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Cédric Charlier

At an appointment this morning, Cédric Charlier introduced his new collection by presenting a copy of the photo that had inspired it: An old picture of native Tahitian men, each one wearing a headdress of flowers and a printed sarong. Apropos the image, Charlier said that it made him think in a new way about one of his traditional themes, the mash-up of masculine and feminine. The rewiring of those gender codes drives much of fashion these days; meanwhile, the picture of the Tahitians forced you to consider how, in other cultures, our Western presuppositions about what men wear versus what women wear really don’t apply. There’s an interesting collection to be made from that idea—one in which the traditional “binaries,” to coin a trendy phrase, are vacated entirely. Charlier’s latest was not that collection. Which isn’t to say that the outing didn’t succeed on its own, less conceptually ambitious terms. He made good use of his source material in the tropical floral prints and graphic embroideries reminiscent of Matisse cutouts, and the Tahitian’s pareos also occasioned some nice play with the techniques of tying, cinching, and wrapping. A skirt of ocher-toned suede, wrapped and belted off to one side, was an urbane take on the pareo aesthetic; elsewhere, it got a looser-limbed treatment in pieces of silk or refined, drapey polyester that were cinched by long contrast ties. Charlier was also clever in the way he riffed on his reference, taking on the realities of far-flung vacation travel by working in fabrics that were made to be packed—as he demonstrated, a trench in that polyester could scrunch up to nothing to fit in a bag and come out of it looking just fine; you’d assume the same trick would work on tailored pieces in a compacted cream-colored knit. An adroit touch appeared in his pleated skirts, which had been doubly pleated to create a creased effect. (Ha!) You could detect real wisdom in that bit of wit: Charlier is a designer who tends to gravitate to clean lines and sharp geometries; here, he gave himself over to a more rumpled effect. There was something deeply humane about that, in a way that transcended binaries.

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