A dense fog moves through the bleak, cavernous terrain. Is this some real, faraway place or the wild imaginings of a childhood reverie? That ambiguity centers Rok Hwang’s compelling spring collection film for Rokh. It was produced as a real show absent an audience, which Hwang thought was the responsible thing to do.
During a Zoom preview, Hwang said the set might have been the bleak scape of the moon or Mars (or the Grand Canyon); his thought going in was to capture how a young child feels walking in lonely places at night, even for a few neighborhood blocks, when anxiety, curiosity and imagination merge. Here, the scenery turned all the more curious with multiple photography lights and photo trunks in full view, the eerie fantasy intruded upon by those identifiable trappings of putting on a show. “It’s something mysterious and kind of tense,” Hwang said.
That tension continued in the clothes, inspired by Hwang’s lockdown reading of “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.” He found the tale inspiring, and the oddness of its messaging right for now. “I wanted to bring that kind of peculiar mood and something that could bring a little bit of romanticism to the world,” he said.
The result is a mesmerizing portrayal of a dystopian Victoriana, its lovely heroines, poetic and powerful. They brave their imposing surroundings in looks featuring trim, natural-waist bodices atop graceful long skirts. Within that specific template, details of decoration — hardware for some, ruffles for others — allowed different personalities to emerge: girlish, utilitarian, a deft take on tough chic. The lineup starts out with all black and moves into dusty pastels, mixed tartans, rich florals inspired by Victorian home fabrics and a giant extraterrestrial print. Sometimes Hwang added voluminous sleeves and large, hand-crafted collars; he often finished looks with battle-ready leather harnesses. He loves manipulations of the trenchcoat, and here he went to town-on-the-moon. His signature de- and re-constructed versions are spliced with tartans and suiting, and in one case, stripped down to sleeves that cinch the waist of a trim black pantsuit.
The collection’s enchanting warrior-goddess vibe owes a debt to Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen, perhaps too much so. Yet the overall creative statement feels very personal to Hwang. The clothes are highly considered, beautiful and, on the screen, look impeccably executed — a lovely moment of earthy-otherworldly romance.