Visceral is the word one would use to describe Paula Knorr’s presentations. The German-born, London-based designer has enriched the London Fashion Week schedule with her designs which tap into the female psyche to convey themes of female sensuality and power. Knorr’s work feels especially relevant in the #MeToo climate, where allegations surrounding sexual misconduct have shifted the landscape in terms of how women are viewed and presented in cultural spheres. It has been the overriding message this season, underscoring New York, London, Milan and Paris. Sexuality is no longer overt—the subject is interpreted subtly, with an increased focus on the more cerebral sensuality.
When you read a press release which professes its alliance to “pushing the boundaries of evening wear with distinct female power” one asks oneself, how will this be achieved? Words are great in a verbose press releases—enriching. even—but how can they be channelled into garments? Knorr answers this question by first setting the scene: Experimental jazz musician Laura Tottenhagen provided an astounding yet mellow aural landscape; the cast of models belonged to different ethnic backgrounds and age groups. She then swathed her models in stretchy fabrics, pooling sequin trousers and short dresses in velvet tulle. It wasn’t an objectified viewpoint, it presented women in a glamorous and sensual light.
There is a 1970s glamour at the core of Ms. Knorr’s work. It reverts to the era of the disco diva, reinventing the codes of that time, rejecting the “extreme nudity and demure precision”, cultivating an identifiable centre point between the two. An exciting aspect to Paula Knorr is the commercial appeal and the consistency threading each of her collections—these are familiar ideas she’s conjecturing, ones that are pertinent in the current sociopolitical climate. Her cascading ruffles, fluid silhouettes and body conscious cutting are the tenets of her work. She has shifted from the bolder printed works she did in the beginning. In lieu of that there is increased surface decoration, but not to the detriment of the work—it’s centred on a tactile approach to design.
The interplay between feminism and fashion is notably a muddy area. Questions are flagged immediately if designers are presenting t-shirts reading ‘We Should All Be Feminists’, which do nothing but support the capitalist establishment which sells them. Paula Knorr’s angle is different: she is mindful of the female form and representing women of different backgrounds, without compromising fun. Her work is equal parts cerebral and obviously glamorous. You walk away with a deeper understanding of the engagement between fashion and feminism. It says a lot more than dour interpretations of female artists and feminist manifestos which project a veneer of intellectualism and a drive to meet sales requirements. Honesty is the word of the day.