Photo: Dimitri Hyacinthe/Courtesy of Bach Mai
“Clothes can be more than just clothes. It’s about beauty and bringing lightness and happiness to the world.”
Bach Mai wants to build an American haute couture house. Born and raised in Texas (like Tom Ford, Brandon Maxwell and Daniel Roseberry), he left Houston to study with Parsons and then worked in the first studio at Oscar de la Renta; from there he moved to Paris for graduation, earned his master’s degree at the Institut Francais de la Mode and went on to design shoes for Prabal Gurung before being hired at John Galliano’s Maison Margiela. Still, his plan was always to come home.
“I fell in love with haute couture when I was very young because of John’s collections,” he tells Fashionista during his debut presentation at New York Fashion Week, a stone’s throw from his Garment District studio. “It was always my goal – I fell in love with couture and I wanted to go to Paris, learn the trade, do haute couture and then come back to America and become a designer, an American designer doing haute couture. Hopefully one day.”
Mai moved from Paris to New York to launch his eponymous brand just before the pandemic. That, of course, held back his plans. But in October, he officially launched a Spring 2022 collection, penned by Nicole Phelps in Vogue, and landing on celebrity radar. (It’s already been worn by Venus Williams, Tessa Thompson, and Kate Beckinsale.)
The starting point for Collection 1: A Flower Walk, as the fall line is called, was Cy Twombly’s “Blooming” exhibition and the abstract expressionist flowers, as well as the artist’s inspiration from Japanese haiku. There was one piece in particular by Kikaku that he referred to that resonated with Mai as well, as it comes down to ‘the disarming power of femininity’.
“That’s really what we’re going for,” he says.
That led him to bijin-ga, a style of portraiture in Japanese art that focused on female beauty. After working under Galliano, Mai explains, he was able to draw the collections between these different sources of inspiration.
“Twombly also looked at Japanese haiku, which is rare for him, and somehow all these pieces came together: the color is the same and we’re looking at the same things,” he says. “It’s these large abstract expressionist flowers, but also these classic Japanese glamor portraits.”
Photo: Duke Will/Courtesy of Bach Mai
There are traces of all his previous jobs in the Bach Mai collection – the Oscar ball gowns, the Prabal colors – but the performance that most shaped the designer was his time with Margiela, where he was Galliano’s first assistant.
“As I continue to do this, I see more and more of what he taught me,” Mai says. “Every collection has its own process. People think designers have a process, but with John, every collection has its own life, and you have to let it live and breathe, to unfold its own story – whatever it takes. [about forcing] a process, such as, “I must start with dust.” Whatever the collection needs, it will be.”
The story of shapes and colors grabs your attention and draws you in, but it’s the level of craftsmanship in the fabrics and construction of the garments that make it impossible to look away. Bach Mai is supported by Hurel, the legendary French fabric house, which supplies the brand with its luxury textiles. Fall 2022 highlights include a breezy, clear lurex and silk velvet made from what Mai describes as a superfine tinsel and fine ribbons of chiffon layered over each other to create an ombré effect under skirts. Although the materials come from Europe, the rest of the collection is made in the USA
In the spring of 2022, Bach Mai established a vision and an ambition. Now the brand wants to show what that could look like – this time with more vibrancy. “It was really about color this time. Color, color, color,” he says. “After another long, dark winter, I just want optimism.”
Check out the complete Bach Mai Fall 2022 collection in the gallery below.
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This post A New York Fashion Week Debut All About Color was original published at “https://fashionista.com/2022/02/bach-mai-fall-2022-collection-review”