In a digital world we have access to almost everything. The casting, the mood boards, the backstage, the beauty; almost every aspect of a fashion show has been revealed. The one thing that remains under wraps is the actual process of design. There are many approaches to making, some people sketch, others work on a form, for example. Ashlynn Park does the latter, and at Cristina Grajales Gallery, this patternmaker who trained with Yohji Yamamoto whipped up a toile of one of the sidesaddle riding skirts in her collection, the finished version of which a model then wore. The designer, who seemed lost in the process while pinning and cutting, was trembling afterwards. It’s not just that Park is not an extrovert, but that she gives so much of herself to the work. “Each piece really comes from my two hands,” she said at a preview. “When I look back in history, when I see Madame Grès, Vionnet, Charles James, those designers are always standing next to the clothing and the mannequin, and then they will grab the fabric and the scissors. They made their own work,” said Park—and so does she. This is not as common as you might think. This mother of two describes her business as being like another child. “This is a passion that demands endurance and focus,” she said. “It’s not meant to be easy…. I know what I’m doing stands for something.”
This season a visit to “The Tudors” exhibition at the Met piqued Park’s interest, and she chose the prince as her theme for fall. She looked at 16th-century sources, and an intricately pieced diamond pattern that appeared on a pleated skirt wouldn’t look out of place on a pennant flying from a medieval castle. Hourglass jackets had a “tail” detail taken from armor, and a fleur de lis–like pattern looked like those on precious velvets in museum collections. Though there were many historical references, including a detachable ruff, Park’s work is not retro. In fact she takes the proportion play we’ve been seeing across the board a step further. It might take a minute for the eye to adjust to seeing a pleated mini (which related back to the tomboy/school uniform references in the fall 2022 collection) peeking from an arch in a draped skirt, but the combination, with its reveal of skin, was exciting. Park said many of the looks in this collection were at the “boundary of the gender.” They were women’s clothes inspired by menswear and a male archetype. “I tried something that confused, fusing the pants and skirts, and then we finally found the perfect balance,” the designer said. That wasn’t the whole story, however. This was the first time that Park had used any accessories, and she designed the brooches in the collection.
Clothes are coming closer to the body again, and both the hourglass shape and a focus on breasts are prevalent. Both came together in a standout piece in this collection, a coat jigsawed together from puzzle pieces that recalled a woman’s anatomy. Park is not just focused on the body and the garment, but the space in between, what in Japan is known as ma. There’s another element that was present in that piece, and this collection: Park’s own hands. These are clothes made with skill, love, and in the tradition of chivalry, devotion.