We Like — Ageless Chivalry

Josephus Melchior Thimister is a singular character. The biography of the multicultural designer is filled with impressive details: a stint at Karl Lagerfeld and Jean Patou; a tour of duty as an interior designer before being named as artistic director of the prestigious maison of Balenciaga; gigs as art director at both Genny and Charles Jourdan. And then he founded his own brand in the late 1990’s. But, for all these accolades, he has remained somewhat in the shadows, his very particular fashion style being something of a cult taste rather than chasing tabloid exposure.

Thimister SS12

Thimister SS12

This alone should be enough information for no one to have expected a collection that would follow the mainstream trends. Needless to say Thimister did not; nothing could have been further from a bright summery palette of florals than his women’s and menswear collections presented at a late night défilé at Garage Turenne. Instead, a stark range of natural fabrics in even more stark and natural colours were used to construct his characteristically sculptural shapes that went in many directions. Medieval meets Mad Max; Shaolin meets the Lady of Shallot. The ideas and imagery very much brought to the fore a sense of chivalrous poise straight out of an old Flemish master or, indeed, the age old spiritual traditions of the East. But, by the same token, the iconography drawing on these ancient sources also has a certain aggression, a reminder that our forefathers lived a tough and arduous life. It certainly didn’t seem that Josephus Thimister is advocating a summer of hedonistic cocktails and beach parties for next year, more like a commitment to the notion that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

Of course, it is exactly within this austere vision of linens and leather that the poetry and beauty lies. Quite aside from the fact that many of the natural materials deployed are very comfortable on the skin, save for the bondage-like rigours of the oversized leather belts of some looks, these are also immensely pragmatic and wearable clothes. Furthermore, alongside the austere religiose tone present within the collection there is an understated and immensely powerful sexiness. Within the womenswear, for example, there is a line of enquiry that traces the poised elegance of the prettier women of Van Eyck or even Da Vinci’s ‘Lady With an Ermine’ through to their reinvention as Art Deco sirens. Or, indeed, some of the slinky black gowns pulled in tight at the waist the head in a more fanciful Hollywood epic or Xena Warrior Princess direction.

This similar tension between the contradictory elements denoting spirituality and primal animal drives is equally present in the menswear. Who can deny that part of the attraction of eastern martial arts is their combination of the choice to be peaceable even when skilled enough to kill? The Shaolin mythology, after all, is about fighting monks. There is something similarly sexy about the New Age hippy-dippy aspect of the menswear since it somehow retains a certain rugged masculinity. Some of the looks even have a clear undertone of the gladiator about them.

Once again the rather enigmatic Mr Thimister suggests that rather than fixating on daydreams of aspiring to a luxurious life of tropical festivities promised to us by soap operas and adverts for SS 12, if we are going to dream, we should dream big. Instead of following the mundane aspirations of a pampered life, his collections are almost an exhortation to cast ourselves as an eternal hero or heroine in a much more lasting epic.

Thimister SS12

Thimister SS12