Leave it up to Ritienne to take a dubious matter such as ‘illegal immigration’ and turn it into a canvas for an incredible line of wearable art. After studying fashion for so many years of my life, her lines have always confounded me. Seeing these controversial concepts arise and blossom into something so beautiful and perplexing, is a treasure that artists live to experience. And behind every controversial concept that crops up onto Malta’s runways, there is an innovative designer captivating her audience with a provocatively creative show.
Models exuded a blended image of filth, flashiness, and materialistic eminence. Flashy fabrics and dollar bill graphics hung on models with grotesquely exotic hair styles and dark, mysterious make up. Models’ hair sat still upon their heads, moistened flat like seaweed, settling as they rose from their adventurous to new land. Paisley patterns on brocade swung swiftly alongside thick gold sequins and printed dollar bill graphics on velvet. Dollar bills scandalously slipped from under a cutout crop top. Gold sequins reflected upon the faces of the models under the ghostly lights, dimly lit, and glimmering around the characteristic shadows of the narrow little historic street. There was an emphasis on the Eye of Providence -or the All-Seeing Eye of God- taken from the back of the US dollar bill, in these custom-made velvet fabrics designed by Ritienne herself. Ritienne’s signature lengthy silhouettes exposed shoulders and backs while leaving slim legs covered with long skirts. Patterns clashed in a rebelliously pleasing manner.
Models carried flashlights and held them over their heads at the end of the runway.
In the beginning, before my mind had wrapped completely around the idea of ‘illegal immigration,’ my interpretation of these flashlights were quite different from Ritienne’s prospective illustration. Perhaps they were symbolizing spotlights, I thought to myself, arrogantly shining upon the secular humans who carried them. Or perhaps it signified the hopefulness of lost materialistic souls, searching for themselves though a darkness of want and greed. Nevertheless, the underlying theme of immigration, explained itself through the use of these props as models shone the light upon their disheveled heads decorated in seaweed, as if being found in the middle of a sea of darkness.
Shining upon the ground where the models entered onto the street, was an art installation reading ‘Materialism’ and ‘Providence’ followed by the definitions of these words. Materialism- a preoccupation with material objects, comforts, and considerations- rejects spiritual, intellectual, and cultural values; while ‘Providence’ by definition, is the foreseeing care and guidance of God. These contrasting ideas disclose the theme of immigration through Ritienne’s fabric choices and prints. The repetition of the Eye of Providence, worn by models resembling disheveled immigrants, demonstrates this all-seeing care and guidance that is so iconically printed all around us today. Jazzy sequins danced alongside these exemplary graphics, exuding confidence in a materialistic world.
Spectators watched with wide eyes as they sat, wine in hand, at their quaint little tables lined along Straight Street. Couples, families, and friends, filled the various tables and couches on this eclectic narrow little street, eating their fancy dinners and drinking their wine. Several guests at these establishments were shocked to witness a show tonight, from one of Malta’s most talented and thought-provoking fashion designers, yet.
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