“This season I was thinking about the idea of identity, disguise, and the different masks and faces – both real and metaphorical – that we put on to project an image of ourselves. I was fascinated by the personas that people cultivate through their clothing, hairstyle, make-up, posture and mannerisms.” – Serafina Sama

For her Isa Arfen Autumn/Winter 2017 collection, Serafina Sama pondered the idea of masks and identity, drawing her inspiration from an eclectic range of sources including Inge Morath’s 1950s and 60s portraits of Saul Steinberg’s surreal faces drawn on brown paper bags, psychoanalyst Joan Riviere’s 1927 essay Womanliness as a Masquerade and the artifice and spectacle of Fellini’s clowns. The result is an exuberant, irreverent collection fusing exaggerated femininity with off-kilter elements.

Overtly girlish cuts and silhouettes are subtly skewed to subvert the sweetness. Note how ruffled hemlines fall asymmetrically, or simple tops have only one sleeve. Denim pencil skirts and cotton poplin shirts are reworked with unexpected ruched detailing and a tailored jacket is chopped short, only to have a tulle tutu sewn onto the hem. Proportions are deliberately ‘off’ and invite playfulness in the wearer: are those tulle and silk slips dresses or tops? The wearer decides.

Contrast is key. A muted palette of toffee, Bellini pink, moss, olive green and grey, is enlivened by pops of acid green, cayenne orange and deep purple. Stereotypically ‘grown up’, ladylike pieces are disrupted by ethereal, almost childlike accents. Paper bag trousers have a broderie anglaise trim around the waist, and the primness of an open wool twinset is reimagined in shrunken proportions. A sense of irony runs throughout the collection – fabrics are at times deliberately clichéd: note the frothy flocked tulle, sumptuous crushed velvet, sinuous satin, lurex jacquards and taffeta. An overblown, hyper-real champagne coupe painted by artist Marcela Gutiérrez evokes a sense of decadence which is in stark contrast to the rigorous, modest lines of the garments it is printed on. And elsewhere, a colossal faux fur is a knowing spin on the classic trophy fur.

The carnivalesque mood is heightened by a raw harlequin print painted by artist Helen Bullock. A naïve design – you can clearly see the brush strokes between the lines – it brings a vivid, graphic charm to cascading ruffled silks and a screen-printed PVC coated cotton coat. The print is complemented by diamond shaped enamelled ceramic brooches by Los Angeles-based jewellery designer Sonia Boyajian, found scattered throughout the collection. The surreal mood continues with washed cotton smocks calling to mind luxe reinterpretations of Pierrot shirting, bi-colour satin trousers with different coloured legs and trompe l’oeil style knits with double sleeves that wrap around the body. Oversized, cartoonish ceramic glasses also by Boyajian and clompy flats by Charlotte Olympia, further offset the femininity with a delightful eccentricity.