Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Fashion East // Spring 2017 //

The Saturday during London Fashion Week is always the busiest. There are a million and one to things to do and see, and the “geographical discord” of day two is perhaps most frustrating for the editors and buyers who, in a panic, race to the next show. One heard reports of many editors missing shows due to traffic pandemonium—some resorted to the less glamorous, more efficient public bus or the tube. First thing on the agenda (always an advantage) was the all-important Fashion East presentation where the bright spark—that will soon dominate the London schedule on their own two feet—are given an incubation period, an elevated platform to present their wares. 

In recent years Fashion East has produced Caitlin Price (who was subsequently shortlisted for the LVMH Prize), This is the Uniform (now showing in New York), Ed Marler (the ghost of Meadham Kirchhoff), Louise Alsop, knitwear virtuoso Helen Lawrence. Ashley Williams, subject of Monday’s critique, was also among the recent Fashion East graduates. She was on the register since 2013 when she appeared alongside Ryan Lo and Claire Barrow, two prominent names on the London scene. 

The current roster includes: Mimi Wade, Matty Bovan, Amie Roberston of A.V. Roberston, and Richard Malone.

Mimi Wade foregoes the runway show, although her sassily feminine designs would undoubtedly benefit from a theatrical stomp from one of her petulant looking girls. She favours instead an installation which is available for viewing prior to the runway show. Drawing on filmic references once again, she created a “MimiMount” set, a play on the historic film company Paramount. Mimi is cultivating her niche nicely with saccharine womenswear that is heavily influenced by her grandmother, the Hollywood B-movie actress Pamela Curran. 

For Spring 2017 she takes note from “some noir and some 1970s Japanese sci-fi horror films”. Mimi describes the collection as “an angry note on the fridge door covered in bunny rabbit stickers, a passive aggressive floral print and, finally, a cute but nasty postcard that reads, ‘Glad you’re not here.’” Although she was willing to assert the collections sassiness, it was unnecessary: taking one glance at this presentation and you read flirtatiousness and old-world-meets-new-world type glamour. Imagined movie posters, MPAA slogans, logos were all realised on the fabrics, which came in, you guessed it, bright hues. 

An endearing love letter to a bygone era and an amusing homage, Mimi Wade is doing her grandmother proud no doubt.
Matty Bovan opened the catwalk show. His first season, Matty stepped up to the challenge, with a few helping hands. Super-stylist Katie Grand and casting director Anita Bitton joined forces, as they usually do—a huge coup for any young designer. In tow, they had top models Hailey Baldwin (anxiously Snapchatting her bleached eyebrows pre-show), Marjan Jonkman and Dilone, who surely added some more star power to proceedings. 

However, Matty is already well known around London. He notably won the L’Oréal Professionnel Creative Award at the Central Saint Martins graduate show in 2015, and the LVMH Graduate Prize. His resume counts Marc Jacobs, Louis Vuitton, and Miu Miu. Prior to his first show he had appeared in Love magazine. 

With an impressive reputation preceding him, I was eager to see how Matty’s debut would fare out. ‘Spontaneity’, ‘rainbow’ and ‘offensively saturated tones’ were the keywords from the show notes and aptly describe the collection. A boldly-hued collection complete with fabric shredded and knitted, crocheted and woven like raffia with reflective tape. The focus on fabrication and texture was heightened with the accessories: Coach handbags, Linda Farrow sunglasses. His dazzling agglomeration of fabrics and colours did prove, for some, to be sensory overload, myself included. His love for making clothes and the discotheque are, however, charming.

While Matty’s collection did feature fabric innovation—always a plus amongst young designers who are often too busy aestheticising—you couldn’t help but wonder whether these clothes live beyond the runway. In the right hands, yes.
Amie Robertson, who presented subsequent to Matty, was supported by Katie Grand and Anita Bitton last season. She had worked, alongside Matty, at Marc Jacobs on illustrations for his Spring 2016 show. (She and Matty are friends—the shine theory in effect.) Her handmade embroideries quickly caught the eye of the American designer, and they are the defining feature in A.V. Robertson collections.

Her Spring 2017 explored the post-apocalypse where the triffid, a highly venomous plant species, has risen . Day of the Triffids, a 1951 dystopian novel, was the source. In the collection, it took the form of garments inspired by the doctors and scientists’ lab coats; however, they are reconstructed. Vines and tails, the “cosmic spores” that attacked the population and took over the world in the novel take over the models in this collections. 

Amie is trying for an intergenerational take on dressing; there were certain pieces in the collection that could work for women of all age but the majority of this collection was destined for the 20- to 29-year-olds of the world. There is room for improvement here and as Amie matures her vision she could be onto something. In the meanwhile we can enjoy her expert embroideries. 
Last but not least was Richard Malone. Hailing from Co Wexford in the southeasterly region of Ireland. While the other three designers propose generational fashion ideas, Richard doesn’t completely buy into that. Yes, there are references to youth culture in Wexford, with the go-faster stripes on tracksuit-like bottoms and cutaways. An older woman, possibly his mother or his aunt, two characters he’s previously referenced, have an ostensible effect on his oeuvre, on the maturity of his work. 

Working class culture is engrained in Richard’s work. As aforementioned, Wexford is in the southeast of Ireland, a region that isn’t exactly a hive of activity. The nucleus of Irish commerce can be found in counties Cork and Dublin, also home to the two largest cities. Richard’s mother is an employee in the local Argos. Her uniform continually Even with his more architecturally-inclined garments, his focus is on “comfort rather than restriction.” 

There was a counterculture to Instagram within the collection. Notably, Richard doesn’t wish to dress celebrities and participate in celebrity culture. Famous for his sculptural masses that cloud the upper body—those pieces are in fact clip-ons and can change with every wear, nullifying photographic documentation. Moreover, the Irishman had something to say about the waist-trainer craze that has proliferated on the social media platform. Here, Richard offers and alternative, based on corsetry, linking back to the idea of “comfort.”

Many designers accused of misogyny are the ones who restrict and bind their models; they appear stiff and uncomfortable. With these clothes you witnessed the opposite—you get the impression that Richard’s working class background grounds him in reality. While he does channel glamour into the tracksuit-favouring youth culture aspect to his work and the workwear for grownups, he never strays into illusory worlds. That is why he is one of the best young designers working today.
Vogue Runway

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Versace // Spring 2017 // Menswear

It is universally accepted that William Shakespeare is the greatest writer of all time. Contrary to literature, film and music are far more irresolute. Everybody has their favourite film, and many acknowledge various films as the best; despite what you read on the internet, the greatest film of all time according to a given website will be divisive amongst readers. Similarly, music is a medium in which people’s tastes overcome their ability to distinguish ’the greatest musicians of all time’. However, if I was going to go out on a limb here, I might suggest David Bowie and Prince to be the most popular musicians in modern history. Tragically, the world lost the two music juggernauts this year. 

David Bowie’s spirit has long pervaded Alessandro Michele’s work at Gucci. A self-proclaimed Anglophile, Michele’s approach at Gucci has always had a British sensibility, despite it being an Italian house. He operates with an innate Britishness in mind, often exploring the 80s, the punk movement in his work. David Bowie, from Brixton, is readily apparent in his work.

At another Italian house, Versace, the ghost of Prince can be found. For her Spring 2017 menswear show, Donatella Versace paid tribute to her dear friend. Once upon a time, the story goes, he rented out a club for just the two of them to listen to his music. Close friends, it was a bittersweet moment to have Donatella present an ode to the late singer. Not only was this a celebration of Prince, an unreleased, never-before-heard song by him intoned a distinct mood overhead.

Everything about Versace is distinct. The men in the Spring 2017 show were macho, to say the least. They were that archaical portrayal of masculinity: aggressively muscular, broad-shouldered, butch; many of them essentially emitting bullish testosterone with every stride. This sharply contrasted with the notion of Prince, who underscored this collection. A man famed for his amorphous expression of his sexuality and defiance of gender roles, the Versace man is strictly bound by gender norms, he is emphatically masculine. Other than the music and the sentiment, the colour purple, naturally, was peppered into the collection, a decisive and predictable homage. 

The landscape of the urban jungle was the underlying influence in this collection. Inspired by photographer Bruce Weber, whose own sexually-charged vision of masculinity frequently lends itself to fashion, many of the models wore activewear. Presumably, they were en route to the gym in their feather-light fabrics, decorative raincoats and airy tees. Merging the gym and the workman, Versace blended activewear and formalwear. As evidenced by morning commuters, well, everywhere, the art of going straight to work via the gym is perfected by many. Gym shorts with a tuxedo jacket, anyone? 
“Men of the world, men of character and individual attitude.” That was who the prescribed personhood with this collection. Prince was an embodiment of similar sentiments, one concurs. His atypical approach to imagery idiosyncratically skewered gender ambiguity and sexuality. There was copious amounts of the latter to be found here, even if it is becoming outdated. He was a dear friend to Donatella Versace and paying homage to a friend imbued emotion into an otherwise unfeeling collection.
Vogue Runway

Monday, November 28, 2016

Ashley Williams // Spring 2017 //

Only five collections in, Ashley Williams has been inspired by Vietnamese prostitutes emulating American culture in the 1960s, the Beastie Boys meet Sky Ferreira, and rebellious 80s workers. From the outset, Ashley Williams has been one to watch. Not only did she have the backing of Fashion East, Alexa Chung and Pixie Geldof, perennial cool girls on the London scene, are regular fixtures at her shows; that’s not to mention Georgia May Jagger, Adwoa Aboah and Alice Dellal modelling in her shows. Only in its nascency her business, not just a generational project although pigeonholed and marketed as thus, Ashley Williams has clearly defined her aesthetic. On the overcrowded London schedule this is imperative to a designer’s success. 

For her Spring 2017 show, Ashley Williams enlisted set designer Tony Hornecker to imagine her vision of youth culture. Hitherto Ashley has opted to present in the characterless venues with white walls and grey runways. A teenager living in her childhood bedroom. A messy bookshelf, colourful helium balloons, a forgotten CRT television, dolls, globes, colourful seating. It was a 90s time capsule almost, possibly reminiscent of Ashley’s childhood room. Employing Hornecker didn’t just create a distracting set piece with the sole purpose of generating Instagram likes, it was an experiential, world-building exercise which brands in their infancy, like Ashley’s, should try to do if they opt for the runway show format. 
River Phoenix, Joaquin’s older brother, who tragically passed away in 1993, provided inspiration for the show. He was the heartthrob who punctuated this collection, appearing on Fernanda Ly’s opening look: a white dress with an image of Phoenix. Over that she wore a bra top—teenage rebellion. This was a nod to the “Hollywood Hills trailer trash” that the show notes spoke of.

There were also “Dalston diesel dykes, bendy weirdos and brilliant bouncy nerf herders”. Capturing various subcultures of adolescence, the overarching image being conveyed this collection, for me personally, was ‘dressing up for somebody.’ Do we dress for ourselves? Not anymore, in the age of Instagram and Snapchat. We dress for everyone else. There was Adwoa Aboah in a ruffled shirt dress; a model in an orchid-printed suit with what could be her mother’s earrings and sunglasses; a varsity jacket with a Cupid patch, presumably a boyfriend’s jacket. Ashley touched on various emblems of adolescence, imbuing it also with historical shapes. There were hoodies and multiple iterations of ‘the suit from the thrift shop’. One skirt, the bottom licked with flames and pink love hearts reminded one of Prada’s Spring 2012 collection, with it’s 50s references. 

This was a dense collection but there wasn’t a shortage of great moments. With ease and finesse, Ashley sold her aesthetic once more. She targeted age old tropes in her collection, although they could’ve used some more modernist interpretations—she’s well capable. Nothing felt derivative thankfully, it was all distinctly Ashley Williams. You’d recognise the pink tunic with a Cupid pop art print and “First Born” across the body Ashley’s from a mile out. 

What’s next? A collaboration with a high street retailer would be an excellent, enterprising endeavour for Ashley to embark on. The simplicity of imagining teenagers and young women queueing to buy into the Ashley Williams world goes without saying—the aim behind this would be to encourage the customers to grow up and purchase from Ashley’s mainline. The levels of effort and craft distinguish Ashley from the high street. Her unerring vision and the quasi-intellect of her pieces, of course, rule out any comparisons to the high street. 

Youth culture dominates the high street and Ashley Williams manages to transform it into high fashion, with clothes worth paying for. They have character and a unique sensibility, they’re recognisably hers and frankly, that’s an achievement that few can claim to have. 
Photo Credit: voguerunway.com

Friday, November 25, 2016

Marta Jakubowski // Spring 2017 //

Fashion as entertainment is an intersection which raises questions, doubts and everything in between. Fashion is self-serving entertainment in 2016. The shows aren’t just for the bidding journalists, buyers and photographers—they’re for the masses. Instagram, Snapchat have democratised fashion and, in a way, as a blogger who isn’t granted entry to every show, I’m grateful. Fashion has been opened up in ways that were once unimaginable. However, with that comes the lack of elusiveness. Fashion’s enigmatic persona has been uncovered by increased social media coverage and that’s also an interesting conversation to ponder.

Entertainment has become fashion’s sole function. Frankly, it’s lightened the mood. There’s something dour about watching twenty teenagers sullenly parading a blank space, with reckless abandon, with clothes they don’t enjoy wearing. Entertainment has lightened up fashion, but entertainment isn’t solely grounded in happiness.

Marta Jakubowski took an alternative route for Spring 2017, the German designer explored mourning by recalling memories of her mother’s funeral. Fusing that with childhood memories, Jakubowski merged, on a basic level, happiness and sadness. There was the brightness of the colour palette—sour pinks evoking sassiness, white symbolising purity, black for mourning. 
The silhouettes in the collection furthered Jakubowski’s penchant for deconstructed shapes. It pushed them into a more refined, more elegant space. There was still room for playfulness, however. The childhood motifs lent itself to Jakubowski’s inclination to deconstruct shapes. With cutouts here and there, they were warranted more than ever given the influences. 

The imposition of entertainment in Jakubowski’s collection derived from the thrilling set piece designed by set designer, Gary Card, a frequent collaborator amongst London designers (Ryan Lo, Roksanda—his wife—commissioned his sets for Spring 2017). His merry-go-round wasn’t designed to be merry, although it’s fuchsia hue is misleading. The functioning carousel, installed with horse seats, saw the models stand, sullenly, evoking sadness, their own and the audiences, who were drawn into Jakubowski’s world if only for a fleeting ten minutes, the duration to the show space at the Institute of Contemporary Arts.

The show was, undoubtedly, a haunting affair. Between the inspiration of the show, to its compelling execution, there was an eeriness to proceedings. However, Jakubowski seamlessly incorporated entertainment with nods to childhood, the moving—and disorientating for some—carousel. It was a memorable show.

In the aftermath of the presidential election’s results, I was despondent, like many Americans and non-Americans around the globe. I expressed my concern in my ‘Fashion & The U.S. Presidential Election Post’ recently. To combat the chilling melancholia of that Tuesday night’s result, I needed something to boost my spirits, which were extraordinarily low. It’s pleasing and comforting to know that we’ll always have entertainment to lean on for consolation.
Photo Credit: Dazed Digital & High Snobbery

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Paula Knorr // Spring 2017 //

The recurring theme on my blog this week has been “diversity and feminism”. Dilara Findikoglu, Teatum Jones, Rachel Antonoff, respectively, are fashion’s tentpoles for celebrations of youth culture, feminism and diversity. In their shows, the casting hasn’t been whitewashed—elsewhere, however, it is predominately white. Findikoglu celebrated otherness and unconventional portrayals of beauty with her show; Teatum Jones combined men and women’s, a unique experience in itself that gave a further insight into the designers’ world; Antonoff’s statement of body positivity diverged from the strict casting seen everywhere. London Fashion Week—New York more and more—appears to be the breeding ground for this type of liberally-minded designer. 

Paula Knorr debuted on the LFW schedule this past September with a smashing collection. Hailing from Frankfurt, Germany—the country is tolerant, liberal and free—Knorr examines womanhood within her collections. Her graduate collection for her MA in Fashion at the Royal College of Art was shown in 2015; at the time, she told Dazed, “I’m never looking at photos, I’m always looking at women.” For most designers operating in this weather, it’s quite the opposite; they turn to Instagram to research, where they are met with a beguiling, distorted image of reality. Knorr’s complex examinations of womanhood have seen her approach coloration in mature ways. She works with traditional colours and, naturally, interpenetrates subtext within them—the gender stereotypes associated with colour, etc. Her attentiveness to texture is also admirable: her collagist methods make for a considered artistic element that only enriches her work. 
Spring 2017 was titled “All of Me”. Knorr turned the spotlight on herself for an introspective journey through what led her to where she is today. We often forget that the designers presenting at London Fashion Week are barely thirty. Many of them have only graduated from university and have joined the official calendar six months to a year later. Knorr’s been out of college for a year and she’s already presented two ready-to-wear collections. ‘All of Me’, this outing, touched upon the relaxed nature of past collections: the clothing is swishy, loose in areas and tighter in others, a well-balanced mixture. Mining her own catalogue, red trousers with frilled side panels reappeared from the collection previous, the colours navy and blood red punctuating her palette. 

Effusing youthful femininity, the collection featured artistic approaches, from the silhouettes, to the impressive illustrations drawn on many of the pieces. If I was to hedge my bets as a fashion buyer, the white overcoat and blazer with charcoal drawings are bound to be the show’s bestsellers; although in this current climate, with the 90s revival, the navy, high waisted trousers and the lustrous, silver bandeau could potentially fly off shelves.  

An intelligent young woman, the designer told WWD during fashion week, “I always start every collection with just [the wearer] and her body… I don’t want anything to detract from that.” She shares that, “in avant-garde, sometimes pieces are so massive they don’t look different from on the hanger to on the girl.” In my opinion, Knorr hits the nail on the head here. Designers specialising in the avant-garde often lose sight of the fact that they’re designing for people and not art shows. Knorr’s measured approach to avant-garde fashion is a breath of fresh air for the fashion community—she has the ideas, but she also has commercial viability, even if she doesn’t prioritise it.

Knorr is contributing to the influx of profound, emotive group of designers who aren’t bothered solely catering to the commercial bounds of fashion. Creativity thrives and expression prospers in her collections. Another designer to add to the never-ending list of modern wunderkinds.
Photo Credit: WWD & The Upcoming

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Rachel Antonoff // Spring 2017 //

Rachel Antonoff’s name might ring a bell with you. She’s older sibling to Bleachers frontman and songwriter Jack Antonoff. However, she is just as talented as her younger brother. She doubles as a fashion designer and an activist, often fusing the two into a symbiotic partnership. She’s long fought for the rights of LGBTQ+ people, which now more than ever is essential. GLAAD, Human Rights Campaign, The Trevor Project are among the organisations Antonoff has supported. Her fashion design oeuvre too has seen the permeation of her activist pursuits. Famously, she designed a sweater in collaboration with & Other Stories with an illustration of the uterus; this was worn and auctioned by Antonoff’s brother’s girlfriend, the actress and writer, Lena Dunham. Family is an important aspect to Antonoff’s work.

Community spirit pervades the brand. Women of all sizes, colours, sexualities are represented in her positively-cast presentations. From the show during New York Fashion Week to e-commerce, representation is indispensable. 

The collection Antonoff displayed at NYFW was a partnership with the Betty and Veronica comic book. Models emerged, positioned against a digital screen where speech bubbles (written by the witty Dunham) appeared above them. “Well, it’s not gossip if it’s true!!” and “I, for one am aghast” were personal favourites. Get those on t-shirts and they’ll sell like hot cakes. The narrative, an anti-slut-shaming message with an emphasis on female friendship, was amusing and the clothes matched its kitschiness. Quirky separates to be found in the modern women’s wardrobe: a silk bomber jacket, tracksuit pants, flirty day dresses, playsuits and playful party dresses. The clothes were ones you could easily imagine any of the cast members in Girls wearing. It contributed their success.
One line isn’t enough. Antonoff created a collection for a second, her eponymous line too. An impressive 50 looks, the clothes were imbued with the spirit of the Steel Magnolias. Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, Daryl Hannah, Olympia Dukakis and Julia Robert’s wisecracking characters were optioned a modern day wardrobe. Realistically, you could transport Antonoff’s southern belle to any city, but the region was used as the foundations for which this collection was built on. There were illustrations of naked women riding pigs, magnolias, uteri, horses. The southern motifs were subtle yet noticeable, the emergence of youth culture prominent—pandering to young women everywhere; not to mention it’s price point. 

A contemporary New York label, Antonoff’s attractive pricing is sure to win over her youthful demographic. While the clothes are expensive for most, they will be feasible for some. The price tag attached to her sweatshirts and tees are affordable—as with most labels, they are the breadwinners. 

She has an inclusive message, a quirky aesthetic and reasonable price points down. Rachel Antonoff is one of those designers who is often overlooked, mainly because of her preferred presentation format—in New York, presentations are commonplace, but they aren’t as well attended as in London where presentations have as much gravitas as runway shows. Moreover, she has the star backing with Jack Antonoff and Lena Dunham working closely in the production of her shows. There is much to be excited about with Rachel Antonoff.
Photo Credit: WWD & voguerunway.com

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Teatum Jones // Spring 2017 //

There’s a trend among young designers after they coup prestigious prizes: they go from strength to strength. Grace Wales Bonner, Marques’Almeida, both past winners of the LVMH Prize enlarged their worthy operations. Wales Bonner’s Spring 2017 collection was the best offering to date. Marta Marques and Paulo Almeida similarly developed their youthful eccentricity for Spring—it was their finest outing also. Teatum Jones, the duo, comprised of Catherine Teatum and Rob Jones were the recipients of the 2015/2016 International Woolmark Prize, an award they collected just days prior to their London Fashion Week presentation this past February. Jet-lag in tow, the designers were in high spirits for their bittersweet return to London, their adopted home. 

Seven months later, in September, they had the honour of opening London Fashion Week, a considerable achievement for any label. It marked their first show post-prize, and sure enough, it exampled direction, forward-thinking and promise—something we’ve come to expect from the virtuosos.

With their collections, Teatum Jones like to create a human-interest story in which to ground their inspiration. This season, instead of picking an individual (last season it was Agnes Morrogh-Bernard, the founder of the Oxford Woollen Mills in County Mayo, Ireland) they chose an entire nation of people. Scots. They premiered a short film prior to the show’s beginning. In it, Scottish people spoke about “human diversity” and tolerance. As with analysing most collections in hindsight these days, it was a particularly prescient affair. Many Scottish people—the ones seen in the short film—are welcomed antidote to the hateful rhetoric that reverberates around communities on our planet. Sometimes you have to ask yourself, “why?”
In the face of adversity, we must move on. Especially in the creative industries is this important. They are modern day history textbooks stratifying the world around us, through mediums of art, film, fashion, literature. Teatum Jones celebration of togetherness, diversity and tolerance was told through various cultural touchstones. Techno and house music, played overhead, imbued the sense of a Scottish rave clubs. The psychedelic colours were indicative of this also. There were blood reds, canary yellows, forest greens reminiscent of the emerald fields. While the women’s side of things focused more on polished glamour, with florals and subtle sensuality bursting through—the men’s portion of the show was perhaps closer to the Scottish person of today. 

He wore his obligatory bomber jacket—his was printed with birds of paradise, quilted—and varsity jacket. It wouldn’t be a commercially-minded menswear collection without those two staples. Trousers were evocative of the 90s, in their baggy nature. The passionate colours employed throughout the collection, particularly appealing ones in the menswear portion, signalled, to this critic, the impassioned spirit and zeal of the Teatum Jones character—man and woman. 

The menswear initiative was made possible by the sizeable prize attached to the International Woolmark Prize. Catherine Teatum and Rob Jones’ attempt at expanding their business is not only seamless, but exhilarating. No matter the season, they adjust and tweak their spirited aesthetic to fit the bill. Their refreshing spring collection was a colourful and inspired affair—it was sublime. 
Photo Credit: voguerunway.com

Monday, November 21, 2016

Dilara Findikoglu // Spring 2017 //

A Soho strip club is a tongue-in-cheek venue choice, the kind you’ll rarely find in any other fashion week city. I mean, Vetements did show in a chintzy Chinese restaurant in Paris for their second presentation. Dilara Findikoglu chose Sunset Strip on Dean Street. Surprisingly, there was a potency to the venue. Findikoglu’s unique brand of pointedly feminist design aesthetic is heightened in a location such as this. The strip club and the duality of whether it is a degradation of the female or female empowerment—after all, they’re affectionately called exotic dancers. 

Findikoglu’s “exotic dancers” who did strut around the show space seductively, mounting the stage area and taking turns on the pole. However, they weren’t the stereotypical strip club workers. Punk Victorian hairstyles by Cyndia Harvey, harsh Gothic makeup by Inge Grognard. (Employing those two women in key roles is a further element to the feminism in her execution. Presenting opportunities to women in essential roles to the production of a fashion show.) Adwoa Aboah was among the models. She founded Gurls Talk, a feminist movement for girls to share their experiences and bring together women of different cultural, ethnic and social identities. She donned a tight-fit double-breasted tuxedo with regalia, eye and snake embroidered patches, On the back, in large, unforgettable gothic text, ‘Dilara Findikoglu’ was scribed. Adwoa’s presence and the setting weren’t the only indicators of feminism.

The show itself was called “Dear Past, Thanks for All the Lessons.” That aphorism was, of course, emblazoned on a shirt worn by Çilem Dogan, a Turkish (where Findikoglu is originally from) woman. Dogan was released from prison, in June of this year, after being jailed for killing her abusive husband in what she claimed was self defence. The statement was echoed in Findikoglu’s words who told Dazed, “It’s about how women’s bodies have been treated in different societies — what they were wearing and what they were doing, what the limitations on them were.” Thus began a history lesson through the ages of women’s fashion. There were Victorian-inspired pieces, corsets and Tudor sleeves, 18th century French Revolution-era garments, briefs embroidered with a diagram of the female genitalia. 80s party dresses and nineties power suits emerged in the collection also. 

To add to the already layered experience, Findikoglu’s intricate embroidery was an intriguing, modern accessorising. There were exposed female forms, love hearts stabbed with rapiers, snakes, guns, a skull and crossbones, two nude women arm in arm. There were elements of empowerment and strength peppered within the embroidery. It was a further emanation of sincere woman empowerment; not the pathetically commodified version that other brand have tried their arms at. 

With feminism and fashion, there has to be honesty. At the end of the day, any designer who creates clothing that makes a women’s life easier is a feminist. However, some designers are more pointedly feminist—Dilara Findikoglu, Ashley Williams, Paula Knorr, to name but a few London designers. If that honesty is missing and replaced with a cold, consumerist feeling, it dilutes the message of feminism and makes it look frivolous in the eyes of the questioning. With Dilara Findikoglu we’re in safe hands; she’s defiant and her work is moving. 
High Snobiety

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Christopher Raeburn // Spring 2017 // Menswear

Christopher Raeburn had a busy London Collections: Men. On Saturday June 11, he presented a unisex collection in collaboration with German leather luxury goods brand MCM. The collaboration proposed ideas for easy travelling for men and women. The clothes were functional (aren’t they always?) and ready for the walk through the terminal and onto the plane, suitable for lounging and luxuriating in pre-holiday bliss, with an added element of ease to destress the wearer. The show was an elaborate display—the perks of working with a big brand, who aims to reach a sales figure of $2 billion by 2019.

The following day, Sunday June 12, Raeburn presented his collection for his eponymous label at 180 The Strand. (LC:M will return to the venue as usual in 2017; London Fashion Week will also be bogarting the brutalist building.) There were indiscreet references to space in the infancy of the collection—windbreakers printed with astronaut suiting and booting, rocket ships and medals, space-related art and astronauts. This expanded into Raeburn’s go to: urban utility. It game in slate grey and powder blue, it bore prescience given the gloomy weeks and months that have followed.
Spring 2017, shown the week prior to the UK EU membership referendum on June 23, was a politically charged outing. A true liberal fashion designer, Raeburn branded sweaters and t-shirts with “In”, boldly stating that the designer would be voting Remain the following week. These pieces ended up being showpieces, after the collection’s presentation. The UK decided to exit the EU—Brexit-ing, I suppose. That essentially nullified these clothes. Alas, they did make for great clothing and unlike many of his contemporaries, Raeburn tackled the Brexit topic head on, which proved for politically charged viewing material. It made this collection more important and worthwhile, undeniably.

When someone is busy the quality and coherence of their work is subdued. That simply wasn’t the case at Christopher Raeburn; if anything, working for both MCM and on his namesake label allowed him to create a clear and precise vision. His MCM collection was purposeful and to the point. His eponymous collection told, with its colour-coded sections, the story of the man with a preference for sustainable fashion. The products may be banal, but its the element of craft and in this case, political motivation, that proves that these clothes are worth purchasing. 

Some of the best work is produced under pressure, a tried and tested potion at Christopher Raeburn. 

Photo Credit: voguerunway.com

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

steventai // Spring 2017 //

Like Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel, whenever Steven Tai posts invitations to his presentation you begin to guess the possibilities of the set, based on the piece of paper you receive. Spring 2016 and Fall 2016 were easy, Spring 2017 not so. A pen scratched etching of the brand name. In the end the collection was inspired by a quote from The Beauty and the Beast—an iconic film that is slated to get a modern retelling, with actress-activist Emma Watson playing Belle, next year—which read, “Look there she goes, that girl is so peculiar. I wonder if she’s feeling well. With a dreamy far off look. And her nose stuck in a book.” There you go—the nerd.

Steven Tai’s interaction with the female nerd has been quite the amusing one. It’s a thoroughly considered portrayal of society’s less-preferred incarnation. The clothes are never gimmicky or overt in their execution. There’s subtlety and nuance, which differs from many others who have made the nerd a cartoonish character. It doesn’t help the way the high street has commodified the traditional views of ‘nerdy chic’, which vilifies many other’s designers options to explore this area.

Tai’s persisting affinity for the “dorky-yet-feminine” woman has seen a new interpretation this season. He successfully steered his show in the right direction—there was the introduction of new silhouettes, they were sugary, swishy and feminine. One or two looks correlated to last season: the duvet dress from Fall 2016 looks to have transmogrified into a dreamy blouse and skirt.

Specific looks were evocative of uniforms. The modest hemlines, the pointed collars, the summer camp high-waisted shorts with overlong sleeves, shorts that pointed back, to the 50s. Here, Tai has modernised uniform tropes convincingly; not only has invented interesting silhouettes but he has also employed unique stitching methods that added flavour and intrigue—many of these techniques contributed to a 3-D, artistic element to the output. 

This collection also marks five years since Tai’s graduate collection, which touched upon the bookworm. She’s bespectacled, her big, round frames a defining the face; she chooses functional shoes; her clothes are swishy yet comfortable in varying neutral hues—she’s also everlasting, it appears. Tai hasn’t been hesitant to return to that character time and time again. (He has established his distinct niche in the past five years with aplomb—he has yet to show signs of growing pains, although his brand is still in it’s infancy.) Here she is for Spring 2017, fully-formed, beautiful, bookish and energetic. Has there every been such an exciting mix?
All images are my own

Monday, November 14, 2016

Markus Lupfer // Spring 2017 //

Will globalisation mean the end of originality? Has the internet killed subculture? Will homogeneity reign indefinitely? Can we still have fun with clothes? And if so, how?

Those were the tall questions Markus Lupfer posed in his Spring 2017 show notes. The German-born, London-based designer didn’t exactly answer some of his questions outright, but what he did do was lure customers with his sugary, florally-inclined collection. In 183 Eversholt Street—the show space that contributed to the “geographical discord” (coined by Luke Leitch) on day two of London Fashion Week—the venue was lined with large silver tiles and the walls were blanched; some were replaced with floral decorations with added to the bucolic air. With their slicked back hair, the Coachella- or Glastonbury-ready models positioned themselves hither and thither. Their outfits proved one thing: we can still have fun with clothes.
Without delving into deeply humorous territory, Lupfer printed his lineup of parkas, summer dresses and pyjama-inspired garments with woodland creatures, or fruit, such as pears, apples. Of the models, many of them wore apple-shaped sunglasses with lenses in tangerine, rust, rose gold, aqua. A marigold sweater with the outline of a hand-drawn rabbit struck me as the collection’s star item. When you attend a Markus Lupfer, guessing which piece will be next season’s bestseller is difficult: there is ample choice. For me, it was between that jumper, a black sweater with a drawing of a cat and indigo dungarees. Albeit, there was a lot of ‘stuff’ here, the collection was rooted more in honesty than previously. The hand-drawn illustrations and the inspiration were indicative of this. 

Lupfer wanted to “[return] to the freshness of flowers and fruits” with this collection. He did that effectively. He proved the floral craze is an undying love and many young women will be satisfied with his array of colourful saccharinity. The way he toughened each look up with chokers—symbolic of the current 90s revival—and leather and chains points to a developing subculture in itself. It’s connected to mainstream media and reflective of the high street, but what saves it from being homogenous and unoriginal are the quirky Lupfer-isms. Many young women wouldn’t turn down a bomber jacket emblazoned with a woodland creature or apple-shaped sunglasses coming into festival season in 2017—those are the facts of the matter. 

The festival-goers that inspired this collection had a delightfully English sensibility to them. While some high street retailers churn out utter garbage to pander to the festival attendees, Markus Lupfer offered an elegant edition to the ever-expanding library of modern style, as ruled by young women everywhere—not just the shortsighted, centralised depiction of big cities that we see from most designers. This season was more engaging and genuine in it’s execution. A leap in the right direction.
All images are my own