own storytelling, the most compelling story she has to tell is her own. “This season I started playing with this idea of transformational garments,” Merhej told Vogue. “I was looking again at the lifestyle of this princess, who may be too poor to buy two dresses so she makes something she can get more wear out of.” The personal side of that story, however, is that Merhej was looking to reconnect with her own sense of playfulness and independence in creating after a period of unresolvedness and evolution. The piece opening this ethereal lookbook is a deadstock pinstripe vest with a stylized cape, which unbuttons from the collar to become a bubble-hem train. This idea is replicated in a sweetheart neckline LBD, its capelet romantically tied around the neck, and on an upcycled fur stole worn as a strapless top. Merhej used mink fur from a vintage coat for some of these special pieces, paneling the material for the stole or dividing it in thin strips to use as accents in a gauzy silk skirt or wool double-breasted A-line coat. “The woman I’m designing for is very free,” Merhej said, “she doesn’t want to be tied down to anything, she’s experimental and playful.” As much as her convertible designs – most part of her Atelier program, which consists of one of a kind pieces – adhere to this ideal, it’s in her ready-to-wear that the designer is truly bridging the gap between her storytelling and her customer. A blush pink skirt and top set, as well as a khaki tailored jacket with matching skirt, are highlights.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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