A scene in Julian Barnes 2019 novel “The Man in the Red Coat” describing pioneering Belle Epoque gynecologist Samuel-Jean Pozzi traveling to London to shop at its department stores was the springboard for the Wooyoungmi spring collection.
“Around the same time, you had strong, intelligent, smart women like Marie Curie,” said creative director Woo Young Mi, who was intrigued by the contradiction between these two prominent scientists — one an extravagant man and the other a scholarly woman.
From the Nobel Prize winner, she took the Art Nouveau volutes that adorn her award certificate, the glowing green of radium and early protective gear made of thick canvas.
The juicy carmine red from John Singer Sargent’s portrait of Pozzi. Dandy elements included sculptural cuts and opulent textures reinterpreted in modern materials, such as a crushed velvet expressed via crinkled nylon. Familiar to the Wooyoungmi world were the distinctive L-shaped shoulder line of jackets, the modern sports utility gear and smart denims.
Woo’s continued pursuit of a shared wardrobe led her to abandon distinctions such as gendered buttoning, also layering the opulent and the utilitarian on the same silhouette, worn indifferently by male and female models, sometimes appearing together in the same outfits.
Lab coats became short-sleeved utility shirts worn with shorts. Radiation hoods became bolero hoodie jackets. Bishop sleeves amped up the drama of a long, striped poplin shirt while a parka executed in powder blue crinkled nylon looked ready for a night at the opera. Waist-cincher belts pulled sleeveless hoodies with a glow-in-the-dark logo or tailored parkas closer to the body.
Playing on the era’s name, the slogan of “Chacun mérite sa Belle Epoque,” “everyone deserves their own beautiful time” in French, appeared on T-shirts and bags, while the brand’s logo was given an Art Nouveau makeover.
Set against the backdrop of Antwerp train station being gently distorted through CGI for the season’s film, the collection felt of the moment, yet ageless.