Brazilian fashion designer Alexandre Shostakovitch used 2010’s São Paulo Fashion Week to debut a project of extended and cohesive vision. Herchcovitch debuted two collections (which may be better thought of as two halves of one grand project) of very different natures; a dour, grave line, masculino (an anonymous male line), filled with skulls and gravitas, and a buoyant, lively line, feminino (an anonymous female line), rife with explosive colors and playfulness.
Herchcovitch - Masculino
Masculino, an all-male line, is almost entirely black, white, steel blue, and gray. The addition of a few red pieces, be it a checkered shirt or a kilt, do little to brighten the funereal pall of the designs.
With the help of makeup artists, Herchcovitch turned his models into the walking dead, obscuring all of their faces with enigmatically grinning skulls. The designer’s purpose was to personify death, who apparently walks around in a checkered kilt.
At first, the models are alien, detached from their surroundings. After repeated exposure to death’s grim visage, the viewer becomes comfortable with the skulls, and through the fashions humanizes them. Presumably the thought process of the witness is something along the lines of ‘Oh my! Look at those skulls. Oh there’s another one. And a third. That’s not very strange after all, these fashion models with Skelletor faces.’ Through this process, death becomes familiar.
The collection offers fine shirts that match well with suits or jeans, making them perfectly versatile pieces that can be worn for work or a night out. Though its difficult to tell how the clothes will wear once the skeleton makeup fades, the masculino collection is diverse, incorporating classically cut business attire and loose, oversized hoodies typical of Hip Hop fashion.
Shostakovitch primary inspirations for the line were chess, death, and a medieval horseman. Though not typical fashion muses, they all come from a very influential piece of cinematic design, one of Alexandre’s favorite films, “The Seventh Seal”.
The collection’s liberal use of checkered patterns is evocative of board games, and the famous chess match played between “The Seventh Seal’s” protagonist and Death incarnate. Herchcovitch has finally fulfilled our need, one which experts posit is deeply rooted in a primordial Jungian archetypal complex, for fashion with a metaphysical quandary, the existential ruminations of cut and cloth. It’s “Being and Nothingness” in patent leather boots.
Visions of death are not at all what we most commonly associate with woolen sweater vests, double-breasted suit coats, and flowing, half-length trench coats, though Herchcovtich has given us hope that we'll all look quite dashing in the after life.
Herchcovitch – Feminino
Feminino, the all-female counter-point to the masculino line, blows all of the dust and depression off the male line with flowing skirts, silky textures, generous swaths of fabric, and an aggressive lust for life (if such things can be articulated through fabric). Gone are the laborious philosophical dilemmas and medieval knights of the men’s line, replaced in Feminino by an intellectually tempered vivaciousness.
Feminino features short, textured dresses in purples and blues, lively cobalt pants, and smokey gray coats and pants. While the gray pieces are meant to evoke the feminine intellect and female professionalism, they have a subtle way of highlight the feminine form that makes them equally as well suited to a night on the town. The more colorful pieces reflect female fertility, and are allusive to natural elements in their colors and form.
A portion off the feminino line’s pieces were influenced by punk rock, an inspiration reflected in intense black and red checkered patterns and stove-pipe pants coupled with combat boots. Elsewhere in the collection, pieces that could only be called “Schoolgirl on Acid” can be found. Short skirt and dresses, and accompanying shirts, are adorned with muted psychedelic swirls and interlocking patterns that looked the work of a melancholy hippie.
It would be easy to read Herchcovitch work as sexist. The designer plumbed philosophical depths and pondered metaphysical questions for his men line, while simply tossing off something pretty, flowing, and vaguely based on the notion of a feminine intellect for his women line. And yet the spontaneity of the women reflects a less pretentious, more life-embracing vitality that is indeed more feminine.
In this light, it’s his men collection that proves more sexist. By positing men as dark, death-obsessed beings clad in chessboards, Herchcovitch paints the male sex as harbinger’s of death (literally, death incarnate) with little color or passion for life’s subtleties and nuances. And while history may attest to the veracity of this view, not everyone with a penis is Stalin.
But really, it’s just fashion, after all. Or is it? The fact that clothes provoke such ontological quandaries and ruminations into the nature of sexism goes great lengths to show the immense scope of Herchcovitch work (or the overly analytical mind of a lonely writer).
The Final Stitch
In splitting his 2010 lines into the radically disparate and intellectually considered masculino and feminino collection, Brazilian fashion icon Alexandre Herchcovitch has brought a scope and conceptualize to clothing design that is generally reserved for conceptual art. Still young, Herchcovitch has ample opportunity to continue to impress and broaden his scope in future collections.