Friday, January 6, 2017

Sadie Williams // Xu Zhi // Spring 2017

Sadie Williams joined the London Fashion Week schedule last February to critical acclaim. The London-based designer presented a collection entitled ‘Off Piste’ which combined vintage ski-wear and photos of her parents on the slopes. Her Spring 2017 collection, ‘Buoy’, was presented last September—again, to a laudatory audience. ‘Buoy’ was the story of a shipwreck, the models cast ashore with a lighthouse in the distance, the ‘beach’ a charcoal hue with large boulders strewn about. The models were the victims of a tragic shipwreck.

An obvious one: nautical codes, graphic maritime alphabet flags and signals. Blue skirts with punctures reminded one of a fisherman’s net. A Swarovski crystal-embellished tunic not only resembled signals but something to be found under the sea. There was the pragmatism of the fisherman but the vivacity of the seaside village party girl ready to take to the dance floor at the local community centre. It is the life of many. However, there was more going on here than that. One couldn’t help but think of the migrant crisis. Designers have touched upon it time after time and the chill air sweeping this collection pointed to it—the inhumanity of it all.
On an emotional level, there is recurring motif in Sadie’s work that will resonate with many: loneliness and isolation. Her Spring 2016 collection was inspired by her boarding school days—the image of boarding school conjures up ideas of sadness, the distance from your family. Fall 2016, although there was the romantic element with the photographs of her parents and nostalgia with the old school skiing garments, the “shivery soundscape” instilled the solitariness of the slopes. Here, we see models washed ashore in cracked dresses, their lives upturned. It’s these darker moods that wash over her collections that add deeper meaning to her Swarovski embellished dresses. 

These personable elements never cease to enrich a collection. Creativity in fashion is being kept afloat by young talents like Williams. 

While Williams’ inclination to explore the darker side of things, newcomer Xu Zhi has a penchant for lightness. The London-based Chinese label prides itself on its “contemporary attitude to both aesthetic and craftsmanship”. 

Founded by Xuzhi Chen, the label is currently in its fifth year. In five years, Chen has attracted the attention of the fashion press. He was honoured with a nomination for the LVMH Prize in 2015, the H&M Design Awards and the International Woolmark Prize. His curiosity for experimentation has drawn the fashion industry into his world. Material innovation is intrinsic to every piece Chen creates. This interest no doubt arose when he participated in his work experience at illustrious London fashion houses J.W. Anderson and Craig Green—two pioneering forces in fashion currently. 
The brushstrokes of Impressionist painter Claude Monet was the chief inspiration for Chen. The colours of the garden: “green, yellow, neutral greys, shades of blue that mimic the endless nuances of water, and touches of black” dominated the lineup. Each look was handwoven from chiffon, denim, Japanese satin—an amalgam of different textures to convey the depth of an Impressionist painting. Chen effortlessly incorporates the same poetry that permeated Monet’s work in the late 1800s. 

At this moment in time Chen should continue to explore natural pursuits. The weightless grace to his clothing is breathtaking. His affinity for craftsmanship is suited to the beautiful things in life. 
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