When Gary Bigeni does a print he makes sure to do it right. Clean and simple - just like his label - he takes traditional shapes and infuses them with his own brand of graphic modernism, so at odds with his personal style. The stripe from last year's collection, shown at RAFW to rapturous attention and raucous applause, garnered something of a cult following among those in the know. Last season's graphic dot print, emblazoned in blue and black across classic shirting is getting much airtime at the moment on the streets of fashion week. And this collection, with its blown out dots, overlapping and intersecting with reckless abandon like a big finger flip to colour-blocking - not to mention those elongated stripes in beige and black stretched languidly across silk-mix sweaters - is exactly the same. Dots and stripes. Who would have thought?
Bigeni's current collection - titled 'Fractured Appeal' and showcased with the no-muss, no-fuss approach to staging that is becoming his signature - explored this idea of the contrasting, competing levels of personality vying or attention. The perfect dot prints and the perfect stripes jostled against each other, sometimes in the same looks, with his staple draped cocktail dresses, base-ball sleeve tee shirts and fluid line maxi-dresses dispersed throughout the collection like reminders both of where he started and how far he has come. A boy who stays true to his roots is rare, but Bigeni's roots in classic tailoring and an impressive, almost sensual appreciation of a woman's body and use of the bias cut are nothing to be sniffed at. What is more fascinating is how, season after season, Bigeni manages to satisfy his large and ever-growing customer base both with the trademark items they have come to love and, in the exact same breath, something completely fresh and new that captures their attention. Here and there eyes were growing wide over the tailored trousers and the pencil skirts with side-slits, but they were also getting excited over the matching contrast-sleeve shirts, which looked as if Bigeni had dipped them in dye from cuff to elbow. Or indeed the full-skirted dirndl, shaped like 1950s housewife fodder but in the glossiest, buttery-smooth leather that it was almost sinister. No housework would be done while wearing that skirt.
How does he do this? Every single year. Every single year Bigeni manages to surprise the crowd who think they know what will come. Every single year Bigeni manages to take their breath away. It could be something simple, like just how wonderful that interlocking dot print could be, kind of kooky but totally charming like Bigeni himself. Or it could be just the simplicity of the colour scheme - orange and black and blue and grey - totally carefree and without any theatrics whatsoever. It's easy to forget - especially during fashion week - that there are some designers who can just do what they do, and do it well, consistently and without fanfare, every. single. year. But then you take your seat at a Gary Bigeni show, and the lights go down, and the music starts up, and you wonder how you ever dressed without him.
1. Collage images from Vogue, watercolour by me, 3. Graphics from Gary Bigeni invite designed by Rohan, all other images by me.
Words by Hannah-Rose Yee
Words by Hannah-Rose Yee