Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Comme des Garçons // Fall 2017 //

On May 1 the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City will host the Costume Insitute Gala—affectionately known as the Met Gala—to celebrate the launch of the latest exhibition, entitled ‘Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons Art of the In-Between’. It is quite a remarkable achievement for Kawakubo, who becomes the second living designer to have an exhibition dedicated to their oeuvre. 

‘The in-between’ is a perfect descriptor for Kawakubo’s four decade long career. Dissecting her body of work under terms of fashion/anti-fashion; design/not design; model/multiple; then/now; high/low; self/other; object/subject; clothes/not clothes. To rest on the last thematic opposition, clothes versus not clothes: in recent years, Kawakubo’s focus has been on designing gesturally, not so much with an emphasis on clothes. Her globular, amorphous and often incomprehensible ‘structures’, for lack of a suitable term, have divided opinion but also evoked emotional responses hitherto unseen at fashion shows—her response to loss and mourning left audience members weeping in their perches; her interpretation of enchanting witches produced one of her most beautiful collections in recent times; but humour couldn’t have escaped her Spring 2017 show, where she mocked the proportion-defying ethos of fashion designers today.  
There are many interviews in which Kawakubo comments on her inability to articulate in terms of fashion. Believing she has exhausted all the possibilities, she created her own with this avant-garde answer to contemporary fashion and what it expects. Largely, it’s construed as a middle finger pointed to festering, tolerated mediocrity present within the industry. Of the 18 looks in this collection, not one resembled an identifiable item of clothing. They were shapes that bore no reflection of what has or is ever worn on the street—“the future of the silhouette”, a term thrown around backstage. They were exaggerated entities made from industrial textiles: white wadding, brown paper, matted insulation.

There were some pieces that had obvious connotations. The brown paper bag, perhaps a nod to her thinking the industry is trash, or also pointing to recycling and the damaging effects of fast fashion. One has picked up on whispers that a fluffy, curvaceous object was highlighting the cultural fetishisation of marijuana, and the battles to legalise the substance. Perhaps it is overthinking things, perhaps it is doing our best to look intelligent and interpret things in intelligent-sounding ways. That in itself would be a fashion statement, commenting on the industry’s paranoia and elitist attitudes. Is it designing for the future or for a museum? Therein lies the question that the Met will propose and challenge its viewers to answer in the coming weeks. 

To say Rei Kawakubo has had an indelible influence on the fashion industry would be such an unfair, unworthy understatement. One could ask any fashion student from around the globe who their biggest inspiration is and, most probably, the answer you will be met with is one of the most elusive, inspiring and talented creatives the industry has ever seen. 
Vogue Runway 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Jil Sander // Fall 2017 //

A persistent problem in the fashion industry is the case of designer departures. This isn’t news: it’s been endemic for many years now. I recall it proliferating in 2015—the year Raf Simons famously exited Christian Dior. Designers are still in and out houses like a revolving door. Celebrating a five year tenure is remarkable, as nobody seems to last that long. Jil Sander’s Rodolfo Paglialunga, who assumed the reins when the eponymous designer departed the label for the third time in its existence, is the next designer to retire his position. Paglialunga’s incumbency has been one met with mixed reactions—some found it head-scratching, stiffly dull; others were swept away by both his adherence to the minimalist codes of the house but also his penchant for betraying them. I rested somewhere in the middle. There were times when there was headache-inducing confusion and others when his minimalist mastery captured my heart.

His final collection, presented during the Fall 2017 season, was met with positive reviews. (Although the house had yet to confirm it, the show space was abuzz with rumours that it was to be Paglialunga’s swan song. It was a fine effort to go out on—both striking and memorable, a rare feat for minimalist designers in times when maximalism engulfs the mainstream. 
Masculine tailoring, the 40s imbued the collection with whiffs of security and protection, evoking an image of an authoritative woman. The wide-shouldered coats, sturdy structures and weighty fabrics symbolised the dominant trend. The imposed gender neutrality of the suiting was a nod to one of the minimalist movement’s defining characteristics. To counteract this sharpness with something more poetic and graceful, there were sumptuous silhouettes, swaying with every stride. It was a classic case of fashion looking good, regardless of it not being laced with rich subtext. Sometimes we need that too—for every notion of protection from the big bad world, we need an escape, an optimistic reminder of the beautiful things in life. This was underscored by the four closing looks: four lurex dresses in lilac, gold and rust with sophisticated nods to 80s party dressing. 

Jil Sander isn’t a label that invokes an emotional response in the same way as Gucci, Céline or Louis Vuitton, for example. It’s functionality and elegance isn’t exclusive to the label but it’s fashion history and house codes are unmistakable. Paglialunga’s interpretation and often lofty reformation of them has been pleasantly surprising—for better or for worse. Here, we were presented with a visually arresting display of minimalist fashion designs that struck one as more than just meaningless clothes, but ones that had a subtle message and a large impact. 

Minimalism often comes off as chilly or effortlessly nonchalant. Calvin Klein in the 1990s was insouciant, the label of the decade; Maison Martin Margiela, as it was formerly known, was cerebrally-inclined but seminal, endlessly inspiring a generation of fashion designers to come; Helmut Lang oozed confident, understated sexiness. Jil Sander was the sensual one but a chilly rigour has pervaded the house; it hasn’t always been auspicious. This season, however, felt like a return to beauty—a swishy elegance that warmed the heart rather than cooled it. A captivating collection, a sombre swan song. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Jacquemus // Fall 2017 //

It was revealed ahead of his Spring 2017 show last September that Simon Porte Jacquemus’ eponymous label was expected to generate €5 million euros in revenue. The Business of Fashion article exposed the answer to the question on many fashion industry members’ minds: is his surrealist fantasy commercially viable or is it awaiting closure. The answer, however, should come as no surprise given his maturation as a fashion designer in the few short years he’s been in business. What started out as a devilishly naive effort. In recent seasons it has blossomed into a demurely divine operation that has distanced itself from its early, angsty childlike preoccupations. 

Fall 2017 was influenced by a number of things: an impossible love story, the forties and fifties, Christian Lacroix. The impossible love story pertains to the title of the show ‘L’amour d’un gitan’, which translates to ‘The Love of a Gypsy’. The story goes that a Parisienne with a luxurious lifestyle and an affinity for all things couture is besotted by a gypsy man and they flee to the South of France—where Jacquemus hails from; however, it is too much to ask the woman to separate herself from the lavish enclaves in which she had been settled for years: in short, you can take the woman out of Paris, but you can’t take Paris out of the woman. 
The convergence between good and bad taste was marked in this collection. The Parisienne woman’s journey to the Riviera. Clothing became looser, tailoring was more supple. There were gold embellishments that veered distinctly toward bad taste, sharply tailored trousers with a firm foot in the foundations of Parisian turf. 

It was all filtered through glamorous clothing that emerged during post-war austerity. The rich were still present and they were elaborately decorated, in long overcoats with exaggerated hips, proportion-defying suiting, and geometrically challenging pieces. The sober colour palette and severe tailoring pointed to this, only to be complemented by the Lacroix references.

Christian Lacroix came into play as he was the first fashion designer Jacquemus was introduced to, after attaining the age of seventeen, in Arles. Lacroix is a world-renowned designer. His critically-lauded career and namesake couture line was characterised by brilliant indifference to wearable fashion, favouring spectacular costume-inspired garments that served as a fashion statement but also underscored notions of fashion as theatre. His work is resonant in Jacquemus’: less so is it audaciously, wildly colourful but it is similarly dramatic. The models walked unassumingly slow down the catwalk, a painstaking pace that sharply contrasted with the ensuing show at Saint Laurent. There cloche and curvilinear headpieces adorning the models’ crowns that instilled a strong sense of self-worth, self-importance—it related back to ideas of wealth in a post-war society.  

It eschewed from being overly anachronistic—the surrealist elements linked back to the present, with sharp, inventive cuts and silhouettes. Jacquemus, as evidenced by the impressive sales figures it boasts, has bloomed. 

Vogue Runway

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Marta Jakubowski // Fall 2017 //

Eternal youth vs growing up. Poland-born, London-based designer Marta Jakubowski was thinking about the transitional period in a woman’s life where adolescence becomes adulthood and how to bridge the gap between the too. There is the instantly appealing allure of being a teenager forever, without responsibilities or any great preoccupations; you grapple with your identity and finding yourself. As an adult you are obliged to be one with yourself, and the world; you have to carve a social and professional identity and undeniably that must be challenging. Her interpretation of female self-actualisation was inspired by women in the 90s. Speaking to WWD the designer said, “I really feel like a lot of women back then dressed up for themselves, rather than trying to impress anyone.” Marta attempted to make that a possibility for women again, to empower them with her dazzling array of bold block colours, sharp tailoring and fascinatingly obscure shapes.
Marta has never been one to reduce fashion to wearability. Her pieces are tricky: the flesh-exposing drapery and sexy slashes in her garments are daring, to say the least. However, they represent unabashed portrayals of female sexuality that for so long have been suppressed by society. There were a pair of violet trousers slashed at the thigh, revealing tulle inlet; a cross-body incision was made on a marigold velvet top, a boldly 90s-homage-paying look; there was a bodysuit-cum-overcoat that was a performance look rather than an everyday look. Perhaps, it would’ve been worn onstage by Tina Turner, Sade, Chaka Khan, the women providing the sonic landscape for the show; Marta had no intentions on letting her proudly feminist operation be diluted in any way. 

The rainbow fabric wall designed by production designer Gary Card served as the backdrop. The dizzying, vivid hues, with violet, charcoal, marigold and fuchsia skewered the epoch in mind. The girlishness of the brights juxtaposed with the darker shades presented us with a metaphor of the aforementioned eternal youth vs growing up. A magenta tuxedo-inspired one-piece? If that didn’t show signs of not wanting to grow up, to dress for oneself in an imagined permanent 90s dream state, then you could look at the asymmetric, sunset orange puffer-dress.  

Last season Marta was influenced by her mourning, as a teenager, of her late mother and compounded this with other childhood memories. Youth, girlhood are the aspirations of the Marta Jakubowski woman but there was a decided change of state in this collection: things were filtered through an adult’s lens. (Add that to the list with the blatant subversion of 90s glamour, pushing bold, unashamed femininity.) It’s a decision that could prove successful commercially when the clothes hit the shop floor.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Facetasm // Fall 2017 //

Hiromichi Ochiai is an unassuming, casually-dressed Japanese man and the brains behind latest fashion success story Facetasm. The prosperity of Facetasm in the west has been a long time coming. The label was founded in 2007 and appeared at Milan Fashion Week in 2015. Following the outing in Milan, Ochiai’s brand became a regular fixture at Paris Fashion Week. The brand’s name comes from the word facet, meaning many sides. There is a lot to Facetasm—not only is it stylistically complex, there are multiple reasons why it does so well.

Ochiai’s brand is defined by conceptual streetwear. Lines are stretched; fabrics are loose; the styling is heavy—a radical self-expression. Perhaps it’s a western stereotype of Japan—conceiving the citizens to be clad in layers of garments, a modest way of dressing. Although it was presented loftily and came across as chilly, there was an underlining sense of covering up rather than undressing. It was an ode to the possibilities of what you could wear. One thinks of Vetements as the pinnacle of streetwear, emerging in 2015. However, beyond Vetements there are many labels that are more deserving of that title: there is Y/Project, from unisex-pushing virtuoso Glenn Martens, or Facetasm, by Ochiai. Facetasm is a suitable example of the result of fashion industry directing their attention elsewhere, to labels that aren’t as compelling or engaging. 

To continue to contrast it with Vetements, Facetasm is doing more for diversity than most other labels. Ochiai’s catwalk was replete with models from various ethnic backgrounds and genders—his decision to show menswear alongside womenswear works here, as it’s more true to the aesthetic of the brand. Vetements have found themselves in hot water for racist casting—Facetasm should be celebrated just as much as Vetements is chastised for their decisions. It is indicative of the street—a melange of different nationalities and backgrounds: it’s far more interesting than the white-washed world we’re generally presented with.

There is an undoubted insouciance to the way the show is crafted and styled—the notion of dressing quickly and randomly pervades the collection and it evoked a messiness that wasn’t in any way standoffish or ugly. There was something about the haphazardness that was charming, with the blend of textures and colours making something beautiful. It appears that while this is heightened and glamorised Ochiai is more connected with reality than others. 

There is work to be done at Facetasm. For starters, while the messiness is charming, balancing the overall aesthetic with refinement wouldn’t go amiss. The aesthetic itself: a smattering of this, a smattering of that—pertaining to the word facet—should be simplified and directed in a clearer fashion. Brand identity is essential to brand success in 2017, hence I would like to see Ochiai work on his design handwriting; with that, everything will be in place for an upward trajectory. 
Vogue Runway

Monday, April 17, 2017

Peter Pilotto // Fall 2017 //

After a season of showing in their studio in North London, Peter Pilotto ventured back into central for their Fall 2017 show. This season they selected a grand ballroom, the Palm Court, at the Waldorf Hilton in Aldwych. (One of the first shows in my second season of attending London Fashion Week, almost four years ago in September 2013, was at this location. German designer Killian Kerner had defected to London for the season.)

A traveller’s spirit is engrained in the Peter Pilotto aesthetic now. As many before me have astutely noted, print used to be the defining feature of their collections—now it’s travel. The shift towards this began in Spring 2016 where they referenced Greece; the following season it was the enchanting Aurora Borealis. The duo are fervent voyagers, sponging world culture with every excursion. For Fall 2017 they began to look at their heritage—Pilotto is Austrian-Italian, de Vos is Belgian-Peruvian. Austria and Peru were the two destinations in mind. 
The references to Austria encompassed the season at hand—in all, there was evidence of a trans-seasonal approach. There were decadent furs and decorative knits. Jay Wright’s beige sweater featured both illustrative totemic badges and furry patches that haphazardly snaked the garment. The anoraks that opened the show were woven tweeds with collars lined in fur. If this collection was about home, the homeliness was felt in the warmth of the clothing—texturally and stylistically. 

The South American flair that pervaded their last outing—where they were inspired by the work of architect Luis Barragán—was once again palpable. The collection was awash with warm tone and bright, punchy hues. The introduction of drapery imbued the effortless nonchalance of a Peruvian summer. That isn’t to mention the supposed Incan symbology that acts as surface decoration on many of the pieces. I used the words “richness” and “exuberance” when discussing the arts in South America in my review last season. Pilotto and de Vos once again wove this into the show: there were the aforementioned badges found on sweaters, swirling embroideries. One imagined the designers intended to dilute, soften the eclectic colouration of Barragán in this show.

They mentioned “allusions to Highland exploration.” It explained the sturdy boots that were styled with many looks. It also signified the clarity of expression one was struck with in this collection. The traverse between South America and Europe was a smooth one—there wasn’t a sense of incongruity or meaninglessness in combining two disparate cultures; it was a dense, rich observation on how women want to dress today while also referencing the world at large. It works in a similar way to Michele’s Gucci: travelling the world, collecting trinkets, building something new from old. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Fashion East // Fall 2017 //

Lulu Kennedy’s Fashion East incubator programme for emerging designers has launched many careers. Notable names include Simone Rocha, Jonathan Saunders, Gareth Pugh and Roksanda Ilincic, all prolific London success stories. In recent years there hasn’t been a designer that has reached the same heights as any of those designers but that is partly due to the overcrowded industry, the sheer amount of designers on display. Kennedy selected four designers to present at the Topshop Show Space at the Tate Modern on the second day of London Fashion Week.

Kickstarting proceedings was newcomer Supriya Lee, a British-Indian designer who graduated from the Edinburgh College of Art before completing a Womenswear MA from the Royal College of Art. Annexing the main show space was Supriya’s set, constructed by production design company Studio Maud. She wanted to decode the duality between her British and Indian heritage, beginning with an image of her grandmother wearing a sari. The defining feature of a sari is the flattering drapery; the breadth of fabric and the way it wraps around the female body was particularly influential. There was a bubblegum pink top, draped across the body and falling into a sweeping train and a black skirt with a cascading drape (infused with masculinity at the sight of the blazer it was styled with). 

She used Indian costume jewellery to accessorise the ensembles but also as devices on the garments such as a zip on a satin jumpsuit. The rich, decorative nature complemented the edgy, city-slicking vibe that underpinned the collection. Faux-leather marble-effect trousers were styled with an off-the-shoulder scarlet top with a flowing train—a glamorous fusion of Britain in the 80s and the richness of Indian dress. What’s most exciting about looks that incorporated British-Indian cultural heritage was how simply they could transpose to the modern woman’s closet. It may be her debut show but Supriya took my breath away. In comparison to her counterparts she evidenced the most potential and possibility for longterm growth and sustainability in her business. Her autobiographical exploration of identity, secondly, cements her as a force to be reckoned with; identity, now more than ever, is an important topic that has to be addressed. 

With more conviction there will be a burgeoning success story on the horizon. 

Consistency reins supreme with Mimi Wade. One ascribes the cartoonish saccharinity of her Old Hollywood-preoccupied designs to her grandmother, Pamela Curran, a B-movie actress from the 1950s. She isn’t trend led and serves a customer unbeknownst to many of us: she is attuned to popular culture, is bubbly and effervescent in nature, and is probably spearheading the reclamation of the colour pink for adult women. Unsurprisingly, Mimi’s girls were pretty in pink this season with the inspiration being The Pink Panther, the 1963 film following the inept Inspector Jacques Clouseau about the theft of a diamond.

A magnifying glass with pink paw prints, paw prints trailing a Victorian-inspired mini dress hemmed with white lace, a torched Pink Panther poster—there is no questioning Mimi’s affinity for literal referencing. It was amusing, to say the least. However, there were parts of the collection that signalled an imbalance. There were other references to Old Hollywood included a nod to Alfred Hitchcock. “Dial ‘M’ for Mimi!’ was scribed on one skirt. Cupid, too, appeared; the cherub was pictured in a scallop-edged love hearts with a drawn bow. There were miscellaneous animals. The incoherency between the initial Pink Panther idea and the slew of other cartoon characters was unappealing. 
An interesting aspect to this show was the format: the catwalk presentation, at last. I bemoaned last season that Mimi’s girls deserved a runway show over a static presentation. I believe the show space may have been too big for her designs and they were lost in the cavernous enclaves, but a more intimate salon presentation, with a set, might have much more character.

Every label should have character but not every label will let it be a defining feature. A Sai Ta, another Fashion East newcomer, structured his press release like a Chinese takeaway menu. The Central Saint Martins graduate, with experience including time at Yeezy, is representative of ebullient, New Wave Maximalism that emerged in the wake of the stealth wealth years. His crochets, needle punched, bleached and deconstruction contribute to this cleverly diverse woman. “The gift of chaos is the Asai woman,” according to the show notes. 

When I think of chaotic fashion my mind generally shifts to Yasuko Furuta’s Toga which designs clothes for the complex woman. Asai’s blend of maximalist deconstruction was borne out of challenging stereotypes surrounding Chinese culture in the Western world. “A lot of work goes into a takeaway, but it also arrives home in a state of disarray.” The clothes were wildly original—credit where credit is due. He encapsulates intensity succinctly in his garments, with devoré crochets and intensely distressed and reworked fabrics. Amidst the madness, there was serenity in the shredded fabrics, the way the flowing sinuously along the body. (His work experience at Yeezy must’ve taught him a thing or two about distressing clothing.)

In the same breath as Supriya Lele, Asai’s multicultural heritage inspiring his collections bears the utmost relevance and importance. Challenging Western stereotypes is a long overdue call to action for westerners to educate themselves on the actualities of China rather than being bound to outdated, idiotic notions crafted by racist white people. The fashion industry needs people like Supriya and A Sai to keep us all in check. Fashion is an expression of self through clothing; the medium has the power to change or, at least, challenge perceptions. People often forget about the power of the fashion industry. It’s young designers like A Sai who are using their platforms responsibly to promote a positive message. His clothes may not be to your liking, but I wouldn’t see how his messaging couldn’t appeal to you.

Matty Bovan, returning to the roster, also had a message about the world and the direction we’re heading. His glamorisation of the post-apocalyptic doom and gloom seems plausible in 2017, when two years ago we would’ve laughed. He was looking at films like Alien, Alien 2, and Blade Runner. Speaking to Love magazine he said, “all of the bad guys in those films are the big corporations. And they’re like this big monster: that’s the biggest evil, that’s the alien.” If that isn’t a characteristically defiant London message from an upcoming designer then I don’t know what is. Matty has a valid point: corporations are polluting the world, in a variety of ways. Big corporations are the reasons for brand closures in London, from the seminal Meadham Kirchhoff or the fabulous but forgotten Louise Gray.

Based in his family home in Yorkshire, Matty is a designer who last season I feared could go down the same road as Meadham Kirchhoff—he’s a designer with the support of super-stylist Katie Grand, has credentials that included stints at Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton, the press are behind him wholly, but I couldn’t see anything that was truly saleable and women would want to own. This season he worked on outerwear in an effort to expand on his design language, build a collection of garments that would sell. There were some lovely crochets, some bold deconstructed hoodies and skirts; the Matty Bovan girl was the product of the apocalypse. 

If we truly are heading towards the apocalypse, at least we know there will be remarkable youngsters making their mark on the world. It is their fervour and resilience that will keep us going.
Vogue Runway 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Paula Knorr // Fall 2017 //

Discussions surrounding the female body has proliferated in the past few years with increased relevance of body politics and gender politics. Feminist fashion designer Paula Knorr was inspired by the bodies of female musicians and the way their bodies influence their craft. One thinks of empowering musicians Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé, whose body positive messaging inspires hundreds of thousands of young women globally. Their bodies are constantly scrutinised in the media and in a way are as a prevalent in the news as the artists are themselves. The media is unforgiving and many musicians—other than those three, also—have documented this in their music. 

To set the scene at the BFC Presentation Space she experimental pop duo MADISUSOVANDA to provide the music for the show. A fuchsia lounge was constructed and the models lazed on peach plinths, others stood or reclined on a shimmery curtain. The clothes were a continuation from last season, with the exciting reemergence of those delightful futuristically-inclined metallics; this season they were presented in silver and a beautiful purple hue. The bad girl attitude of Rihanna—arguably the most influential pop star of the past decade both musically and stylistically—underscored much of the looks; thigh high boots and shirt dresses? Unmistakably Rihanna. In the steamy show space, it was reminiscent of a scene from a Rihanna music video. 

The most memorable look was a strapless, form-fitting dress in dark blue with a photograph of an eye printed on the skirt. It captured the meaning of the show: all eyes are on the body—constantly watching, weighing, scrutinising or celebrating. Spotlighting the notion of art and artist and employing it as a device in collections is intelligent but also unheard of. I can’t name another designer whose made an intellectual comment on the role of art and its interconnectedness with the artist’s person. In times like these when body positivity, female empowerment are buzzwords, it is necessary for designers like Paula to be portraying facets of womanhood like this and presenting them in a way that is both fun but encompasses the serious nature of the topic.

Paula’s point of view is superlative: her feminist fashion is uniquely unconventional, strays from traditional boundaries, never veers into trite territory. Her honest expression and insistence of meaningful garments have seen her rise to prominence on the London scene. She is a designer who young women, and men alike, should look to for inspiration: her message of exploring female emotions and simultaneously empowering women.
WWD

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A.V. Robertson // Fall 2017 //

Much like her fellow Fashion East alumnus Richard Malone, Amie Robertson’s brand A.V. Robertson returned to the London Fashion Week schedule for a third season in a row. Her Fall 2017 show—‘The Secret Garden’—was presented at the Mondrian Hotel on a crowded Saturday afternoon.

Flowers are a dominant motif in Amie’s aesthetic, explaining the collection’s title. Florals aren’t by any stretch of the imagination compelling. One often recalls Miranda Priestley’s unforgettably sardonic quote from The Devil Wears Prada, “Florals? For spring? Groundbreaking”. Ironically, Amie’s florals are vividly odd, layered with science fiction references and nods to popular culture; not to mention, her fusion of couture with casual-wear is a remarkable characteristic of her work. For her debut season she explored the idea of “alien wanderers falling to Earth and their iridescent spores germinating in Earth’s fertile atmosphere.” In September she looked at the 1950’s film The Day of the Triffids, about a venomous plant species eradicating the Earth’s population. To Amie’s—and Mimi Wade and Richard Malone—disadvantage, the press attention last season was on newcomer, bright spark Matty Bovan. However, this season all eyes were on her, and the richly embellished florals.

English botanist Robert John Thornton and German photographer Karl Blossfeldt whose oeuvres punctuated the early 1800s and 1900s, respectively, were the two sources of inspiration. Thornton specialised in brightly hued illustrations of plant; there’s a certain darkness to be found in his work and it’s resonant in Amie’s, the spindly stems, the furling leaves, the strange shapes of the petals. Similarly, there’s something sinister in the work of Blossfeldt. His black and white photography of plants portrays them almost as unimaginably terrifying and moodily macabre. Amie established common ground between the two reference points. Her signature bold hues were juxtaposed with black contrasting panels. On each look, graphically lifelike petals leapt from the creations. 

Amie’s strength undoubtedly lies in her embellishment. She’s a fine tailor, but the sorcery of her embellishment is a strength that few other London designers can stake a similar claim. Her partnership with Swarovski is notable: the jewellery company have generously provided her with resources necessary to enrich her designs. 

Where is A.V. Robertson’s place in the world? It blends couture and casual, dark and light, serious and fun, beauty and perversity, maturity and youth. Her cross-section of pools provides an answer to that—there are plenty of possibilities as to who can shop here. Although I’m one for rebuking instant, lazy saleability, I would like to see Amie refine and simplify her aesthetic. In some looks, the stripes and floral arrangements became too much, it was an acidic assault on the eyes, but where she struck gold was with simpler looks, such as the emerald cardigan with scattered buds—that was when you could stop and smell the roses in her secret garden.
F Word Mag & Glam UK

Monday, April 10, 2017

Richard Malone // Fall 2017 //

When the mentorship and safety net of Fashion East expires, it is common for designers to take a season off—or two. However, the oversaturated fashion calendar disallows this luxury; designers have no choice but to return the following season and if they don’t there is fear that they will be forgotten about. (Fashion is a lot like Hollywood in that respect.) Excitingly, Irish designer Richard Malone returned to the London Fashion Week schedule the season after his final Fashion East outing. The BFC Presentation Space hosted his tableau format show.

In previous collections he has referenced his mother’s Argos uniform, an outfit that his aunt wore to his holy communion as a child—his working class upbringing (a contrast to many fashion designers working today) lends itself continually. He prioritises comfort rather than restriction and his motive is to make women functional clothing. This season he looked to bus and train service upholstery, it’s something so ubiquitous but perpetually ignored. Speaking to i-D about the vivid colours he said, “in Ireland it’s quite good, because they’re grubby and old where I’m from, so you get proper old school 80s and 70s prints that hurt your eyes a bit.” I can attest to that —not that I’ve seen them in a while with the ongoing bus service strike that has paralysed the country’s transport system. 
There were vivid colours, repeated patterns; florals and geometric prints; block colours and straight lines. Richard captured the oddness, the slight discomfort of looking at the sickly colours on public transport. However, there was something strangely delightful about the happiness found within the bad taste. It was a reminder of a bygone era, but also the present.

Nostalgia characterises much of his work. Whether he’s remembering the bizarre ensemble his aunt arrived at a Catholic church in, the caravan parties of his youth with bombastic rap music and how it contrasts to the depressing sameness of teenagers today, or the 80s and 90s bus service upholstery, the past is an important place for Richard. His garments never feel defined by the past, but there is an inherent link to it: some designers strive for newness and modernity but there are nostalgic inflections rooted in his oeuvre. Take for example the off-the-shoulder patterned blouse with bell sleeves in a dated cornflour blue with matching trousers—it belongs at a party where ABBA is on repeat, but a different styling could change the dynamics simply and prove it as a versatile item, not bound to the 70s or 80s. 

Richard was shortlisted for the 2017 LVMH Prize, a few days after his Fall 2017 presentation. Sadly he didn’t make it as a finalist. It is a positive affirmation, recognition of his undoubted success. In four seasons he has developed his signature aesthetic, he enhances and enlivens working class codes and splices them together with couture-like craftsmanship. It makes for a rich experience, combining colour and fabrication. He’s doing Ireland proud on the world’s stage.

WWD

Thursday, April 6, 2017

ROBERTS|WOOD // Fall 2017 //

Katie Roberts Wood’s second on-schedule presentation at London Fashion Week picked up where the last one left off. She furthered the ongoing exploration of the fusion between banality and otherworldly beauty with a delicately poetic, serenely pretty collection at the BFC Presentation Space at 180 The Strand on a brisk Sunday morning in late February. Her show space might’ve contradicted this—it was a haunting set replete with black umbrellas the models snaked around before assuming position for photographers. “The presentation is an exploration of the everyday and the meaning we attribute to objects and events.”

One couldn’t help but hum ‘Why Does It Always Rain on Me?’ by Scottish band Travis at the sight of the umbrellas. Pathetic fallacy: it was as if she was commenting on the gloomy state of the world. The state of the world as we know it is dull, gloomy and the dark clouds accumulate regularly, only for a deluge of bad news to rain down on us. Here, the umbrellas were abandoned, open and upright on the catwalk. (For an Irish person, the rain isn’t so much a conceptual encapsulation of the times but a reality.) The umbrella was chosen for its ubiquitous qualities, a link between the presentation and the brand’s aesthetic. There was emphasis put on outerwear this season, in the way that shirting punctuated last season’s output. The jackets and coats on offer were beautiful; minimal, yet subtly subverted. Heavy wools and padded twills were deconstructed to imbue the garments with lightness, a graceful poise. 

Extreme normality is a trend that isn’t captured like something as dour as florals. It is a conceptual’s dream and isn’t easily replicable by fast fashion brands. Vetements, Y/Project, Martine Rose and others have underscored the movement’s rise to popularity. Since the beginning, advancing and developing garments from something conceived as “normal” (I use air quotes as it is undoubtedly the most odious term in the English language) to something extraordinary. The way an apron dress can turn into a celestial body of lightness or a foamy garment comprised of faded transparent prints that have been woven into giant structures. 

As the ROBERTS|WOOD label pushes forward, a certain level of adaptability is expected. The clothes aren’t audaciously out of reach for the average customer, but refinement and streamlining an aesthetic is always an intelligent business move. She hasn’t compromised the dreamlike serenity of her cloud-esqe dresses but she has ushered in a distinct sense of accessibility. Artistically-inclined, Katie mentioned in the press release that it is a trial and error experiment. She commented how, “the symbiotic relationship between precise and considered decision [and embracing chance and mistakes].” A conceptual designer attuning herself to commerciality.

In Dover Street Market her concession is behind fellow conceptualist Jonathan Anderson’s J.W. Anderson outpost. There is a single rail of her frothy tulle and it’s even more enchanting up close. There’s always something beautiful to be found in a quiet moment.
All images are my own

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Eckhaus Latta // Fall 2017 //

Damned if you, damned if you don’t. That was the statement underscoring fashion designers for the Fall 2017 season. In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, all eyes were on the designers to see what political statement they would or would not make. Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta, design duo behind Eckhaus Latta, are often politicos—their brand of unconventional textiles and promotion of individualism have embraced gender politics and it has catapulted them to degrees of success unseen hitherto by New York labels; their recent collection wasn’t a response to Donald Trump’s election. Instead, they rethought their design process, asking themselves ‘what is the purpose of their endeavour?’, ‘how can it be developed efficiently?’.

Firstly, they made a point of reiterating one of the things they do best: assembling a cast of men and women who aren’t the archetypes we witness on every runway, New York through Paris. This season there was stylist Camille Bidault Waddington, photographer Collier Schorr and performance artist and actress India Salvor Menuez. These creative types are the ones the Eckhaus Latta label encompasses. 
The show was divided in two parts, one subdued and the other eclectic. The first half was consumed by pewter, slate grey, midnight blue and charcoal; the denouement was defined by tangerines, marigold, raspberries. Perhaps it was representative of the initial fallout post-election, and how we can channel that into something positive. It was an emotional and poetic reply to all that has happened since November. What happens next is on the mind of everyone in this transitional period, where everything is up in the air—to dress for this, the Eckhaus Latta character is dressed in roomy trousers and sharp blazers. Mike and Zoe noted how they wanted to expand and fine-tune their outerwear; they contained some of the experimentalist fluidity that dominated their aesthetic in the first few seasons. This new direction was rooted more in reality, a palpably personal expression of wanting something to be desirable. 


Convincingly, compellingly they rethink what makes Eckhaus Latta the brand it has become. Is it about the politics, as we have all come to expect, only to have those expectations overturned? Is it about the textiles, the strange and the startling? Is it about the diverse casting of different characters that puts many of their contemporaries to shame? Or, is it the emphasis on creating fashion for everyone, not just tall, thin white women that fashion has prioritised for so long? I’d bet on the last one. And in the current climate, that’s a political statement. 

Vogue Runway

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Molly Goddard // Fall 2017 //

Molly Goddard’s expansion from intimate presentation to large scale défile has been an exciting one. Waving goodbye to the life drawing lesson, the sandwich shop, the couture show, she ushered in an 80s-inspired rave which electrified London Fashion Week back in September. Her Fall 2017 show was characterised by the same ebullience and euphoria. The Tanks at the Tate Modern, reserved for the Topshop Show Space this season, were lined with banqueting tables and large. The models’ walk concluded in them taking a seat at the table, enjoying the party music which boomed overhead. It was a mise-en-scène and vignette of the Molly Goddard woman.

One notable difference from her debut collection that became apparent last season is the emphasis on agelessness in the clothing. The first few collections were marked by their youthful, sugary saccharinity. The clouds of tulle that dominated those collections had an infantile flair that may have acted as a deterrent for an older customer. However, her mentors have advised her to encompass all woman, in the same way her casting does—it is a convergence of black and woman, tall and small: a refutation of the narrow beauty standards in the industry. There was pale blue nylon tops, a scarlet abbreviated jacket, striped sweaters, and photorealistic prints on long-sleeve tops. She aspired to promote a vision that appealed to all woman with those pieces and it works. Moreover, they all possess the signature Molly idiosyncrasies.

Molly’s subversion of preconceived notions of prettiness is another point of intrigue within her collections. Since her debut, a subtle bleakness has pervaded her oeuvre. Despite the inborn charm of her tulle concoctions, there is something perverse to be found in the way she darkens her garments by blurring the lines between ugly and pretty, good taste and bad taste. The stylist put a red and pink striped sweater with cobalt ruched trousers, a black and yellow jacket with a lustrous silver skirt, an extravagant 18th century-inspired layered cobalt tulle number, on the runway. Coupled with the intensity of the heavy makeup, there was slight discomfort but also total captivation.

The LVMH Prize nominees were announced a fortnight ago and Molly takes pride of place on the list, alongside the likes of Antonin Tron’s Atlein and Syrian-born London-based Nabil El-Nayal. If Molly, like the Marques’Almeida duo and Thomas Tait before her, is to win the prize in June, what a fabulous collection to be off the back of. If she doesn’t, a prize giving doesn’t diminish her immense and incredible success—it merely would cement it. 

Vogue Runway

Monday, April 3, 2017

Craig Green // Fall 2017 // Menswear

Something strange—almost paradoxical—happened during London Fashion Week Men’s (renamed from London Collections: Men) in January: with the decampment of megabrands Burberry, Coach and Tom Ford to womenswear schedules one would expect the press attention around men’s fashion week to follow suit, ironically it increased and the designer left reaped the reward. 

Craig Green became the tentpole show during fashion in the departure of the Burberrys of the world. His Friday evening show is always eagerly anticipated and this season was no exception. He continued to advance his experimentalist aesthetic that focuses on developing a heightened normality, surreal clothing to match the world around us. In essence, he captures the bleakness of the world and channels it into something subdued, something serene, something surprisingly stunning. His dystopian-tinged universe is denoted by the utilitarian uniforms, the monochromatic colour palettes that would belong on citizens of a post-apocalyptic autocratic society. His Fall 2017 show was concerned with the “fear of the unknown”.
Protection and clothing as a means of protection has been something that Green pioneered from his debut. In the years since he began, that has never been as relevant as it is in the current political landscape with Trump and Brexit, the refugee crisis and engendered inequality around the globe. ‘Fear of the unknown’ is a suitable explanation for the events of the past twelve months—ignorance and lack of compassion triumphed over understanding and compassion. The clothes here reflected the dark days. The show opened with a navy blue boiler suit, followed by a hooded man in a similar outfit—both models’ eyes were covered, they hid behind their visor, without making eye contact. There were militaristic whiffs emanating from the uniform-inspired garments. 

This progressed into something more poetic, both in fabrication and colouration. Four models emerged with patterned fabrics draped across their bodies—they were akin to carpet, but the styling and silhouette signalled that they prioritised resourcefulness: they were keeping themselves clothed in whatever presented itself to them. Moreover, the introduction of a dusty lilac and a bottle green evoked a sensitive, subtle, soft repose to the beginning of the collection which was dominated by darker colours. 

The show concluded with oversized puffer jackets that not only bore a message of protection but inborn saleability. For all his poetic mastery, Green has to build a sustainable business. Although you have the costume-y set pieces like the patterned fabric-clad boys at the beginning, you have the ensuing, impeccably tailored jackets and trousers. The emphasis on cut and quality of the fabric is second to none. It’s how he has become so successful in such a short span.

Green started out in January 2013 and in four years he won accolades including the British Fashion Awards for Emerging Menswear Designer (2014) and British Menswear Designer (2016), as well as the BFC/GQ Fashion Fund in 2016. A remarkable achievement for a young designer one could liken Green to womenswear’s Simone Rocha. He hasn’t yet reached Simone’s heights in his respective field, but the potential is more than evident—it’s a reality and when the time is right his business will thrive like hers. 

Craig Green is one of the pull factors of London Fashion Week Men’s for sceptics who arrived solely for Tom Ford, Burberry and Coach. In fact, he’s been a pull factor since day one.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Off-White // Fall 2017 //

It’s quite brave and honourable what Virgil Abloh is doing with Off-White. The Chicago-born creative director turned fashion designer uses his collections in ways dissimilar to his contemporaries. Most designers are preoccupied with a perfect exacting of their vision—Abloh is to an extent, with styling tricks—but there is a deeper sense of understanding of the design process at Off-White. One gathers that Abloh is comfortable with presenting ideas that may be a little off, a little confused or jarring in the context of the other clothes in the show. His trial and error methodology unfurls season after season and it’s this unabashed experimentalism that earns him the titles such as ‘brave’ and ‘honourable’.

His recent collection was an exhibition of his education as a fashion designer. (Abloh’s background is in civil engineering and architecture, before entering the respective art direction and DJ fields.) Firstly, he played wanted to play with continuation. The spindly birch trees that dotted his menswear show in January were back; this time the lighting was more complementary, warmer. Secondly, he emphasised the glamourised ode to the street found in last season’s womenswear outing. There were cropped denim jackets styled with sharp pencil trousers—it was Hadid/Jenner-inspired undoubtedly, and the models looked gorgeous. Moreover, he reintroduced the slinky silks from last season, contrasting them with lace yolk; he propositioned the ruffles from the previous womenswear in delicate chiffon, and in hues such as electric blue.

One of my only complaints from last season was the sloppiness of the ruffled looks. This season they appeared in a blush-coloured tone. Not only was it unflattering on the model, the colour was particularly drab and didn’t do her beauty justice. Ditto the lace and silk combination, which felt a little passé. 

Tailoring and developing his technical skill were also on the agenda. The aforementioned trousers, namely, dominated the line-up. There was a patterned blue velvet blazer with metallic finishing, styled with thigh high boots. The opening looks consisted of neatly tailored, smartly styled checkered items: cropped jackets, large coats, slashed waist-high skirts and bandeaus. Nothing edged too closely to demure—there was a youthful cadence to the traditionally grown up pieces. The pattern came in two different colours and it was an unsuccessful pairing, but a lesson learned.

If memorability is on the mind of Abloh then he struck gold with at least one look: the cropped denim jacket and crisp white shirt with black cigarette trousers and point-toe heels. It was a modernisation of the look we all know and love. In essence, it’s what Off-White is about: remixing the past to create a suitable look for the present. There’s no time like the present, they say.
Photo Credit: Vogue Runway