At Paris Fashion Week SS24, Ujoh Delivers a Lesson in Divine Tailoring
A master of sharp tailoring and layered-up construction, Ujoh’s creative director Mitsuru Nishizaki sent an artfully complex spring-summer 2024 collection down the runway of the American Cathedral in Paris.
Photography by Gio Staiano, courtesy of Ujoh.
Everything is transfigured as though by a heavenly light. Six bulbs, stacked like domino pips, illuminate the back-and-white tiled strip that runs down the center of the American Cathedral in Paris, one of the oldest English-speaking churches in the city. Church pews have been turned into runway seats. Instead of bibles, show notes sit there waiting to be picked up, held, and studied. All in praise of Ujoh’s spring-summer 2024 collection for Paris Fashion Week.
Looking around, at the gothic arches, the stained glass, the tapestries adorning the walls, and the organ pipes jutting out like cannons, you can’t help but take a moment of silent contemplation. But not for long. Soon enough, the monastic hush is relaxed by a blur of voices, the stomp and click of heels, the sound of guests shuffling in their seats and of forgotten alarms going off sporadically. Thirty-five minutes post start time, the church door closes.
Lights. More lights. A heavier silence cracked open by a long and gloriously fluid note accompanied with short, gurgling lines by saxophonist Sam Gendel. And then finally, the first look: A strapless longline top left mostly unbuttoned and worn on top of an artfully layered asymmetrical skirt. There’s a certain lightness that’s – dare I say it – angelic. Especially from my vantage point. The model’s frizzy backlit hair shines so brightly that it appears to be surrounded by a halo. One by one, the models emerge with tousled hair in the back, as though they’d all fallen asleep in their makeup chairs.
Steely grays kick off the collection: roomy overalls with a cord-stop drawstring neckline, layered underneath an oversized vest. There’s so much to notice, I can’t help but lean in. Really, it’s these blink-and-you’ll-miss-them details that’s the genius of creative director Mitsuru Nishizaki, who worked as a patternmaker for Yohji Yamamoto before launching his own brand in 2009. Studying Mitsuru’s incorporated layers is almost like discovering little secrets. An expected fold. A peekaboo waistband. A built-in skirt. Little buttons that run along the insides of sleeves, drawing them open.
As always, Mitsuru tailors everything to a perfect degree of fluidity. The designer believes that “‘cutting’ is not only about connecting the dots efficiently and functionally,” the show notes read. “His search to find new ways of cutting gave birth to this season’s distinctive shapes, which combine organic curves with sharpness, transposed directly onto the patterns.”
This idea shows itself in round, asymmetrical lapels stacked like rubber tree leaves. The scooped hemline of a skirt. The rounded patches of material that form abstract vests. The wave-like neckline of abbreviated bustiers, which are layered on loose blazers and shirts, creating a silhouette that hugs the torso but is loose in the arms and body. I’m immediately drawn to this interplay of straight and curved lines, and how it imbues each look with a certain liveliness and dynamism.
In contrast with Mitsuru’s crisp tailoring, the collection enters a more supple territory with this season’s choice of fabrics. Delicate, almost-translucent materials are used nicely all around – from airy and lightweight muslin to satin-like washi paper, which has a brilliant appearance and a natural, organic feel. High-shine nylon with a waffle weave adds a dash of the unexpected to traditional closet staples.
These materials are particularly fun to watch in motion. Unsurprisingly, no matter the fabric, every piece moves with the ease of running water. One of my favorite looks includes a sheer button-down dress worn with a calf-grazing vest and wide-legged pants. All black. Effectively simple and elegant. It drapes like a dream. And another: a beige tunic with gathered side cutouts. The pants? A mystery of rounded layers.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how Mitsuru scrambles the divide between conventionally feminine and masculine silhouettes, sending pieces that are “free from gender and body type restrictions,” as the show notes suggest. Materials? They’re used interchangeably. Cuts? Ditto. Wear them however you want, whoever you are. For this and so much else, Ujoh deserves an echoing amen.