“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do,” once said the American artist Georgia O’Keeffe. Fashion designer Edeline Lee echoed this ethos in her Spring 2018 collection. She continued her exploration of womanhood by referencing one of the most famous painters in recent times. It wasn’t so much O’Keeffe’s work that inspired Ms. Lee, rather the life she led in the secluded badlands in New Mexico. It was there the painter experienced heartbreak and a subsequent nervous breakdown, it was there where she braved the terrain, teaching herself to drive, obtaining found objects such as bones and stones, bleached from the sunlight.
The set design was poetically sparse, emanating a certain sense of incontrovertible melancholia. It captured the sense of the outback in New Mexico. A bench with laser-cut design; a single chair; the frame of a mantel and a patterned rug. Models emerged in pairs, interacting with the space. Ms. Lee was striving to connect “the vulnerability and the strength at the core of every woman.”
The clothes were also a continuation of what she always does. Feminine shift dresses and skirts. This season there was—as with Fall 2017—an emphasis on architectural sculpturing. The floral iconography of O’Keeffe’s work pervaded the drapes and folds of dresses and coats; it created a delicate, gestural effect which worked quite nicely in tandem with the softness of Ms. Lee’s aesthetic.
This show made headlines for its inclusion of a model wearing a hijab. In recent years, the only hijab-wearing model to make the catwalk was Halima Aden, a Kenyan-born American-based former Miss World USA pageant competitor, who appeared at Yeezy, Alberta Ferretti and MaxMara. She went on to cover Vogue Arabia. Dolce & Gabbana, despite their unethical actions, were one of the only brands to sell a designer hijab to the ever-growing retail market in the Middle East. Given Ms. Lee’s feminist approach, the addition of a hijab-wearing model symbolises the modest dressing movement while also skewering the debate about religious dress, secularism. It is a divisive argument but truthfully, inclusion is imperative.
O’Keeffe rejected the feminist art movement of the 1970s. Despite the “sensual and feminist imagery” seemingly present in her artworks, she chose to forego titles, preferring to be called just an “artist”. One reckons the same dilemma will face Edeline Lee. Her collections have become increasingly representative, she collaborates with talented women (stylist Jeanie Annan Lewin, set designer Kyung Roh Bannwart, makeup artists Maria Papadopoulou, hairstylist Cinta Miller). Is it a burgeoning feminist collective or is it a multidisciplinary group of artists. However they choose to define themselves, it is especially admirable in the current sociopolitical structure.