In only a few seasons, Sophie Buhai and Lisa Mayock of Vena Cava have trademarked a type of smart femininity New York girls find hard to resist. Known for their art deco-inspired designs and artful prints, the dynamic downtown duo evolved those trademarks into a decidedly modern nativist direction for their Spring 2010 collection.
It’s not a surprise that Vena Cava love the geometry of tribal art, as it compliments the pyramidic elements of their Deco details. The season’s primary inspiration came from the design motifs of the South African Ndebelle tribe, a reference point made most explicit in the collection’s defining looks. Those standouts included an intepretation of the Ndebelle artwork via a prismatic print maxidress, "caveman" print suede leggings, and Tiffany neckpieces neckpieces fit for an exotic 1920’s nightclub, if not an African Queen herself.
Even the finer details imaginatively conveyed the neo-primitivist spirit. The latticework Lisa and Sophie handstitched onto sleeves and necklines played vivid optical tricks: in red and white, it infused an otherwise black ensemble with a bold organic symmetry; in black, it took on the noir sensuality of fishnet over bare flesh. The styling choices continued that thematic contrast.
With angular black visors, metallic wedges by Robert Clergerie, and round-frame shades courtesy of Persol, the models – their scalp-pinned buns in place–looked like they rocketed in from the set of Robert Palmer’s "Addicted to Love" video – or Proenza Schoeler’s Fall 2009 runway.
To be sure, the girls retain their appetite for Jazz Age flourishes: prismatic coronet prints and cubist hardware details were prevalent as always, and 20’s style drop-waist dresses were shown alongside the bathing suit tops and Depression era bloomers. But these were obviously designed with versatility, rather than specific nostalgia in mind.
Indeed, the show’s true Statement Item was also its coolest non sequitur: a camisole made entirely of safety pins. Its inspiration? Not punk, not Deco, not African tribal art – but the bling of early 90’s Versace. With that, the first waitlist-worthy item of Spring 2010 was born.
Photos courtesy of Patrick Butler.