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LFW SS17: Isa Arfen

Friday 23 September 2016

Within the forgotten space of Ely’s Yard roof, a structure came to house vignettes of languid, easy scenes that played out on repeat within neat, taped off squares. Women leafed through old copies of Harper’s Bazaar, arranged white roses and shelled peas; within an alcove, two women swayed to the slow, soulful Ethio-jazz overhead.

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Within these squared stories, actions and their accompanying dress form a greater narrative of languid summer days, of exotic locales – and a place and time unique to each. Washing is hung and plants watered in cigarette pants and swirling, painted tops; inside women wear formal lengths and monochrome.

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Three friends braid one another’s hair in similar dress: loose, feminine lengths; bared shoulders; and prints inspired by the Omo Valley Tribe’s clay and kaolin body paints. These expressive tribal details, earthy and neutral, were cut into fabric like delicate paper snowflakes, or finger painted as prints.

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Portraits by Malian photographer Seydou Keita informed block colours and bold silhouettes. Poetic and primitive, there is an unencumbered elegance to the collection: exquisite details shown best through simple, feminine tailoring. A-line skirts fall in soft pleats, ballet bodies slip from shoulders and into ruffles; an insouciance rippling throughout Isa Arfen’s peaceful world.

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