I met Caitlin Power around this time at the Spring 2011 Toronto Fashion Week; only last year her show was at The Drake – off-site and after-hours. Exactly one year later she showed her Spring 2012 collection to a jam-packed audience, on site, at the official LG Fashion Week tents. So what? That kind of growth is scary. You know what else is scary? How mind-blowingly brilliant her 2012 collection was. As I watched each look sway and turn on the catwalk I became more and more certain of one thing: “She nailed it”.
Backstage she told me this collection was a strong departure from her Fall/Winter line and a well awaited return to her roots: “This collection is me”, says Power. Not that anything was wrong with her last collection but the young designer felt she had followed buyers and critics advice too slavishly after competing at the TFI New Labels Competition, resulting in a collection she had trouble calling her own.
Appeasing the hand that feeds you vs. following your gut instinct is where a lot of young designers lose themselves, reducing the equation to either sell my clothes or starve. Power showed tremendous courage in eschewing what others claimed to be marketability, in favour of boundless creativity – and all this for her grand introduction into LG Fashion Week; an introduction, I may add, that had the power to make or break the Caitlin Power label.
The decision to build on the edgy cut-outs, leather details, and the chiaroscuro palette we saw in her collection at The Drake was a good one. The Spring 2012 collection was tight; 14 looks, all interchangeable and yet all acting as both independent entities and necessary components to the Caitlin Power aesthetic. When you compare this sort of focus to the ‘everywhere and nowhere’ approach that fellow young designer, Amanda Lew Kee, takes (enter the shiny gold tennis suit) – it’s plain to see that Caitlin Power isn’t just making clothes to parade down the runway; she’s making a a world class, designer collection.
Caitlin told me the 2012 Primal Futurism collection started with orange suede, a material that didn’t figure once in the final version. Then she saw Blade Runner – yes, the text that us film students have come to know by heart – and was drawn to the warm, sepia filters used in the film to give it a vintage look. That Power was able to extract the ‘look’ of a film, it’s aesthetic, and infuse it into fashion is, in my opinion, flirting with the realm of art.
“I took that vintage look and went from old to new, to the future”, says Power, and this equilibrium of old and new, past and future, primal and highly technical is what we see on the runway. Leather vests and tencel blouses were cropped at the front, and cut in a longer, rectangular shape at the back, giving the looks a boxy silhouette. Panelling permeated the collection and trailed garments in geometric pathways – the manifestation of this technique was seen in her use of leather orange piping on a cropped vest and mini wool dress as well as the orange and blue detailing on a few blouses.
Ask Caitlin about her proclivity for leather and she will tell you that leather is the hallmark of the Caitlin Power aesthetic. Each season she reinvents her use of this common material. This year she used printed leather panelling and strips in blues and blacks. Printed leather added character to her pegged blue wool pants, while her token fine tailoring kept lines modern and edgy.
The whole allure of Caitlin Power’s 2012 Spring collection is that it really does speak for itself. Sure, we can comment on her fine suitings, cut-outs and printed leather accents on wool pants, dresses and jackets. Most reviews, such as Paul Aguirre-Livingston’s for BlogTo champion Power’s boxy silhouettes and her talent in working with structures. Paul writes, “Strong and streamlined. As usual, Power knows her strength and works with it, not against it”. Paul is totally right; there are no mixed messages here.
Writers don’t need to elaborate much on what it is exactly that makes Caitlin Power a name to watch – after one look at her collection, it becomes evident that the Caitlin Power label has what it takes to be one of Canada’s next designer powerhouses. I’d even go as far as to say she could be to Toronto what Nicolas Ghesquière was, and continues to be, to Balenciaga in her unique ability to be at the leading-edge of design. Ghesquière makes trends – he doesn’t follow; Caitlin Power is cut from that same cloth. Redefining what women think is beautiful without ever looking awkward or too far-fetched is the magic of Caitlin Power.