We didn’t want to close the books on 2012 without taking some time to savor one of the year’s most accomplished and fully realized collections, the new ‘Restricted Love‘ set from couture latex designer Atsuko Kudo.
‘Restricted Love‘ was created especially for last fall’s Lingerie London charity runway show to support the 7 Bar Foundation, and marked Kudo’s first show in Europe (she also showed at 7 Bar’s Lingerie New York event two years ago.)
More importantly, it marked a welcome return to intimate fashions for Kudo’s studio after numerous high-profile collaborations with avant-garde womenswear designers (Mugler, Formichetti, etc.) in recent years.
The collection features 17 looks in skin-soft rubber that range from bras and bustiers to slinky catsuits and even matching shrugs. But the star attractions are the tight-fitting, high-collared cheongsam (or qipao) dresses popularized by Shanghai courtesans in the 1920s and beyond.
Before we say any more, take a moment to view the ‘Restricted Love‘ runway presentation in its entirety, below:
To say this collection was merely “inspired” by anything would be insufficient. ‘Restricted Love‘ is a very personal and deeply felt expression of the emotional turbulence of unfulfilled desire.
Some pieces in the collection are fearlessly sexual; some are painfully constricted. Altogether, it’s showy and theatrical and designed to make a forceful impression on a lover … and yet there is an aching vulnerability throughout. The fashions are as much a barrier to romance as an invitation.
It’s such a dramatic collection you just know there must be a story behind it — and there is.
For her source material, Kudo turned to the Chinese romantic drama ‘In The Mood For Love‘, which starred Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung (below) as star-crossed lovers in 1960s Hong Kong. Directed by Wong Kar-Wai, ITMFL is universally admired for its languid pace, exquisitely atmospheric locations, and mostly, for the unbearable circumstances that keep the two would-be lovers apart. The film turned Leung and Cheung into international stars and cast an adoring spotlight on Chinese fashions, in particular those remarkable qipao dresses with their built-in connotations of suppressed or restricted emotion.
For Kudo, In The Mood For Love had a personal resonance. The movie came out the same year (2000) as Kudo launched her designer label and reflected her personal fascination with “the dark glamor of the decades of the mid 20th Century.” But, clearly, it’s the emotional subtext of the story that appeals to her most.
“When love clearly exists but is not fulfilled because other emotions or circumstances restrict its full blossom, we are left with the deepest melancholy,” she writes on her blog. “Unanswered questions of what might have been, drifting eternally through the memory. The joy of a love which was so tangible is tempered by the sorrow of a conclusion never reached. It is bittersweet.”
How does Kudo capture that rich emotional conflict? With colorful oriental patterns that arouse and enflame passions, offset by tightly corsetted, layered, restrictive pieces that suppress them. These are not garments that are easily put on — or casually shredded in the throes of amour.
“Walking and living through bittersweet memories, existing in sensuality, sexuality, self expression, liberation, pain and joy – we are constantly reminded of how it feels when love is restricted,” the designer explains. “And therefore, how it may feel when love is released.”
Latex underwear is still not for everyone (or for all climates) but ‘Restricted Love‘ is so fashionable and so deeply evocative that it’s worth stepping out of your comfort zone to be a part of this story.
And it’s worth remembering what happened at the end of In The Mood For Love (and its sequel, 2046): the memories of that unsatisfied longing haunted the lovers for the rest of their lives. That’s what we call making an impression!
You can find Atsuko Kudo’s ‘Restricted Love‘ in London at a special boutique presentation in Selfridges through the end of February. Accessories from the runway show are also available online from SHOWstudio and, of course, these pieces will eventually make their way to Kudo’s large online catalogue.
[NOTE: Images below are from the Lingerie London runway show, shot by Andrew Lamb. Click on thumbs to expand.]