Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Hillier Bartley // Spring 2018 //

On a newsstand near you, you’ll likely be confronted with the arresting profile of Edie Campbell, photographed by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott on the cover of the biannual magazine Love, her celestial blue eyes and dirty blonde hair complemented by a lilac blazer and manila-hued shirt. 

Her outfit is courtesy of Hillier Bartley, the London design house—the brainchild of Luella Bartley and Katie Hillier—that is oft-overlooked for its refusal to present on the traditional fashion schedule. Generally, they photograph a lookbook, take showroom appointments with press and buyers during Paris Fashion Week.

Luella Bartley brings the design kudos. She ran the successful brand Luella, which showed at London Fashion Week until 2009 when it shuttered due to the closure of its Italian production house. Katie Hillier is a akin to a covert accessories operative, consulting with leading brands such as Asprey, Mulberry, Victoria Beckham. Their collective forces reenergised the Marc by Marc Jacobs where Ms. Bartley and Ms. Hillier were electrifying the staid commerciality of American fashion with confident, convincing clothing geared towards millennials, who could actually fathom the relatively accessible price points. They subsequently forced to resign from their positions when Mr. Jacobs consolidated the diffusion line with his mainline in an effort to remedy ailing profits.

Both women are vaunted members of the fashion industry, therefore there method of presentation isn’t all that surprising. Press and buyers are already familiar with them and their decades-long careers, their stints at luxury conglomerates and their contribution to the industry as a whole.

Their vision of women is inherently British, with their clothing infused with lashings of subcultural movements—New Romanticism, glam rock, Northern soul—and also the fashion culture of England, its diversity—aristocracy contrasting with streetwear. Furthermore, the interplay between masculinity and femininity injects a further degree of intrigue into the multi-faceted label. (There Instagram reflects their mix of inspirations: you’ll find Queen Elizabeth II, Dame Vivienne Westwood, Phoebe Philo, Sarah Lucas—they are all arguably feminist icons in their own right.)

Fall 2018 brought generous, supple cuts which lighten the stiff Saville Row tailoring present in previous seasons. Production has now been shifted to Italy to achieve a softer, more feminine touch to the clothes. Much of it is refined, sophisticated, and soigné—then comes the glam rock: magenta trousers! and the New Romanticism: a pussy-bow blouse, printed trousers and a contrasting crimson tassel around the waist! 

Some of the finest pieces were the simplest, the understated ones which boast a longevity, an effect contemporary fashion often fails to achieve. A sandy, ribbed-knit turtleneck sweater was sumptuously cut, bearing the flag for the minimalist movement. Similarly, a statement scarlet suit jacket with pointed lapels portrayed a polished, powerful vision of a woman. It balanced modernity and timelessness with aplomb. 

On a street near you, sometime soon, you’ll see women wear the same lilac blazer that Ms. Campbell wears on the cover of Love. Or perhaps it’ll be another of their quirky concoctions. 

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