Let the season sparkle in all colors, but I'll be in black

Filipino designer Chris Nick de los Reyes pays tribute to the tuxedo and the terno sleeve in his first global collection, unveiled at LA Fashion Week

BOW TUXE A not so tiny detail, apart from the black theme, is the incorporation of bows in some of pieces in the collection

Black is the height of personality. Ask Wednesday Addams, or her mother Morticia Addams before her. As the younger of these Addams femme fatales says, “I’ll stop wearing black when they invent a darker color.”

I imagine young Filipino designer Chris Nick de los Reyes, who was the first ever to send me black hearts on social media, guffawing at Wednesday’s dark, deadpan statement.

But women (and men) who wear black lead colorful lives. Or so said Neiman Marcus.  “Black is not sad,” says the Belgian designer Ann Demeulemeester. “Bright colors are what depresses me. They’re so…empty. Black is poetic. How do you imagine a poet? In a bright yellow jacket? Probably not.”

BLACK PROPHET Chris Nick de los Reyes backstage at the LAFW 2022

I’d imagine such a poet in something profoundly black from head to toe, with an oversized bow tie in white that is as much a neckpiece as a shawl, a wrap, an accent or, better yet, a statement. That was how a certain piece from Chris Nick’s spring/summer 2023 collection, his very first global collection unveiled at Los Angeles Fashion Week (LAFW) 2022 recently, struck me—poetic, as in a cloak-and-dagger film, preferably Edgar Allan Poe’s. 

Black is the ultimate elegance, “modest and arrogant at the same time,” according to Yohji Yamamoto. “(It’s) lazy and easy—but mysterious. But above all, black says this: I don’t bother you. You don’t bother me.”

Back in the day, Diana Vreeland proclaimed black as “the hardest color in the world to get right,” but Rei Kawakubo found it in three shades in which she is now perennially clad, shuttling between Tokyo and Paris.

STYGIAN STYLE Chris Nick spring/summer 23 on the runway (Dion Trinidad)

Black is beautiful. By sleight of Chris Nick’s hands, it is even more beautiful, powerful in its restraint, striking in its mystery, complex in its simplicity, if I must use irony the way it has been put to use in Erin Morgenstern’s Night Circus. His collection for spring/summer 2023 is an ode to the all-black suit, the tuxedo, his favorite article of clothing.  

There's a certain elusiveness in black that I find so alluring. —Chris Nick de los Reyes

“This season revolves around ’90s minimalism and grunge,” the young designer explains. “For my very first global presentation, I really wanted something that would embody the brand. That sense of cool, undeniable simplicity and the mix of sensuality and elegance.”

In the same collection, Chris Nick also unleashes the butterfly sleeve, which he considers an important element in Philippine fashion. Ah, black butterflies, as in the French crime, thriller, and mystery film, Les papillons noirs, how awestriking to see them fluttering about in a garden worthy of Miss Havisham’s profound grief, how astounding to see them cut across the sky the color of bruises over the Grey Gardens of Big and Little Edie Beale!

“The butterfly sleeves are an East-meets-West moment and I’d like to turn it into something more than a costume but a fashion statement for the present times,” says Chris. “I’ve said it before that there’s a way to have something classic and turn it into something more contemporary and current.”

So the butterfly sleeves sailed above the catwalk at LAFW. In black, they are as impervious to the highs and lows of the times as cherubims in a game of Russian roulette, as seductive as a Roald Dahl witch in a houndstooth dress, as mystifying as Angelina Jolie playing Maleficent.

Black is timeless. As perfect to wear at the trial of the Basque witches of the Zugarramurdi caves in 1609, as it is now that the world is emerging with more defiance than caution into the half-light of the deep, dark, still-has-yet-to-end tunnel of our pandemic lives. 

“One must always adapt to the times, especially in fashion,” says Chris Nick. “Although trends are important, I am a firm believer of the power of understated elegance, where the clothes never wear the wearer. It’s harder to pull off a look that way in my opinion. You need a certain attitude and a persona to do it right.”

Yes, like the persona and character of Queen Elizabeth I, the world’s most powerful monarch, the Virgin Queen, garbed with the dangerous charm and deadly mystique of the black widow in a dress blacker than black and very richly adorned with gold and pearls and a laced ruff.

Chris himself is a disciple as well as a prophet of black. "I'm a little color-blind and with black I'm never wrong," he confesses. "There's a certain elusiveness to it that I find so alluring."

The Chris Nick spring/summer 23 show was produced by LAFW and presented by Asian Journal Group and Tech Edge Solutions.