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“Paganism”
Boris Bidjan Saberi FW18

 Author: Jasper Drummond -

The title of Boris Bidjan Saberi’s Winter 2018 runway collection, Paganism, invokes the kind of rich imagery with which the label is already associated— mysticism, nomadic primal-ism, and dystopian grit. Here, the designer imagined an arctic wasteland, strewn with arcane warriors who have adapted to their surroundings in ways both functional and fashionable. The staples for which BBS has become known— utilitarian outerwear, handcrafted knitwear, and experimental leather pieces— were all on display, revisited in a more poetic way than in previous seasons.

Photos by Matthew Reeves

            The show opened with a striking sleeveless Shearling coat that reached all the way down to the tops of the model’s heavy snow boots. This idea of cocooning the body in warmth was a central theme here. Throughout the collection, a variety of dense outerwear was at work, including quilted coats that mimicked drifts of muddy snow, padded leather vests, and sweaters knitted so thickly they resembled armor.

            Saberi is a designer who thinks in layers, both literally and figuratively. Many looks started with a neutral base of knits and long johns, built up by various trousers, sweaters, jackets & vests, cinched and strapped together with a utilitarian vibe. These men were wrapped in tent coats, cotton, blankets, wool, and skins— their clothing was literally their shelter. Ready to travel at a moment’s notice, they carried their comfort, their livelihood, all over their body.
In some ways, this collection feels like an evolution of the Winter 2013 collection, Glacerism (or, at least, a more mature cousin). The color palette and mood are similar, both have a post-apocalyptic snow desert flavor. Saberi occasionally pulls inspiration from his own personal archive of military garments, continually challenging himself to rethink and reinterpret these ideas through the lens of each current collection. Here, this militaristic influence continued in the form of thick vests and aprons that offered not only warmth but defense, while also allowing freedom of movement by being cut completely open on the sides. However, where his earlier collection channeled a slicker, supervillain aura with sharply cut jackets and glossy black leather, Paganism sees a blurring of that edge into something more subdued, more reverent— not just a collection of warriors, but also worshippers.
If the cut, weight, strapping and styling of this collection established its military identity, then the fabrics themselves— the hand treatments, the knits and leathers, the textures and colors— established its mysticism. Through a palette of mostly greige and warm black, the somber tones matched the perilous, icy environment one could imagine these men inhabiting. Miraculously, as the collection moved forward, we glimpsed rich purple hues— some dirtied and worn; others (a few leather pieces in particular) clear and almost unsettlingly bright. Purple is historically a loaded color, symbolizing royalty, spirituality, and the mystical or the unknown. Seeing it emerge here, like the iridescent flash across a pigeon’s gray feathers, calls to mind something hovering just outside our realm, something holy and unintelligible to be found beneath the brutal ice and snow.

The skins and sheaths included in this collection all have Saberi's distinct hand, an organic flow of light and shadow achieved by painstaking experimentation with dyes and resin. A particular purple vest towards the end of the lineup felt especially weathered as if its darkest parts were drenched with freezing water, and its lightest had been bleached by the winter sun. These techniques add life to Saberi's clothes, telling a story even before they reach the wearer.

A collection so conceptually rich and texturally dense could quickly fall into the realms of humor or inaccessibility in the hands of someone with less finesse. Many conceptual designers face these risks when creating, conscious of putting out a message that feels authentic while doing so in a way that people want to wear and experience. There is a distinct coolness to Saberi's clothing that keeps him from being written off as outlandish: goggle-like sunglasses, beanies and headbands, thumbholes in almost every sleeve, rugged backpacks, high–tech sneakers, even snowboards and skis this time around (a product of the designer’s ongoing collaboration with sports manufacturer Salomon).

The consistent sense of style that makes this collection less intimidating and more covetable for the high–fashion streetwear customer can be attributed to the designer’s self–described “weird skateboard hip–hop punk” leanings. Saberi is often inspired by his own past, referencing his upbringing as a Persian/ German skater kid trying to carve out a place for himself and his street clothes in post-nazi Bavaria. “We create each and every garment from scratch, on my own body.” Saberi says, of his design process. By casting himself as the atelier’s own fit model, he neatly solves one of the most daunting questions any avant-garde brand faces: “Who is going to wear this stuff?” By building each collection organically on his own body, he never strays too far from the roots that keep his clothing so in touch, and—despite all their imagination and mysticism—so human.

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