Hong Kong native and local designer Devon Yan-Berrong's Devonation spring/summer 2013 couture collection pairs crisp geometric shapes with boxy silhouettes to emphasize the space between the fabric and the body, and the best look is a short bright dress made from a mystery synthetic. "I don't know the English word for it," says Devon of the material, though its texture and shininess suggest a specific blend of ingredients—plastic tablecloths, spaceship insulation, oil slicks, sheet rubber, and garage-sale records—melted in the sun, then stirred together.
Embodying the sheen of 1970s-era retro-futurism, his other designs contain sunburst angles and flat colors and general spotlessness. Devon's models come off as well-kept women, hardened by privilege. One with long, fluffy hair has a columnar dress of pleated chiffon that descends into falls, or spreads and trails with movement. The gloves she's wearing are fitted so tight and scooped so deep that her hands seem to have been dipped, just past the knuckles, into buckets of paint. More mod details creep in: dangling, Edie Sedgwick–style tasseled earrings; curls flattened, glossed, and pasted onto foreheads; and hats with domed shapes, as if the thoughts drifting up got trapped inside, forming balloons.
Devon's past projects include a fall/ winter couture collection inspired by Madame Butterfly, a gorgeous and heartbreaking story with a feckless American husband and his yearning Japanese wife, the blending of arduous loyalties with absence and disillusionments, and her death by ritual suicide. Devon had to tweak the ending: "I just could not keep her waiting like that. So she took off by herself, packed up her stuff and got on the boat to find him, find her man." Following the reunion, we come to find he's actually not a total asshole, and they live happily ever after. Devon's work represents this journey: "I didn't want the outfits to seem like costumes. It's more like she's investigating what the Western women are wearing and then piecing her looks together."
The line becomes a delightfully curious medley of Asian and American influences, and the various exaggerated details balance folksiness with opulent femininity. Watch for: hair styled into chiseled slabs, corsets layered over qipao gowns, fur-covered lapels, Qing-dynasty gold-tipped fingernail protectors, shimmery disco lamé, traditional farmer's work trousers, and piles of lace, wadded on. (Find Devon's stuff here: devonyanberrong.com).
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