“Let’s make love… on warm leatherette,” intoned a remixed Grace Jones track over an Italo beat on the Paco Rabanne soundtrack. That striking image put you in the mood for the first of Julien Dossena and Peter Saville’s collaborative work as a t-shirt worn over a scuba-esque hooded top, bearing the word “FUTURESEX”, opened the show. Over it was Dossena’s abstracted take on a chandelier – perspex droplets linked together formed dresses that you could hear coming down the runway before you saw them. There lies the sort of contrast that Dossena is bringing to this once-futuristic French house: that something decorative and ornate can be paired with the clinical and sci-fi, with just a drop of sleaze in the background.
“I wanted a girl who was trying to clean everything up,” explained Dossena backstage. “There was a new way of working on materials. I wanted there to be super clean and sharp tailoring without using too much hardware. Then there’s the religious cult feeling of hoods and the nylons that make them look like they’re working in a nuclear laboratory.” Throw in the chandeliers, a coated plastic-looking lace and the reclamation of the Rabanne fluid chainmail worked into athletic slinky eveningwear, and you have yourself a re-imagining of the house that’s teeming with intrigue.
Another slogan from the Saville collaboration is the revival of the title Canned Candies, an erotic book of photographs by Jean Clemmer published in 1969, featuring the “exotic women and clothes of Paco Rabanne”. Back then, naked flesh paired with Rabanne’s hardware celebrated the couturier’s work as lofty pieces of body decoration, far removed from the streets. Today, Dossena’s fully clothed take on the house adds a new dimension to Rabanne’s revolutionary antics in his space age couture. His lab-like hoods, interlocking geometric knits and clinical kilt dresses are primed for reality, and those abstracted slogans created with Saville somehow seem tangible.