Facets of Maltese culture – Charles & Ron’s “316km²” show

Source: Times of Malta

Date: 02/12/2018

From the fresh water crab to lampuki and lizards, the latest Charles & Ron show brings together different elements tied to our island in the designers’ trademark tribute to everything indigenous. Review by Anna-Marie Galea.

Unveiled at the Hearts Fashion Week, the latest Charles & Ron show, 316km², celebrates all that makes our small country so unique. Drawing inspiration from the limestone characteristic of our architectural landscape, the show opened with cream-coloured offerings with pastel accents that gave way to a collage of block pastel colours.

What was particularly interesting about the show was the way the kaleidoscope of oranges and yellows was somewhat muted. At one point, a short, rainbow-coloured tulle skirt made an appearance, yet the colours were not as vibrant as one might expect and reminded me of those hot summer days where everything is tinged with a cloud of Mediterranean dust and compounded with heat causing a mirage-like sensation.

As the show progressed, it be­came evident that the colour pa­lette for this spring/summer 2019 collection, made up of sunburst orange, sunflower yellow, sky blue, lilac and mint, was one of the most characteristically Maltese palettes the duo have ever used. All these colours were set off and made to stand out with Charles & Ron’s staple black and white shades.

Apart from serving to bring out the best in the dreamy pastels, the black and white accents serve to not only give the pieces more structure but also gave them an added edge, representative of Malta’s grow­ing urban edge which adds patches of black to our naturally cream and orange landscape.

While in the past, Charles & Ron have integrated a lot of symbolism into their pieces, in 316km² they went a step further and actually adorned their pieces with animals indigenous to our islands, such as our lizards and the freshwater crab, which till a few years ago could be found on our five cent coins.

These species, along with the dolphin fish (lampuki), which has been used in past collections, were not only printed on various pieces but also made into beautiful pieces of Kenneth Jay Lane-like jewellery. Dress­es were dotted with oversized, or­nate crystal dolphin fish brooches, and the sparkle factor was extend­ed to amazing, entirely sequined dresses and shoes which shimmered like diamonds in a night sky.

Magpie that I am, for me the highlight of the show was definitely the sequinned gowns; whether short, long or strapless, each dress was a work of art in itself and emblazoned with large colourful representations of the aforementioned species. In keeping with Charles & Ron shoe tradition, ultra-cool knee-high boots gave some of the shorter dresses a 1970s disco vibe.

Of course, it was not just the shoes that drew gasps from everyone present at the show but the bags themselves. Consistently strong, 316km² gave new life to the shopper bag style as well as introducing a few new pieces. Always with an eye out for the weird and wonderful, I was particularly drawn to the bags that were miniature versions of bogue traps, or nassi tal-vopi as they are known in Maltese. Made out of cane cut into fine strips or special reeds from North Africa, these wicker-like baskets, which were once widely used by Maltese fishermen, have now been immortalised by the designers, who added a strap to their version and turned it into the perfect bucket bag – a trend which is pretty hot the world over at the moment.

As they have done in the past, Charles & Ron used silk, chiffon, soft tulle and even cotton knit for their pieces and also showcased their new slant on their very successful denim line by adding embroidery to this omnipresent fabric. The aforementioned se­quinn­ed dresses were all handmade and designed in-house, as is customary with the Charles & Ron brand.

Charles & Ron’s 316km² show succeeded once again in uncovering yet another beautiful facet of the Maltese culture and heritage which we so often take for grant­ed. From the light, billowy pieces that opened the show, to the gor­geous multi-coloured tulle pieces, to the heavily sequinned evening pieces de­signed for those unforgettable nights Charles & Ron perfectly encapsulated the best of spring and summer in a Maltese landscape.

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