It’s been almost twenty years since this editor last saw the then scandalous film ‘The Lover‘, the film adaptation of the semi-autobiographical novel by Marguerite Duras, but one of the immediately tangible memories that came to mind when forced to remember that picture at Tia Cibani‘s debut was the heat of that film – and that’s not accounting for the steamy scenes that earned the movie an NC-17 rating.
Beads of sweat ran rampant in that story, based in Vietnam, and Cibani has always been something of a merry wanderer herself (as is her sister Fiona, who took over the reins at Ports 1961 following Tia’s departure). So, it felt fitting that she latched onto the story of a beautiful stranger in an equally beautiful foreign land – though, judging by those Joy Kim fedoras, Cibani was more than likely influenced moreso by the movie than by the book. It could’ve been Jane March herself walking out onto the stage from behind a gilded backdrop, were it not for the absence of those iconic pigtails.
For her debut collection, Cibani used blinding silver lame, scooped backs, easy ruffling, elegant asymmetry and built-in capes consistently throughout to cover every occasion. Where the proverbial “lover” of Cibani’s story is concerned, she opened the show ready for an intimate dinner date wearing a charcoal wool Gabardine shift dress with a built in cape that flowed in the back over the left shoulder. For a romantic summertime perambulation Cibani imagined a lax stunner – a lame’ sleeveless open cape back blouse with khaki slim pleat front trousers. That the lame’ would work so sumptuously for everyday life was almost revelatory, in more ways than one. There was certainly something of a surprise/perverse factor in a perfectly crisp button-up white poplin shirt that revealed a wholly scooped silver lame’ back when the model turned the corner. Though there was no surprise factor in a V-line silver lame’ shift with a diagonal toga drape that cinched at the waist – that look was just fresh and titillating. That was it! – what Tia Cibani has always been good at, and what she brought here – a certain freshness.
This was more personal, Cibani insisted, about her first outing as a free-standing designer. Just her, a few team members and a vision. Unlike most of her contemporaries, Cibani was on the other side of the wall, holding her young daughter in front of her, watching it all unfold along with the rest of us. Snaps all around.