A New Renaissance, the Innovative Fashion of Jef Montes
Swaths of iridescent colors. Shimmering pleats. Gleaming synthetics in sharp cuts. Hats that literally glow like a halo.
Jef Montes’s collections seem an endless homage to the prolific artists of the Renaissance, where the lines of fleshly human and ethereal divine blurs into a façade of impressions. The human body becomes a backdrop for shapes and lines, a mere silhouette awaiting to be layered with contours. Montes revives the romanticism in minimalism while keeping it fresh, chic and extremely European.
Based in Arnhem, the Netherlands, Montes’ designs are very emotive and deeply personal. His 2012 graduate collection was a tribute to his great grandmother. His subsequent collections repeatedly use his own religious background as a reference point. After his debut at Mercedes Benz Amsterdam Fashion Week, he launches his eponymous label in 2012. He receives great acclaim for his adroit draping and a keen eye for structure. Geometry shapes intertwine in his dresses and suits to form a kaleidoscopic canvas of futurism. Extremely clean lines with crisp finish and ingenious details are key attributes of his line.
“Toile De Luxe” is a master exercise in draping and his first experiment with color and light. The collection exudes an overt vibe of grim sophistication. Models are blanketed in gargantuan layers of silk, gorgeously placed to conceal and extend the human silhouette. The body becomes frail canvas for splashes of color, seemingly spontaneous yet subtly controlled. The coral and blue combination is reminiscent of early Renaissance paintings, superimposed into post-Modernist context.
His looks for 2012 were a step up from his first collection, with a conspicuous dichotomy of colors and materials. Intense effort for fabric research is evident in the construction and manufacturing of the garments. Futuristic looks with a puritan structure are still vital in this collection. The halo-like hat, the sterile sheens of draped garments coupled with the elusive layering create an intriguing appeal of illusion. Where the body begins and where the garment ends become a rhetorical question. The designer seems to play with complimentary contrast in his use of color and the juxtaposition of soft pleats and hard edges. Structured shoulder and clean hems reduce the feared excess and focus our attention to such innovative fashion.
Catholic influences are evident Jef Montes’s collections. “Lolita” and “Encarnation” are prime examples. The use of intersecting lines to create optical illusion seems to echo a fixation with the crucifix. His women are acutely demure yet irresistibly tantalizing. Titillating cuts of shine are superimposed with dull, textured fabric. Dresses are strategically cut to humble reveal the supple body underneath. The human flesh is wrapped, decorated and covered fully, yet is celebrated in an almost lionizing manner.
The prevalent reference and depiction of the Christian cross lends a monolithic air of industrialized religion. The runway becomes a theatrical convent and models aggressive nuns from another dimension.
Jef Montes loves to play with light. His dresses and jackets have volume, texture, luminosity and movement. They are a dream in Technicolor, except in psychedelic mode. The act of donning and making movement with Montes clothes seem like performance art. With every step, his apparel seems to transcend into a surreal metamorphosis. The body is no longer just the canvas but also a platform for light effects. Luscious fiberglass combines with resplendent silk creates an infinite loop of illusions on the catwalk. For Mercedes Benz Amsterdam Fashion Week 2014, the ideas of Catholicism and futurism culminate into an incredibly hypnagogic showcase of inventive fashion. “Illuminosa” was an immaculate manipulation of texture and structure. Models walk down the runway with candles and orange lipsticks, oversized hats and skintight leggings. The designer finally peels off layers of drapes to expose the human body in a subtle suggestion of sexuality, yet his approach remained faithful to play with light and forms. Line between the tangible and the unreal gotblurred on the runway, as in a utopian science novel.
Jef Montes is certainly a formidable force of European fashion to watch out for. His clothes are not just an exercise in image creationbut also the product of European tailoring and fabric research. With the fashion industry new focus in technology and innovation, Montes will emerge as leader on the international runways. Montes a capable polymath and the new Renaissance man of fashion.
This article was written and submitted by Minh Phuong for 22 -27 Round 1 of Modeconnect’s International Fashion Writing Competition. Minh was invited to take part in Round 2. Read all the published submissions.