Over the past century, there has been no shortage of designers who have applied Surrealist principles to dramatic effect. Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons is known for creating stunning sculptural forms, while Thierry Mugler created dresses that turned into motorcycles and butterflies and Hussein Chalayan created furniture that turned into dresses. Alexander McQueen modified the appearance of the body with his baggy pants before Montreal Fecal Matter really radicalized the human form, especially with his “skin” boots. Maison Margiela’s concept designs included everything from “wig coats” to a waistcoat made of intricately sewn shards of porcelain, while Jean Paul Gaultier christened his 2006 collection “Les Surréalistes”, paying homage to Schiaparelli with his version of her skeleton dress. Jeremy Scott is no stranger to subverting mass imagery, as he did with his McDonald’s-inspired pieces at Moschino, while Miuccia Prada and Kenzo both incorporated surreal designs like lips and eyes. Many of these creations have won acclaim beyond the catwalks and have been featured in exhibitions at top museums around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
“If people want to make a visual statement, [they] I want to lean towards surrealism in terms of these striking and eye-catching ways of playing with the body and clothing,” says Matthews David. This season, surreal influences translated into the illusion of gemstones at Loewe, poetic feathers at Erdem and deconstructed puffer jackets at Marni. Dries Van Noten, who often draws inspiration from movement, incorporated hand motifs, a surreal signature, while Libertine turned to Alice in Wonderland for inspiration and added trompe l’oeil pockets to a trench coat. At Schiaparelli, which was relaunched in 2013 and is currently run by Daniel Roseberry, denim jackets were designed to be worn inside out and tops feature the 3D shapes of Hulk-like breasts and abs.
For Toronto designer Dorian Who, encounter with René Magritte’s 1929 painting The false mirror in Brussels marked a turning point in his own art. “It was a complete change in my life [that led] it’s up to me to see the world through a window that this painting has opened up for me,” she says. “I started to see things differently.” Tapping into her subconscious has become part of her creative process, which she says helps her better communicate her message through her designs, images and creative collaborations. (The lookbook for her most recent collection features typical Magritteen blue skies.) “I feel like this uncensored thought process helps me connect to more people,” she says. How surreal.