Having written about fashion for a number of years, it’s safe to say that I’ve experienced the good, the bad, the ugly and sometimes, just sometimes, the sublime.

Although the fashion scene in Malta has improved significantly over the past few years, there are still precious few people that understand why fashion is important and just why it should be afforded column inches.

To the average Maltese utilitarian, clothes are just something to stave off the elements. The fact that very little thought is given to them, or to aesthetic value as a whole, is an unfortunate side effect of many of our countrymen spending years worrying more about where they were going to get their daily crust of bread than what they were going to wear. This, sadly, left scant little time for dreaming.

Azzopardi’s clothes married severe necklines and intricate detailing with the era’s fascination with the East

Fashion and, particularly, couture has always had the power to transport people to times gone by (in a highly romanticised and stylised form) and fantastical places which until then had only existed in the designer’s mind. Thus, couture has always been considered to be the true zenith of a designer’s fantasies and their expression.

If one were to be frank, it is nothing more or less than a dream that we willingly buy into in order to make our lives a little less mundane, a little less grey. This parallel fantasy is exactly what Luke Azzopardi achieved in his latest collection, titled The Opium Addict.

Showcasing his collection at Camilleri Paris Mode in Valletta, Azzopardi worked closely with the outlet’s staff in order to transform the shop into a multi-sensory Orientalist tableau, which saw his nine models seated or standing in various fixed poses. In keeping with Azzopardi’s love for high Victoriana and the romantically-dramatic edge that this era offers, Azzopardi’s clothes married severe necklines and intricate detailing with the era’s fascination with the East.

Azzopardi’s latest effort displays a previously unseen softness to it, espousing the East meets West theme he clearly had in mind.

While the Victorian age is somewhat infamous for its supposed repressive veneer of civility, a look behind Britain’s public morality saw prostitution houses at their busiest and drug use as a widely-accepted and integral part of Victorian life.

The widespread use of opium, particularly of the Turkish variety, and the fact that the British Empire was at its height, led many people to start looking to the East for inspiration. This led to the British obsession with Chinoiserie and Japonisme. Travel diaries and novels meant that more than ever before, armchair travellers could experience the colours, sights, sounds and sensuality of the East.

The beauty of Azzopardi’s collection lies in the fact that he marries these concepts with the freedom of form so widely used in the liberated 1960s, making for an engaging paradox which is not entirely divorced from the Victorian state of mind.

In keeping with the lush garden he created inside the Valletta shop, Azzopardi employed an array of raw, textured, decadent green fabrics which were paired with pale pinks and whites. A further nod to the East could be clearly seen in the use of a bold tiger pattern paired with golden fabric and micro-embroidered with the most delicate paillettes.

Remarkably focused, maintaining a sense of linearity and cohesiveness in concept

The cuts and use of fabric folds reminiscent of origami evoked a naturalistic streak to the designs. There was clearly a return to the lushness of forms of nature in each and every piece. One was almost given the impression that they had just stepped into a fragrant hanging garden or open air boudoir.

Not one to shy away from bold statement pieces, Azzopardi combined different fabrics together to dramatic effect and an example of this could be seen in his mixing and matching of lightweight fabrics with heavy, opaque materials. When sheer fabric was introduced, it was always married with a strong, bold backdrop and the contrasts of oranges, reds which were combined together, melded beautifully to form kaleidoscopes of opulence.

While I have greatly enjoyed Mr Azzopardi’s past collections, it was evident that his latest offering was by far his best yet. Shown independently and on his own terms, Azzopardi’s capsule collection was remarkably focused, maintaining a sense of linearity and cohesiveness in concept... its finishing and minute attention to detail a rarity on our shores. A triumph.