Playful Derision. Marie Adam-Leenaerdt AW23

One of the hottest Paris Fashion Week runway debuts belonged to Marie Adam-Leenaerdt. Although considered a newcomer by the industry, she in fact was a ready-to-wear designer at Demna’s Balenciaga for a couple of seasons. The Belgian designer presented her collection in what she called a “soulless” conference room. This arguably male domain was a foil for her sophisticated women’s designs, which might have read as bougie if there weren’t something so “off” about them – like jackets with small shoulders that slanted toward the chest, strange geometric silhouettes, and the collection’s hero pieces – oats with standing lapels. Adam-Leenaerdt style is all about hints of playful derision. But there’s nothing gimmick-y about it: her garments are trendless, and appeal with the strength of the cut, the precision of the construction, and the luxury of the materials. There’s been a lot of discussion about the female gaze as it applies to “sexy” dressing; Adam-Leenaerdt seemed to be turning hers to ideas around femininity and propriety. This is a very covered-up collection that reconstructs a woman’s curves into geometries of enveloping drapes, with proportions either blown-up or shrunken. A dress that seems to have a box inside of it is tied with a couture bow, other dresses seem to have three arms. There’s a deliberate domestic aspect to Adam-Leenaerdt’s work. Women have often been relegated to the home, but she wants to transform and celebrate ordinary aspects of life – “to reveal the beauty in the ‘has-been’ elements of the daily world, to divert them, to have fun with them.” To that end Adam-Leenaerdt reimagined a folded table napkin as a white dress, and she fashioned dresses out of tablecloths. Her aim, it seems, is to make us engage with what is immediately around us, by taking something known, a code or a silhouette, and giving it a subtle strangeness that makes you stop and adjust your vision.

Follow the designer on Instagram: @marlastar

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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