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When the show began, we were plunged into cellphone-spangled darkness. In tune with the circus installation, we were then treated to a jaw-dropping display of underwater creatures when the lights came up. Playing custom-built musical instruments or singing in a series of man-sized aquariums were musicians from the Danish experimental group known as Between Music. The result of this submarine orchestra was bewitching, to say the least.
When the models walked in, we were fully transported to Atlantis, listening in rapt attention to the music of the spheres and sirens. Had the outfits not been as spectacular as the sound and sights, the mermaid musicians would have stolen all the thunder. Thankfully, van Herpen’s vestimentary inspiration was up to her usual sky-high standards.
The first looks were a cross between dresses and ankle-length coats, but this is inadequate to describe what was really more like a striped and latticed elfin shimmer. These were followed by ribbed, cocoon-like, waving dresses of beige, white, and black. Some of the outfits evoked fish fins, gills, or spawn, clothes you might expect a mermaid princess to wear in her undersea palace.
Later dresses, forged out of mylar and cotton, were closer-fitting, evoking metallic scales or ripples on the surface of a liquid silver pool.
Shoes were made out of suede; their chunky heels latticed out of welded metal creating a biomorphic molecular look that perfectly matched the outfits.
The showstoppers were kept for last: two awe-inspiring dress-sized ornaments that effervesced off the body like a coil of floral bubbles.