In a primarily visual world, Paula Canovas del Vas strives to make her Spring-Summer 2023 collection a multi-sensorial experience. Guests walk under a tall table with a transparent surface, observing the models as they prepare food that resembles pieces in the collection, before ascending steps to a mezzanine where the culinary pursuits are on full display. With reference to films like La Grande Bouffe and The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover; art installations such as Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party; and architectural theory tomes, del Vas has conceived a presentation that transports guests to a new vantage point for consuming fashion.
Amidst this scene, the Spanish designer’s feast for the eyes is easily digestible. An eclectic palette for texture, elastic fabrics are used to tame inelastic forms on skirts; mesh is engineered over denim to create softness; knitwear and accessories feature embossed details that imbue them with a synthetic but almost edible quality; ruched details distort the bodies’ form, the silhouette of denim skirts are molded into curvilinear lines to resemble her signature devil horns shape, the diablo. Throughout the lineup, she shows a propensity for homespun, deconstructed shapes and textural styling,
Speaking over Zoom from her Shoreditch apartment, Del Vas’s insatiable hunger for a visceral experience comes from a belief that “fashion is something that we carry with us and that we experience in a multisensorial way, but most of us consume it through our phones with just our eyes.”
Would you describe yourself as an explorer?
When I think of exploration, I think of research, and that’s one of my favourite things. I spend time reading, and cinema is a big inspiration for me. I’m trying to find new things from a technical standpoint but also in the way we present the show. Can we can try to showcase fashion in a way that feels fresher, in a way that people can connect with more, where the audience is involved more actively?
Tell us more about the presentation.
The installation and the way we present fashion is very important to me. I’ve been reading about the senses, how we experience fashion and how we consume fashion. I thought, ‘What if we invited people to come and eat the collection, where the models will be cooking the collection for the audience/’ We’re partnering with chef Zelikha Dinga (she is widely followed as @Caro_Diario on Instagram), who will create replicas of the collection with food. Cristina Ramos is working on the set design. Moeko Nakamura is working on sculptural nails inspired by our shoes. Pierre Rousseau is creating sound for the installation, which will be divided in different layers across the two floors, creating a different sensation as guests move upstairs.
How do you think people will react?
The fashion system and the way the collections are presented have [remained] the same for many years, even if you look back to Balenciaga in the 1950s. Clothes are intrinsic to how we express ourselves and it’s something that we carry with [us] each day. I find it so strange that there’s a detachment between the audience and the clothes and the models. It’s why I like to play with concepts… How can we not only make clothes in a sustainable, good quality way but how can we show them to people? How can we play with and distort the way people are used to interacting with fashion? I’m always interested in creating something and letting the public do what [they] want from there. I wanted this to be the main point because it’s our first time on the official calendar, [and] because this philosophy is key to the brand. and I want people to recognise us for that. It’s funny because, you’ve got this concept, you tend to give models freedom [to inhabit the space], you put it out there, and whatever people do with it is out of your control. It can take many different paths. Everyone has done shows sitting on benches, so this will be intimate and fun.
In what ways are you exploring new materials, methods, and technology each season — or with this collection, specifically?
Most of our garments are made using deadstock fabric. This season, I was very interested in making something that was big and constraining it into something small. We started playing with an elasticated fabric on top of something that is not elasticated, and then [trying to] shrink the fabric and seeing what happens. I tend to overwhelm myself with ideas and thoughts, so I like to constrain myself in other ways. I love to explore with textures like juxtaposing mohair with shiny latex, putting mesh over denim, mattes with shines.