PHOTOGRAPH BY TIFFANY CLARK
Our story begins with the sound of seagulls and a panorama of wild grasses gracing a seafront. A woman’s silhouette appears. Her figure strikes a viewer as mysterious because of the volume surrounding her shoulders. As light strikes her, the mass reveals itself as shiny black, pleated circles in which glittery gold bows are captured by cerise buttons and perched on each shoulder. A lace pattern lies under a gold-dotted bodice above a voluminous skirt in a print that suggests tatted lace in pastels on a field of black. A fairytale begins to unfold.
Welcome to the world of Edwin Oudshoorn, where fabric is a tool of expression — and a particularly theatrical one.
“In The Netherlands, they call me ‘The Designer of Storytelling,’” he says, referring to his homeland. “I love to tell a story with design. You have an image from afar and then, when you look closer, it is detailed and layered.”
“Detailed and layered” scratches the surface of what Oudshoorn sent down the runway at Fashion Week El Paseo’s grand finale on Saturday night.
A sequined and beaded black gown with transparent cutouts and cape, a train, and a large headdress of netted squares could make a woman imagine she was a femme fatale in a noirish tale. Next came more exaggerated shoulders — this time with yellow flower-and-leaf appliques on transparent black. A full skirt continued the yellow appliques but also featured larger graphic flowers in a pastel shade of purple.
PHOTOGRAPH BY PAIGE ROBBERSTAD
Edwin Oudshoorn makes some last-minute adjustments before sending his model down the runway in Palm Desert.
To question where a woman could wear one of these designs would be missing the point. At his atelier in The Netherlands, Oudshoorn maintains a thriving operation in bridal couture, which people typically think of as being the arena in which the elaborate is accepted. But he says his wedding gowns are “translations from the collections but more wearable.” And this is where Oudshoorn’s design-based bestaansrecht (Dutch for raison d’etre) seems at first glance a bit counterintuitive.
“The wearability of the couture is not a thing. It is about making pictures and telling stories,” he explains. “The bridal [gown] is for a woman who has to wear it all day. She needs to feel her best, and I don’t want to dictate that.”
Saturday’s runway show left no doubt that Oudshoorn likes to play with transparency, layering (tulle being useful), volume, dramatic shapes, and bold colors (in one outfit, he paired bright orange with bright pink), and draping elements that a whiff of air could send afloat. It also seemed evident that he likes a bare back. One “simple” gown in rich emerald with abstract flowers in bright shades of purple/pink and yellow/gold featured an unadorned, boat neckline in front but was essentially bare backed to below the waist excepting for holster-style straps.
Oudshoorn showed a few pants suits and short dresses, including a mini dress of pleated ruffles with a high collar and cap sleeves but plunging center front.
“It’s all about the story. Sometimes I think ugly is nice. When everything is perfect, it is boring,” he says. “Boring” is the last word one could expect to hear from anyone as Oudshoorn joined his El Paseo Fashion Week models in a final parade to applause — and everyone went home happily ever after.