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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.
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.