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Diary: It's a Question of Taste

by Penny Martin on 28 November 2003

Writing live on set, Penny Martin delves into the clothes themselves, examining Jonathan Kaye's approach to styling By Arrangement on the shoot's second day.

Writing live on set, Penny Martin delves into the clothes themselves, examining Jonathan Kaye's approach to styling By Arrangement on the shoot's second day.

Image from 'By Arrangement' shot by Nick Knight

28 November 2003 15:30hrs

It's an approach defined by what it is not. Ask Jonathan Kaye to describe how he develops a fashion story and he'll reel off a list of things he 'can't bear': too many accessories, too much decoration, too much sex, in fact too much of anything. Suggest the construction of a narrative or the introduction of a theme and he shoots you a look like you've fed him poison. 'Overt themes in fashion stories can look modern in a few cases, but most of the time they look like cheap repetitions of the original reference. Dated'.

Gone are the edgy, urban separates that gave rise to journalist's claims that 'Menswear's the new Womenswear'; making way for pretty dresses and lady-like shoes.

This is fashion styling governed by a respectful regard for clothes: Kaye's textiles background foregrounds his supremely minimal method of presenting clothing. Selecting the key pieces of the season only - and on this point he is immovable - and presenting them free from adornment, Kaye gives 'voice' to the fabrics and the garments' construction. As model Gemma Ward observed yesterday, clothing can determine characterisation and when left alone to do so, it develops its own sense of drama. For 'By Arrangement', Kaye's key pieces speak of the Spring/Summer 2004 season's overarching story: a return to a modest, youthful femininity that has been curiously absent over the past four seasons. Gone are the edgy, urban separates that gave rise to journalist's claims that 'Menswear's the new Womenswear'; making way for pretty dresses and lady-like shoes. The neutral, flesh tones and translucent fabrics that lend themselves so well to Nick Knight's re-working of inter-war Deco sensibilities in this shoot, characterised the collections.

The pale pink seamless draped dresses at Lanvin (pictured here with a darling feline mask) were amongst the most covetable examples of understated glamour. The chocolate brown pleated chiffon Prada prom dress that began the shoot demonstrated how Mrs Prada, like Kaye, recognises the fine line between modesty and frumpery. 'For the transparency of the chiffon to work without being too sexy, and the shapes to work without being dowdy', Kaye contends, 'casting is key. We chose young girls with an "other-worldly" beauty'. To carry off all-out nudity (seen in the stocking tops accompanying Comme des Garcons' amazing variation on skirts) or suggestive symbols of fecundity (such as the groaning buds adorning the showpiece dress from Olivier Theyskens' inspirational collection for Rochas), it is imperative that the pieces are not made to fight against mannered contexts, other garments or glitzy fripperies. This season's fashion is at its most directional, it seems, when it is carefully made to appear undirected.

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