Lucian Matis

Lucian Matis evokes Matisse at rogue fashion show

A packed crowd of editors, fashion freelancers and those artfully clad in black filled the gallery space of 99 Sudbury for the Spring/Summer 2012 launch by 2007 Project Runway runner up Lucian Matis last night. The show was dedicated to the vibrant colourfields of Henri Matisse's painting The Green Stripe, the 1905 portrait of Matisse's wife where her face is sliced vertically in half by a swatch of green colour.

While Matisse's painting is restrained and quizzical (all those electric greens and oranges speak for the emotion in the portrait), the models traipsing down the runway looked anything but. Clad in diaphanous gowns with visible studded panties, Matis' collection seemed equally inspired by the silky harem pantsuits of I Dream of Jeannie and BeyoncĂŠ club wear, drowning in Marchesa ruffles as if too melancholic to get up and dance.

The collection was centered by immaculate makeup and hairstyling by Smashbox and Schwartzkopf that turned 13 models into super sexed goddesses. (Think high Blonde Ambition ponytails and tawny eyelids.) Clad in nude stilettos and chunky brass chandelier earrings, the models wore formal wear and pseudo lingerie that spun wildly around the color wheel with innovative contrasts.

Here were puckered ruffled rosettes, basket weave bubble dresses and filmy overcoats in vibrant aquamarines, vermillion reds and pumpkin oranges, accented by surprisingly restrained chain mail detailing and muted taupe. Matis also used mauve in a way I've never seen before. A diaphanous mermaid disco gown with iridescent netting peeking out like a second skin made the model seem like she was wearing a dress of wilting orchids. This is not your grandmother's lipstick.

Matis, a mere 31, is a dramatic, sensory designer who commits to his vision. (In Fall 2009 he sent his models out wearing horns on their heads for his "City Hunter" look.) But he desperately needed an editor this season. For starters, aside from a very lovely colour blocked look of tailored fuchsia culottes teamed with a lipstick red blouse and the coolest orange and purple basket weave mini dress to ever give a hipless model a bubble butt, not nearly enough is wearable off the runway.

Who aside from six-foot models can pull off a shapeless sea green minidress of pure ruffles, which made even the Amazonian look like a human cotton ball? (Several replications of this look made me question whether Matis had fabric leftover from a quinceanera.) And while the designer's insistence on studded metalwork to add toughness to all that gauzy femininity worked when it showed in a surprising flash of skin, Matis needed to stay focused on colour, not contrast.

Impressionists like Matisse used primary colours to draw focus. My heart stopped when a model clad in a nipple-exposing camisole came drifting down the runway, frothy yellow fabric trailing the floor like a pair of dusky curtains from a memory. Now that was a colour field day.

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Photos by Jesse Milns


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