Huddled on the narrow Parisian rue, I wait to enter Nicolas Andreas Taralis’ Spring 2012 show behind double gothic wood doors. A man in black with a headset gets the cue, starts to check invitations, and motions the crowd into the venue, Espace Commines. It’s a sterilely white 400 2 area located below a glass roof with painted black staircases. The room was previously designed as an industrial warehouse but was built at the end of the 19th century on the location of the gardens of the Filles du Calvaire convent. And it shows. The simplicity and cleanliness of the setting combined with the rays of sunlight shining through the glass makes me think God needs a clean canvas to prep his next experiment. I am uneasy and sit down at my assigned white painted pew.
Like in the chambers of a cathedral, Baroque classical music starts to echo and the first model steps onto the floor. She is fair, draped all in white organza, and hair tied up in braids. She is an angel or a disguised siren. The only discontinuity is the rubber-like footwear, which looks like a single-strap sandal with a shin guard. The materials and minimalism of the boots are futuristic, while the silhouette reminds me of the bygone era of Greek soldiers. The next look follows suit with a white cotton floor-length dress that’s gathered above the bust and slightly transparent. Baptism comes to mind. I revel in the way the see-through garments in conjunction with the religious overtones makes me feel extra dirty.
The menswear and some of the later women’s wardrobes maintain the sheer materials and drapery, but add the protectionism and futuristic aesthetic from the footwear. There are vests, coats, and shirts with strips that cross the body and attach to the other side with snaps, buttons, or Velcro. It’s something between a bulletproof vest and a straight jacket.
Suddenly the whiteness is tainted and darkness progressively creeps: first in the shoes, then in elements of the clothing, until there is an outfit in head-to-toe black. He looks like an undertaker or a hit man in a to-the-knee lightly distressed open trench and heavy ankle boots that are glossy to make wiping the blood off easy.
The juxtaposition of hard and soft from the white wardrobes are mirrored in its binary counterpart. The two sides ultimately are no different. Taralis riddles the collection with tensions between good and evil, purity and sin, past and future evoking the discomfort and pleasure I experienced.
I later find out that his inspiration was George Lucas’ first film THX 1138, which takes place in the 25th century in a dystopia where mind controlling drugs are mandatory and the people worship a Jesus-looking being known as “OMM 0910”. I am immediately impressed with Taralis’ storytelling abilities. Both he and THX 1138 observe the way in which organized religion enforces the distinction between good and evil, insists it is on the benevolent side, and claims questioning is immoral. Of course Taralis’ collection suggests otherwise, and so does Lucas who explains,
“A lot of this movie is based upon belief systems. If you believe something to be true, then it is. So if you believe you’re in prison you are…But the reality is just the opposite.”
I am awed by Taralis’ execution of the art of storytelling in that he was able to summarize and give perspective on the emotions and complex concepts of Lucas’ 88 minute film purely through his clothing and exhibition.
I participated in a Balinese dance workshop once where the teacher explained that their dancers train for up to 2 years before they learn an actual dance. The reason for this is this that they find accurately telling stories of utmost importance, which requires students to gain an ungodly level of muscle control in the face and body in order to fully expressing the character. In fact, if you have the opportunity to watch a Balinese dance, you will undoubtedly be able to follow the tale purely through their motions and no narration. Taralis’ show gives me hope that Fashion will not give up aspirations to tell stories at Balinese dance proportions.