Ann-Sofie Back Atelje

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Last season, it was porn; this season, it was cars. But Porn 2, the title she gave her new show, clarified Ann-Sofie Back's feelings about the relationship between men and their motors. "The subject is as alien to me as pornography," she said during a preview, "but the life span of my interest becomes longer if I don't like something." Miuccia Prada has often expressed similar thoughts about her approach to design, and that's hardly bad company for Back to keep. The Swede is, however, a very different kettle of fashion fish. The launch of her diffusion line, Back, has freed her to elevate her new signature collection, Atelje, to rarefied heights that are positively esoteric.

In a mere 14 looks, Back abstracted her inspiration into elegantly strict outfits like the silvery pantsuit that opened the presentation. It was trimmed with metal, mirroring the trim on a car window, which had the same effect as the chains that Coco Chanel used to guarantee the hang of her jackets. The other auto references were as subtle: a burled wood clutch echoing a dashboard, a skirt with a pleated front that suggested a tail fin, a bag modeled on the hood of a car. The accordion pleating on a gown was apparently meant to suggest cars fresh from the compactor, but it was much too proper. In fact, a chilly, perverse precision was the dominant mood of the presentation, which turned the minds of some in the audience to David Cronenberg's autoerotic Crash. For instance, the thin metal band that gathered a sheer white organza shirt could almost have been piercing the model's flesh.

Back's clothes were undoubtedly impressive in their immaculate, almost mathematical construction. But the stately pace of the show—plus the female voice icily intoning, "She's a killer machine" over and over on the soundtrack—made the clothes seem unnecessarily severe, which was a shame. Back in the showroom, there was a dress in a random, attractive, almost-floral print that Back called "bug-splatter;" a little of that levity would have gone a long way today.


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