by Ami Kealoha
It isn't tough to imagine how Octopi's distinctive, almost absurd use of volume and focus on sculptural shapes evolve naturally from Williamsburg-based designers and founders Madeline Davy and Sarah Welsh's fine art backgrounds. What is a bit harder to grasp is how, in just under two years, the RISD alums with almost no formal training in fashion have gone from producing a few pieces for a small Williamsburg boutique (Landing, R.I.P.) to a critically lauded line chosen for GenArt's name-making Fresh Faces in Fashion 2005. Whether it's an intuitive design process, unfussy attention to detail, or their business-minded (and selfish) efforts to fill an underserved niche for their age group, Octopi's latest collection is yet another step for the young label toward becoming the next Comme des GarÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â§ons.
One of Welsh's and Davy's favorites from the Spring 2006 collection—a piece they sometimes call the Armor dress—features a bodice constructed out of curving panels of contrasting woven raw silk in ivory and peach-gold silk viscose. The rounded U-lines create elegantly modern shapes that dip gracefully into a ballooning diamond-cut skirt (a trope of the collection) made from an off-white washed linen. The three fabrics in the dress create a subtle dissonance, a tension that's as aesthetically refined as it is beautifully wearable.
Another standout, an open-front black shirt—meant for layering over a bandeau top or as a cardigan—is made from linen-like cotton and hinges on a dramatically plunging neckline that drops to just below the ribs. The design, like many in Octopi's stable, focuses on one or two elements, paring the clothing down to essential shapes and highlighting their use of offbeat, luxe fabrics—comparisons to Noguchi's sensuous forms and the rich, organic presence of his materials are inevitable. Perhaps a better term for this sort of sculptural fashion is simply Octopi.
The two designers of the Brooklyn-based label Octopi turn art school degrees into avant-garde apparel.