The first word of Francesco Risso’s show notes was made up — we had to double check. The designer riffed on the idea of an imagined anti-infective drug, tachitropirina, penned as an antidote to an array of afflictions: Fauvism, chromatic delirium, tropicalism, overconsumption of ayahuasca. Counter-indications included “total incapacity for activism.” A listed side effect was “tree-hugging.”
It would have taken a serious dose of any tranquilizer, real or imagined, to pacify the designer’s frenzied exploration of colors and patterns. Shown between a cluster of palm trees made of wood pulp, cellulose fiber and old clothing, under leaves of recycled plastic, Risso presented his most conceptual collection yet.
The first couple of looks were covered in hand-painted patterns, manic brushstrokes coating tiered skirts and simple cotton puff-sleeved blouses with bold floral prints scribbled onto the fabric. Looking past the busy prints, one noticed long, buttoned dresses and wrap skirts were knotted at the front and twisted around waists, giving the impression of bodies protectively wrapped. Some looks featured painted plastrons, covering the front of the body with swirling patterns while the models’ back stayed bare, almost vulnerable.
Colors like bright pink and zingy orange popped on smooth leather skirts, contrasted with a pristine cotton underskirt just visible around the ankles, and were particularly pleasing on jewel-toned satin dresses. There was a rawness to the silhouettes, most of which were left unhemmed. Knits were ripped at the shoulders and sleeves. The models wore cheap-looking plastic flip-flops and sported either white paint covering their hair, or eerie contraptions made of painted dry flowers and pieces of string.
The looks were divisive. Could they be compared to an overenthusiastic art project, or were they the purest expression of a liberated sexiness? Botanical prints were anything but sweet: some of the painted plants snaking up a boxy leather jacket with thick lapels looked almost childish, the paint barely sticking to the ridges and creases in the material. Crudely stitched flowers creeped up an orange net dress, but were stopped by a clavicle-revealing scoop neckline.
There was beauty in the mess of paint. Risso’s euphoric jumble of shapes and doodles proved that seduction doesn’t have to be sleek and controlled. For all their noise, they didn’t override the women wearing them. They might have even helped them shine.