Pre-pandemic, the idea of escaping into the woods seemed fantastical. The stuff of fairy tales and Sondheim musicals, the goal was impossible to achieve outside of a weekend spent at an Airbnb. Fast-forward a year and a half, and the idea is almost too real. In a moment defined by solitude, many have relocated to rustic new locations or reconfigured their lives to allow for social distancing. Either adjustment comes with a sense of isolation, something that Tae Ashida sought to address within her latest work. Her fall collection and its accompanying film take place in a woodland fantasy. Still, instead of going, Brothers Grimm Ashida approached folklore through the lens of futurism, meditating on what it means to be in seclusion in a world that continues to evolve rapidly.
The subject felt timely. More importantly, it yielded interesting clothes as Ashida attempted to find the midpoint between the fanciful sweetness of fairytales and austerity commonly associated with sci-fi. This comes through in the collection film by director Yasuhiko Shimizu and within its lookbook. Leaning futuristic, Ashida added warmth by softening sharp edges and including artsy flourishes on an otherwise stark piece. Without the watercolor flower on its bodice, the all-black midi-length dress would have seemed severe. Likewise, celestial embroidery featuring anthropomorphic moons and shooting stars on the back of cropped jackets kept the mood blithe. Collegiate staples like cricket sweaters emblazoned with a giant “T” and fitted cardigans served a similar purpose, the cozy familiarity of their presence tempering each look in which they featured.
Fantasy may be trending thanks to the desire for escapism, but Ashida understands that her customers have to reckon with reality. They’ll venture into the woods metaphorically during the day, but ultimately those fuzzy sweaters and frilly blouses still need to be appropriate for Instagram selfies and Zoom meetings. As the outfits grew dressier, there was less need for moderation, and Ashida let loose accordingly. Gowns laden with transparent silver lace, lamé, and satin felt fit for a dream, one that will have relevance long after life has returned to normal.