BCBGMAXAZRIA SS13 Show — Inspired By Helmut Newton’s Photographs
When I think of the late fashion photographer Helmut Newton, my mind wanders to this iconic black-and-white image of Linda Evangelista, her short dark hair curled in a style channeling a 1950s pinup; her eyes directed upward attentively, as if observing an object in flight; her eyes accentuated and made all the more feline with thick winged liner; one hand facing the camera and holding a cigarette in between the index and middle fingers; her bosom accentuated by a long-sleeved, V-neck shirt with bustier-like stitching and conical-style breast cups. So much of Newton’s aesthetic could be derived from this one photograph: his exploration of the relationship between fashion, sexuality, and power; his ability to infuse eroticism into a scenario, regardless of whether his subjects were nude or fully clothed, while maintaining a sense of elegance; his fascination with clothing and makeup as tokens of female empowerment; and his ability to transcend time, incorporating elements from different eras without his work ever feeling dated or even tied to a specific time period. Needless to say, when I heard that the BCBGMAXAZRIA SS13 collection had been inspired by Newton’s black-and-white photography, I was curious to see what elements would speak to this vision.
The juxtaposition of opposites largely distinguished the BCBGMAXAZRIA SS13 collection, with strong graphic pieces in crisp white and carbon black, many incorporating both leather and lace, or juxtaposing semi-sheer and flowing fabrics with leather strips positioned to create a bandage- or harness-like effect. Each look evoked a femme fatale energy without being dominatrix-like or even particularly revealing — if anything, it was the suggestion of sex that made these looks so titillating. A below-the-knee black leather skirt, for example, incorporated a provocative center slit while the accompanying top featured geometric cut-outs and was softened by a short, almost delicate, black lace capelet. Similarly, feminine, garden party-ready printed dresses were infused with a sense of strength, structure and severity through the use of leather overlays arranged to mimic harnesses, bustiers, and vests with strong and imposing shoulders. The more S&M-esque elements were particularly effective in that, rather than exposing bare flesh, they revealed sheer cotton voile, chiffon, and lace fabrics (many boasting floral, paisley, or laurel motifs), almost teasing onlookers, enticing them to look further, to stare longer, in hopes of maybe catching a glimpse of something illicit and forbidden. In the same way that a photographer toys with light and shadow through the use of angles, Max Azria used geometric shapes to play with opaque and sheer fabrics, creating his own visual masterpiece.
The accessories also conveyed a thorough understanding of the power of female sexuality — or, more importantly, of the capacity to project, reveal, withhold, or conceal that sexuality. High-heeled shoes, for instance, featured broad ankle cuffs with perforated surfaces and straps along the back. Handbags, meanwhile, consisted mainly of oversize, envelope-shaped clutches with a minimalist feel and very angular details.
Newton would’ve wanted to photograph each and every piece, much like fashion lovers will relish the opportunity to wear these garments. Check out the photos and video above!