Uniformed concierges held open the tall glass doors of the Andaz Hotel for guests of Merline Labissiere’s Provoke fashion show on Thursday evening. A sculpture of mannequin legs doused in colored paint greeted attendees at the entrance of the showroom, a hint of the prints, silhouettes, and textures that would follow.
Leather-clad ushers kindly guided guests to their seats where utilitarian brown paper bags waited, containing handmade necklaces that paid homage to the designer’s Haitian roots. The program stated that Provoke’s purpose was to encourage individuals to dare to step outside of standard conventions of fashion trends and wear what inspires them.
Before the show began, the 100-plus guests mingled over food and drinks. High-heeled waitresses served cocktails as the seats filled until the warm lights dimmed and slow electronic music began.
The first look, a long-sleeved sheath gown in a two-toned satin with origami shoulders and a thigh-high slit, was a stark contrast to many of the bright prints and billowy thigh length dresses that would later find their way down the runway. Labissiere bridged this gap by reworking her fabrics in unconventional ways. White gridded mesh, referencing her background in architecture, was used to create a transparent structured over-shirt in one look, but also as a substitute for an obi-belt in a navy Japanese inspired dress. The mohair and faux fur cropped tops with structural cap sleeves, styled over formal dresses, were the sharpest and most accessible pieces in the collection.
A fusion of architectural design and animal print, Labissiere’s collection presented a wealth of silhouettes that moved toward the future and to the past. The bold styling of the models in garments that matched their hair color made a strong (but tasteful) visual impact throughout the show. Other ensembles were tied together with multi-strand necklaces worn off the shoulder or over the head, indicating to each guest how to uniquely style their gift.
Labissiere’s print-mixing was unconventional, and for that reason, difficult to understand. The collection contained disparate ideas that would have been more successful if isolated in separate collections. While the show as a whole was highly conceptual and avant garde, individual pieces could easily be assimilated into the modern wardrobe. Provoke established Labissiere as an artist using her unique aesthetic voice to encourage conversation.