Andrew Gn decided to call his fall outing “Roots,” for lots of reasons. First of all, he wanted it to reflect his Asian origin. His standing as Singapore’s most famous fashion designer has, rightfully, earned him a major retrospective at the Asian Civilizations Museum in his homeland, which will open with a gala in May and run through September. It’s a major honor and a milestone. But it’s not the only point.
“Today, when you talk about roots, it’s not just about where you were born, it’s about where you have been in your life,” the designer said during a showroom preview. The fall collection, therefore, represents Gn’s whole life story, here aptly shot against the gilded woodwork in the Musée Carnavalet, the recently renovated museum of the city of Paris.
Take a gold-caramel plissé column dress with an iris border and the designer’s signature butterflies, for example: that piece is inspired by a kimono, probably dating to the turn of the last century, that belonged to Gn’s Japanese grandmother. For fall, Gn revisited its motifs, which were hand painted in gouache and watercolor in his Paris studio, then printed in Lyon and crushed into Fortuny pleats using old-school techniques, creating a bridge between Japanese and French traditions.
Gn makes a point of championing traditional savoir-faire, and he has turned his passion for late 19th century artistic movements, such as William Morris prints, into a house signature. This season, he amps up opulence with metallic antique gold, copper brocade, jewel tones and embellishments like vintage lace, plumes and jeweled details that nod to vintage Boucheron. (“Husbands love my pieces because you don’t have to invest in any more jewelry,” he said.) A simple ’60s shift, for example, in rich greens from avocado to emerald, is trimmed with rhinestones dyed to match. A white, flared cheongsam shape might have ’40s-style puff sleeves and lace polka dots inspired by the Viennese Secession. A pleated halter number, in pleated teal, channels Marilyn Monroe by way of Gn-land. Elsewhere, what looks like an embellished white blouse with bronze chrysanthemum brocade skirt is, in fact, a trompe l’oeil dress with vintage Art Deco lace on the bib, reproduced especially for Gn by Solstice.
New this season is a Victorian-era rose chintz motif revisited in coral or earthy tones with jeweled buttons. A Regency-era lacquered Coromandel screen the designer picked up in England became a rich chocolate print that “lets me see the East from the West, from the life I live now,” he said.
Whether Gn feels Parisian depends on the moment. He speaks fluent Mandarin, so he frequently spends off hours getting up to speed on Asian pop cultures via Weibo and YouTube. “There’s the European/Anglo Saxon side and the Eastern side, and I don’t think you have to decide,” he offered. “To be a whole person, you need both.”
This collection manifested that worldview. Here’s betting that it will resonate with Gn’s loyal clientele, wherever they are.