Idealizing the now inaccessible need to view clothing is a grand endeavor, but it’s one that Maisie Wilen did well for her New York Fashion Week debut. Her fantasy-like imagery and style, and ability to play with the way viewers see garments, rides the gray line between reality and make believe.
Bold, layered fabric lay in a way that tricks the viewer’s eye, warping their interpretation of how the clothing rests. Light blue ocean waves litter the folds of blazers and pencil skirts, one flowing into the other and creating another plane of existence. This effortless flow of design that breaches what is real and what is not is what makes Wilen such a visionary.
Many of Wilen’s designs are reminiscent of classic paintings, like Relativity by Dutch artist M.C. Escher, and other optical illusions. Maisie’s prints bleed into each other like ink on a page, and her various conforming dresses use the natural fold of the fabric to create mazes and puzzles down the runway. Like Escher’s steps blend one into another, Wilen’s garments seem to do the same as they play with the audience’s mind. Her use of silk and metallic woven materials adds a layer of fun and mystery to the collection, creating appealing illusions as the models walk. The looseness of the outfits helps to add to the illusion of shape that the designer creates.
On finding inspiration for the collection this season, Maisie said, “My collection’s theme explores the effect of viewing images instead of having live interactions with design. I was working on this theme back in February, but coincidentally lockdown generated the exact environment of rarely seeing things in person, an ironically perfect setting for this research. In particular this inspired me to create the fantasy-like imagery seen in the prints as quarantine warped and idealized the now inaccessible.”
Full body suits littered with cutouts, grayscale patterns on loose fitting tops and hoodies, and thigh high metallic boots grace the runway with ease. The collection flirts back and forth across the line that divides fantasy and reality, while still showcasing a feminine air and uniqueness. Each piece has a defining feature that allows it to stand out from the crowd; whether that’s head-to-toe metallic fabric, a bejeweled fringed sleeve, or a neon monochromatic aesthetic. The use of grayscale patterns and colors that fade into the nooks and crannies of the garments helps submerge the viewer in the “optical illusion” of it all, while the pop of the neon and metallic colors bring them back to the surface of their dreams.
There’s no better time than 2020 to experience what it means to fully fall into fashion virtually, and Maisie Wilen’s SS21 line invites you to do just that.