Monday, July 30, 2018

A.V. Robertson's World of Bowie and Botanics // Fall 2018

In London, to be a successful designer is to be a miracle worker. You have to have the press on your side, the influencers, and the buyers. Usually, the press comes first. (London’s designers can often rely on hype to develop connections with retailers.) 

Amie Victoria Roberston, or A.V. Robertson as she is known, was one of those designers to accumulate press attention in 2016. Why? She presented as part of Lulu Kennedy’s incubator for emerging talents, Fashion East. Robertson’s segment was styled by Katie Grand, editor of Love and contributor to W, and her former employer, the designer Marc Jacobs, sat front row. Models in the show included Edie Campbell, Anna Cleveland, and Georgia May Jagger—veritable It-girls on the fashion circuit. 

But they’ve all since moved onto Robertson’s compatriot, Matty Bovan.

However, Robertson didn’t shy away from a challenge. Following her two-season stint at Fashion East, she hosted a standalone static presentation at the Mondrian Hotel, separate to the official schedule. She took a pause and returned to London Fashion Week in February 2018, for Fall 2018, with a catwalk display at St. Andrew’s Church in Holborn. 

Without being reductive, her schtick is decorating with dainty, floral (Swarovski) crystals and styling it with punk-inspired patterns. She lists David Bowie as an influence, whose style she harbours a “long-term love affair with,” according to the press release. Something else Robertson is fond of is extraterrestrial references—an alien coming to earth was a narrative that shaped a previous collection. She conveyed that here with diaphanous layers of iridescent silk organza over trousers and experimenting with lustrous lamé.

The ornamentation is what elevated Robertson’s work, and it’s also the defining feature. Her “botanical bursts” are intricate and exude vibrancy. In parts, it injected vitality, where the fabrication and silhouettes faltered. Perhaps due to a lack of resources, the textiles and pattern cutting wasn’t up to scratch.

Robertson’s work hasn’t caught on in the same way as her contemporaries. Her work isn’t enthralling and the styling wasn’t as polished this season. It’s lost some of its lustre that was a draw in other collections. Not only this, Robertson’s visual language is well-established, she’s risking being a one-hit wonder if she doesn’t expand next season. 

Friday, July 27, 2018

Feminist Fashion: Preen by Thornton Bregazzi Looks to South Korean Female Divers for Inspiration // Fall 2018

Environmentalism and feminism appeared on Preen by Thornton Bregazzi’s mood board for Fall 2018. Justin Thornton and Thea Bregazzi’s London Fashion Week show was a further exploration into their study of feminism. 

Their mission is to untangle the barbed wire that fashion has woven around feminism. To cite feminism in a fashion collection is to immediately attract qualms. How can clothing be feminist? How is a collection feminist if the models in the show are all mostly white, thin, teenage girls? The validity of those arguments is incontrovertible. And while Thornton and Bregazzi would likely cede to such complaints, they want to impart a message, teach a lesson. They have two young children—perhaps they’re shaping their work according to what they want to teach their offsprings. 

They looked at the Jeju haenyeo, or female divers, a group of South Korean eco-feminists. (They were immortalised in a popular 2013 short film ‘Haenyeo: Women of the Sea.’) The Jeju haenyeo tradition is centuries old. It is of the few predominately matriarchal societies in the world and celebrated globally. UNESCO added it to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. 

The designers discovered it at a photography exhibition at the National Maritime Museum last year, according to Vogue's Sarah Mower. They interpreted the source material literally. Neoprene and full-body costumes alluded to the diving uniform. Fishnet nodded to… you get the point. They weren’t particularly imaginative interpretations but they distilled an esoteric message for a broad audience.

The more poetic examples were lovely, typically Preen. They added wispy green faux-fur accents to jackets which were, albeit redolent of Prada, reminiscent of moss or other verdant discoveries in the deep blue sea.

The strongest pieces emerged in the show's denouement. A patterned sweater was spliced together with a block of forest green, flowery shifts were ruched and tied haphazardly, paillettes and sequins decorated lace slips, and occasionally panels of dresses were disembowelled, as if the conditions of the ocean had taken control. 

Friday, July 20, 2018

Chaos Presides Over Yasuko Furuta's Toga Archives // Fall 2018

Are you even a contemporary fashion brand if you’re not chasing a slice of the Céline pie?

With the exit of Phoebe Philo, an arbiter of women’s style, from the French house designers, retailers, and stalwarts have been responding accordingly. Designers like Lemaire and Victoria Beckham have stepped up to lead the customer into the next generation of fashion. Her right hand man, Daniel Lee, is heading to Bottega Veneta. Retailers are stocking Loewe and Jil Sander, which are considered close substitutes by buyers. The ‘Philophiles,’ as they are affectionately known as, are flocking to said designers and retailers to satiate their appetite for luxury that is at once elegant and quiet. I talked to someone who shared a Céline experience. “I never felt more understood by a piece of clothing.”

In London, for fall 2018, Japanese designer Yasuko Furuta, designer of Toga Archives, is lobbying for that customer to come to her with generous silhouettes, cerebral cuts, and vaguely peculiar clothes that subvert sophistication.

(‘Unwrap, Typical, Release’ was the name of the collection though it remained unclear how it correlated to the clothes.)

There were whiffs of Céline with the strong shoulders. The patterns, with florals and gold chains, on silk shirts and skirts were resemblant of concepts Demna Gvasalia has been exploring in his Balenciaga shows. 

The quirkiness of Furuta is a singular concept. Slicing skirts diagonally and excavating circular panels of fabric from blazers felt deliberate rather than naive. Where she did use the patterns mentioned above it was deft: carved panels exposed silk patterns, skirts were enriched with the handkerchief hem of an internally built skirt poking out.

Furuta designs for the chaos in women’s life. It’s a similar sociological concept that defined Philo’s Céline iteration, or any of her understudies. It contributes to the woman who can dress in something dependable. At Toga, the styling can often be chaotic. It produces two effects. The first is a paroxysm of exhilaration. “That with that! Who would’ve thought?” The other is a mournful sigh at the sight of an overwrought outfit. 


It’s in the moments of distillation, when the theatrics are mostly pared back, that Furuta shines, glittering like the jade green sequins she proposed.  

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Exploring Dilaratopia with Dilara Findikoglu // Fall 2018

Perhaps one of the most odious concepts to emerge from the digital age is ‘Big Dick Energy,’ which doesn’t refer to a well-endowed human but, according to the Urban Dictionary, the internet’s lexicon of epithets and in-jokes, is “confidence without cockiness… It is the sexual equivalent of writing a check for $10,000 knowing you got it in the bank account.” 

Op-eds appeared in highly-regarded newspapers like the Financial Times decoding the meaning of the Twitter phenomenon. ‘BDE,’ as it’s affectionately known as, is reserved for the kind of confidence few possess but if there’s a blatantly obvious example of it in the fashion industry it’s Dilara Findikoglu.

Findikoglu’s utopia for women empowerment unfurled at her London Fashion Week catwalk show at the gilded Banking Hall in February 2018. She described her models as “hypnotic sisters” and “celestial women.”
“We will no longer operate within your matrix of power. We choose instead [to] live free. We yield to none in our appreciation, wonder and respect for woman,” read the Dilaratopia Manifesto. Dilaratopia is the Turkish designer’s world. “We recognise their celestial and mysterious qualities, how their grace and power advance humanity and our ascendance from the patriarchy.” 

Findikoglu’s vision is somewhat restrictive. Corsetry and bustiers have become her signatures. This season she exhibited some tailoring options. There were sightings of men’s tailoring—pinstripe suits you’d expect from Saville Row. She should imbue her work with more of this. 

What’s apparent is a sense of empowerment, defined by the models’ domineering strut. Findikoglu is preaching to the converted—in this case, the empowered.

Findikoglu’s designs are influenced by historical dress. Her concepts date to the 18th century but there’s something modern about why she’s doing this. In this era, women were rendered powerless by their male counterparts. In presenting clothes with layers of historicism she is reclaiming the meaning, associating it with powerful women, which feels especially pertinent.

Where Findikoglu should err on the side of caution is her over-reliance on regalia and centuries-old grandiosity, despite her aesthetic’s singularity in the context of contemporary fashion and the gravitas of the subtext.

“Our power recognises the right of woman to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, provided that the exercise of this does not destroy or impair the happiness of any sister,” the manifesto concludes.

Revolution is perceived as idealistic in its nascency. But this revolution—signalled by #MeToo and Time’s Up—is well underway. This wasn’t idealistic, it  was condemnatory of the patriarchy and celebratory of the women shaping the future. It felt right for the times. She proposed, in essence, that conflict isn’t reserved for men in suits of armour, but the corseted women of Dilaratopia too. 


Dismantling the patriarchy wearing a waist-accentuating, embroidered bustier, exposed garters and Converse trainers? Big Dick Energy.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Halpern and the Politics of Sequins // Fall 2018

It’s an amusing thing to consider Michael Halpern a political designer. 

As London’s reigning king of disco flights of fancy, with shimmering sequins, bursts of colour, and flared silhouettes, he evokes feelings of nostalgia. To think of him as political seems almost out of touch. But with his fall 2018 collection, presented at a disused warehouse space in Soho during London Fashion Week, Halpern had a political agenda.

“I’m not someone who knows the most about politics and I can’t talk about what’s happening on the Hill in D.C. right now,” he told SHOWstudio’s Lara Johnston-Wheeler in an interview in May. “But I have an overwhelming feeling about how I feel about American politics.”

His solar system of handmade sequins are about escapism and empowerment, the two concepts which form the basis of a lot of collections that don’t grab the political landscape by the horns these days. These were dazzling disco-ready jumpsuits and abbreviated dresses for the powerful women who don’t stand for President Trump’s principles, the kind of women who oppose his travel ban and the recent crisis at the US-Mexico border, where families were separated. 

In this collection, he championed the 1970s resurgence, yet again, this time spotlighting socialite Nan Kempner (“What would Nan do?” he posed in his SHOWstudio interview) and actress Anjelica Huston. 

Ever the magpie, his sparkling disco doyennes are never quite perfect. Not that they’re not fabulous—they undoubtedly are. But he’s interested in grotesque fabulosity and posing uncomfortable juxtapositions with colour. Dull charcoal and beautiful bronze; lurid acid shades and lustrous silver; he paired zebra print with an eye-popping tangerine.

The exuberance of a Halpern collection is political in itself, in times of excess and overconsumption. The sheer extravagance of it all can either point to those women with enough chutzpah to convincingly wear the clothes—that’s a form of power in itself, and how perfect is that for the current times—or to an overindulgent lifestyle. It's understandable how it can allude to a political indifference, guzzling champagne, and partying into the night instead of engaging with politics. 

Whatever your outlook, it would appear unadulterated glamour is the objective.

Friday, July 13, 2018

The Upward Trajectory of Molly Goddard // Fall 2018

Since displaying her most recent collection at London Fashion Week in February, London-born and -based designer Molly Goddard was named the recipient of the BFC/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund (a prize of 200,000) and she published a photo book, ‘Patty,’ in collaboration with photographer Tim Walker for Dover Street Market in London.

Goddard’s reached stratospheric heights. What started as a disruptive party in a Marylebone church hall in 2015, after she exited the master’s course at Central Saint Martins, has blossomed into a fledgling business which draws an international audience. There’s Rihanna, for one, who has purchased a coterie of tulle concoctions from the brand. She wasn’t at the show in February though. Who was? Adrian Joffe, president of Comme des Garçons and Dover Street Market; a group of international Vogue editors; and buyers who flocked from the US, Italy, Hong Kong, and Qatar, amongst other destinations. The industry approves.

What they are curious to see is what direction Goddard is going to take them next. In 2015, she garnered a reputation as the “tulle girl”, the one whose frothy, diaphanous layers of tulle dresses signalled the arrival of a sickly sweet, feminine saccharinity that has since had far-reaching influence. 

But it’s never been just about the tulle, and this collection reminded the audience of that. Sure, there was a delightful tangerine-hued bobbing like a buoy in choppy waters as the models proceeded down the runway, and a vermillion skirt which posed a subtle juxtaposition against a black and red op-art top, but the bulk of the of the collection was comprised of other options. There were familiar silhouettes: vaguely, contentedly frumpy, and penchant for ugly chic. They were rendered in cotton and taffeta, which are as embedded in Goddard’s design handwriting as tulle is. 

She superimposed pops of pink, rose, and vermillion on a mostly black, olive, and cream colour palette. Her musings on female identity are based on the reality that women want something transferrable—something built for work and pleasure. The orange tulle bubble, however, is just for fun.

She isn’t a revolutionary but she serves her audience well. 


Thursday, July 12, 2018

In New York, the Emerging Designers are Keeping the Menswear Scene Alive

New York Fashion Week: Men’s seventh instalment fizzled out last night, did you know? Over the past three days, 48 designers presented across the city. There weren’t any heavy-hitting names this season. In industry terms, it was a non-event. The press and buyer attendance wasn't overwhelming, by any stretch of the imagination. 

The lack of a discernible identity at New York Fashion Week: Men’s has been to its detriment since it began seven seasons ago. Designers like Raf Simons, Palomo Spain, and Matthew Adams Dolan, who added some much-needed vitality to the schedule, have since dropped off the schedule. They have decamped to other cities or the womenswear schedule. However, the dearth of well-known designers will not herald the death of New York Fashion Week: Men’s. 

The upcoming generation of eager, energetic, and endearing designers will act as the lifeblood of the event in seasons to come, while it attempts to find a foothold in the menswear landscape which is firmly rooted in Europe. What the next generation have in common is interest in the millennial customer and their emergence in the luxury market. 

Take for example Willy Chavarria’s stab at the politically-minded streetwear set with his inverted ‘America’ and stars-and-stripes graphics. America is upside down, unrecognisable to the liberal community, who this brand will most likely entice.  

He riffed on American sportswear with football, or soccer, jerseys emblazoned with Cyrillic script and the Pride flag. It was tinctured with the aesthetic of Gosha Rubchinskiy. (Danish sportswear brand Hummel collaborated with Chavarria on tracksuit pants.)

The latter half of the collection felt in line with 1990s street culture, with baggy trousers and oversized mesh shirts, referenced New York’s Bronx neighbourhood and Los Angeles grittier east side. This is the American equivalent to designers’ fetishisation of British working class culture—fashioning a narrative out of disadvantaged communities and commodifying it. The coda felt out of place in the context of the Gosha-influenced opening.
Sundae School (courtesy of Sundae School)
Sundae School is a South Korean brand designed by Dae Lim and Nina Kim. First, there was tailoring and dressmaking, followed by the birth of streetwear, and on the third day, God created “smokewear.” Bear with the fashion scripture. The duo is the proponent of smokewear, a millennial-baiting label aiming to connect with “high-minded” individuals—or simply, recreational drug-using individuals. 

Although the premise sounds like a dumb marketing ploy the clothes are worth paying attention to. The duo is quite talented. This season, their third outing, was called ‘Weed Scholar.' It skewered contemporary culture and the intellectuals from the Goryeo and Joseon periods of ancient Korean history. They did this with a witty equivoque—“Smoking Chills” graphics—but more importantly imbuing the clothes with hanbok, an exuberant style of Korean dress. They worked with organza and nubi quilted cotton to weave multicultural garments. The clothes were exceptional, aware of their poetic simplicity and nods to Helmut Lang-inspired streetwear. (Those utility vests aren’t Virgil Abloh’s invention, despite what Instagram might lead you to believe.)

Taakk (courtesy of Taakk)
Takuya Marikawa founded Taakk in 2012. His work meditates on relaxation which serves as a counterpoint to the hyper-communicative lives of millennials. With an eye for colour and cutting, Marikawa, who earned his stripes at Issey Miyake, didn’t overemphasise the streetwear elements and included some impressive tailoring options.

Feng Chen Wang (Source: models.com)

Feng Chen Wang is a London-based designer presenting in New York. Her credentials include a slot in Lulu Kennedy’s MAN incubator, and New York’s equivalent, VFiles. She was shortlisted for the LVMH Prize in 2016. The show sought inspiration from the philosophical concept of connection with human emotions.

Wang was also interested in the idea of halves. She presented menswear and womenswear. Her colour scale formed a dialogue between sombre blues—shades of indigo, azure, and periwinkle—to punchy pinks—rose, raspberry, and magenta, perhaps musing on the spectrum of human emotions. Concept and commerce married seamlessly—there were some great clothes—but that didn’t prevent some disappointments from seeping through the cracks. Crisp white shirts were slashed to reveal the model’s chest. They were redolent of Xander Zhou, another Chinese designer, who attempted similar things a few seasons ago. Denim was spliced together—blue and indigo—in the same way, Christopher Shannon did in his seminal Spring 2017 collection. That felt half-hearted.

There were some other more mediocre efforts. Landlord tempered the theatrics this season with a focus on design. Designer Ryohei Kawanishi swapped punk for children’s television series Adventure Time in a show that was heavy on rehashing menswear tropes rather than reshaping them. Ovadia and Sons similarly relied on familiarity instead of pushing their work in a new direction. N.Hoolywood looked to Arizona but the American Southwest has been done to death in fashion already. 

Conversely, Neil Patrick Grotzinger went full-throttle into new territory for his debut. Nihl, his label, explores an erotic sensation and contemporary masculinity. The obvious undercurrent is a throbbing sexuality, pulsing at the surface—for men, he is proposing decorative sheer tops and tight briefs.   
Nihl (photo by Nick DeLieto for Dazed Digital)

Grotzinger cut his teeth at womenswear design houses like Marc Jacobs (their menswear was short-lived), Prabal Gurung, and Diane von Furstenberg, three proprietors of a hyper-feminine aesthetic. His experience lends itself to the “masculine effeminacy” he explores. His mission is to deconstruct toxic masculinity as we’ve come to know it—with an unforgiving stance on sexuality and gender politics. He uses beadwork and embroidery to add artful touches to his menswear.

His latest collection, entitled 'Subservient Authories,' evoked the essence of virulent virility exposed in recent films Goat, and Beach Rats. Like this collection, the films study masculinity in its current guise: charged with a rigorous desire to preserve tradition and convention, regardless of the effect.

Nihl is a jolt to New York’s menswear landscape. It is bold and exuberant, escalating tensions between gender boundaries and objecting to masculine conventions. But is America ready for it? 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Ryan Lo's Unapologetic Femininity is a Sign of the Times // Fall 2018

Ryan Lo loves the colour pink. It was only fitting that his fall 2018 show at London Fashion Week in February took place at The Gallery at Sketch where millennial pink upholstery by India Mahdavi defines the interior landscape. Bathed in a soft, powder-pink glow, the room was a literal interpretation of Lo’s rose-tinted lens. The oft-Instagrammed enclaves served as the backdrop to Lo’s “greatest hits.” 

In an intriguing turn of events he used mannequins, mostly, and some models. 
His take on demure dressing is a recent phenomenon. It began with last season’s dialogue around the royal family—he had Queen Elizabeth II’s preferred handbag company create accessories; he showed weeks the 20th anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales’, and days before Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex announced their engagement. This season it was Princess Margaret, the unlikely fashion heroine who has been cropping up as inspiration. There were blurred pastel hues on 60s-inspired ballgowns with gauzy tulle skirts. 

He was also thinking further back to the “foxtrotting flappers” of the 1920s, an era of hedonistic reverie. One mannequin, with a lacquered bob and scarlet bob, was dressed in an unblushing eyeleted gown which contrasted with the demure modesty of his regal 60s. Trench coats slipped off the shoulders to reveal peekaboo lace slips. It was the kind of playful femininity one has come to expect from Lo. 

He issued a riff on French maids’ outfits, by way of Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, with Kirsten Dunst attired in regal 18th century ensembles. 

In a collection of plenty, there were noted nods to Chinoiserie, reflecting his heritage. It was pertinent, his show took place on the day of Chinese New Year, commencing the year of the Dog. Lo’s were modern iterations, mixing the high and low with sweeping trains and abbreviated hemlines.

With a greatest hits behind him, perhaps a new chapter lies ahead. The time is ripe for change.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Youth of Today, as Described by London's Ashley Williams // Fall 2018

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, sat front row at Ashley William’s London Fashion Week show. Not Burberry. Not Roksanda. Not Christopher Kane. Ashley Williams, the 28-year-old Westminster graduate with a penchant for devilish, unapologetic femininity, isn’t the show you’d expect him to make an appearance at. It was a testament to the government’s support of the British fashion industry (after all, upwards of £100m in revenue is generated for the British economy annually), but also Mr. Khan’s personal inclination to support young people.

What does the youth of today look like? According to Williams, there are many things. 

In the internet era when hyper-communication is more widely-welcomed than, say, anything else, Williams lobbied for a technological recess. The models navigated a Stonehenge-inspired slalom. Some of the looks corresponded to the Pagan, pre-technology world. There were fabulously frumpy dresses edging on bad taste—her best offerings. Other looks reflected the desire to disrupt, skin-tight sheer dresses emblazoned with the word ‘Sex.’
Image: WWD

Perhaps the most potent statement was the faux-fur slides that read ‘Anxiety.' FOMO (fear of missing out) and Compare and Despair are common vexations plaguing young people. (1 in 10 people suffer from anxiety in the UK. 40 million experience variations of general anxiety disorder in America.) The constant need to surf, like, and share is a new phenomenon and the consequences of it are slowly but surely, and oftentimes harrowingly, unfurling across… our Instagram feeds. A website which provides information about anxiety declared social media as more addictive than cigarettes. But as the ‘Anxiety’ slippers reveal, we’re the ones facing the problem.

But the collection was replete with contradictions, ones you’d expect from a young designer establishing a footing in the overcrowded fashion landscape. Despite the call to jilt social media and connect with the natural world, it was ironic that the show was filled with faux-fur slippers reading ‘Anxiety’ or ‘Girls’, dresses that said ’Sex’, or declaratively disinterested ‘Don’t Know, Don’t Care’ hoodies—all designed with social media in mind. They were the looks that collected double-taps and shares.  

It ended with Adwoa Aboah, the model of the moment, bedecked in a youthful hodgepodge that wouldn’t look out of place in an Instagram. Acid-wash denim and a matching bucket hat, red faux-fur sliders, and a tie-dyed hoodie reading ‘Don’t Know, Don’t Care’ with a Matrix-inspired sunglasses on a chain around her neck. It was a post-ironic aesthetic discord, at once humorous and devilishly rebellious. It encompassed what the Ashley Williams woman is about. It’s hallowed ground at this stage, a niche well-carved, but it would be interesting to see her embark on a deeper exploration of the millennial condition next season.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Burberry Announces a Collaboration with Vivienne Westwood. What Does It Mean?

Vivienne Westwood creative director Andreas Kronthaler, Dame Vivienne Westwood, and Burberry's chief creative officer Riccardo Tisci.

On Friday, July 6, Riccardo Tisci announced Burberry would be collaborating with Dame Vivienne Westwood and Andreas Kronthaler, creative director of the Vivienne Westwood label. 

This is Tisci's first high-calibre project for the brand. He was appointed as chief creative officer in March. 

“Vivienne Westwood was one of the first designers who made me dream to become a designer myself and when I first started at Burberry, I knew it would be the perfect opportunity to approach her to do something,” Tisci said in a statement published to his Instagram account. “She is a rebel, a punk and unrivalled in her unique representation of British style, which has inspired so many of us. I am so incredibly proud of what we will be creating together.”

In keeping with the environmentalist proclivities of Dame Vivienne Westwood, a portion of proceeds will be going to non-profit organisation Cool Earth, which supports rainforest conservation.
Images: Burberry
The possibility of the collaboration comes after Demna Gvasalia’s Vetements bulldozed preconceptions as to what a designer collaboration could look like. Hitherto, only high street retailers, or sports giants, and high fashion designers collaborated. In 2016, Gvasalia enlisted 17 collaborators for Vetements’ Spring 2017 collection. They included Italian tailoring brand Brioni, luxury footwear designer Manolo Blahnik, and shirting from Comme des Garçons. 

That is to say, the move isn’t unprecedented for Burberry. Following the storming commercial success of Vetements’ partnerships, they followed a similar course last year, in an attempt to energise stagnating sales. They partnered with Gosha Rubchinskiy, the Russian designer with a flair for defining and dissecting contemporary youth culture and creating hugely desirable cult items lusted after by his legion of ‘hypebeast’ followers.

Tisci’s work with Westwood and Kronthaler strikes a personal note, as he describes in his Instagram post. He graduated from Central Saint Martins, London’s revered design college, in 1999. British fashion is undoubtedly a source of inspiration for him. At Givenchy, where he worked previously, he succeeded three British designers John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, Julien Macdonald. 

The Burberry appointment is effectively a homecoming to his design roots. It has also posed as an opportunity for him to connect with one of his design heroes. 

The fusion of two British heritage brands comes at a time when the meaning of Britishness is uncertain terrain. In the aftermath of the contentious Brexit vote, two British powerhouses coming together is politically relevant. Will Westwood punk and Burberry tartan collide? Will this signal a bond between two cornerstones of British fashion identity?

The capsule collection will see Westwood and Kronthaler's explore the expansive archive and re-edit British classics. It is expected to launch in December. The pairing is as much about Tisci’s rebellious creative streak as it is about Burberry’s desire to boost profits. And quickly.


Thursday, July 5, 2018

In Dublin, CREATE's Ongoing Support and Commitment to the Importance of Irish Design

Eight years ago, a challenge faced Shelly Corkery. “Where is the Irish talent?” she asked herself. 

As fashion director of Irish department store Brown Thomas, Corkery undertook the responsibility of assembling a group of Irish designers—“the ones who haven’t yet pushed through”—to showcase their work in Brown Thomas’ flagship on Dublin’s Grafton Street, the main shopping thoroughfare. Entitled ‘CREATE’, the annual event runs for six weeks in the summer months, when tourism is in Dublin is at its peak and the fall collections are dropping in stores.

“Eddie Shanahan of the Design and Crafts Council sent over some names, and we researched the rest ourselves,” Corkery told me at the launch of Create 2018 on Monday night, where she welcomed guests for the eighth instalment of the showcase.

Twenty-five emerging and established names across ready-to-wear, knitwear, accessories, jewellery, housewares, were selected by Corkery and her team after an intensive two-day interview process which whittled down the candidates. The successful twenty-five will present their work in-store through August 12, on the first floor. “This is the place in the store where customers circulate more than any other point in the store,” Eddie Shanahan points out. 

The first thing they’ll be confronted with is Álla, the work of Alla Sinkevich, a recent National College of Art & Design graduate who won the Brown Thomas Bursary. Three outfits from her graduate collection, ‘Existential Nomad,' are on display. Interpenetrating Chagall and the Aran Islands, the collection was influenced by archetypes of human dwellings throughout the ages. 

Highly conceptual, the process of making the collection was simplistic in that it used only two fabrics—linen and wool—but it was complicated given the intensity of labour. Sinkevich shared that the sculptural coats which initially seize the viewer’s eye were hand-felted on the floor of her workspace. It took three days to make a single piece. She stopped only for food breaks and sleeping as it was a live-process. “All of it was made by me. Like any fashion designer, I like to be in control of my work,” she said. She admits her husband assisted in the final process of felting or else she "would've been left with a ball of wet wool.”

Sinkevich’s work isn’t retailing at Create but she is accepting commissions. “Irish couture,” chimed Shanahan.
Alla Sinkevich with work from her brand Álla. Photo by Vital Sinkevich.

The other star of the evening was Richard Quinn, the London-based designer who presented a breakthrough collection during London Fashion Week in February to an audience including Queen Elizabeth II and Dame Anna Wintour. He was the recipient of the inaugural Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design. The outfit he designed for human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, which she wore to the 2018 Met Gala, is in the store window.

Quinn was in attendance to celebrate the launch. The Irish connection? “My dad is from County Meath, and my mom is from a small fishing village in Northern Ireland.” 

He sauntered into the exhibition, chatted with guests throughout and received a special mention from Corkery during her welcoming speech. Attendees at Monday’s event huddled around to admire his hodgepodge of 60s references: chintzy tablecloth florals, spotty dresses and metallic fabrics. 

Quinn clarified the reference point for the florals is the lesser-known 1960s artist Paul Harris, not Leigh Bowery. But he maintains, everyone’s entitled to their own interpretation. “Everyone can have their opinion. I’m all for that.” He had the same reaction when questioned about Diet Prada’s design plagiarism claims. The controversial Instagram page accused him of copying Demna Gvasalia’s Balenciaga, even though he had presented his show, with much the same motifs, months prior to the quoted Balenciaga collection.

As for production of the collection? “We like to keep everything in London. It means greater control of the finished product and fewer emissions,” he said. What’s next? “Another collection in September. I’m going to Milan next week for a project. There’s another big project but we’ll see if that happens.”

“It’s great to have Richard Quinn with us, he’s amazing. We bought [his fall 2018] collection,” Corkery enthused. Will he continue to be stocked in Brown Thomas? “Definitely.”
Models wear Richard Quinn, accompanied by the designer. Courtesy of Brown Thomas.

Knitwear is obvious gambit in terms of Irish design. Aran knitting is internationally renowned. Pearl Reddington is this year's knitwear breakthrough. She infuses luxury Irish wools with cutting-edge skills. She handcrafts her work in her bedroom in her parent’s house in Raheny, a hamlet outside Dublin. “It took a lot of hard work. I’m a bit frazzled,” said Reddington.

Other knitwear designers on display are Faye Dinsmore, Lainey Keogh, technical whiz Fintan Mulholland.

Like knitwear, Irish millinery has made a name for itself in light of Philip Treacy’s success. Michelle Kearns, Leonora Ferguson, and The Season Hats decorate an entire wall with their fascinating, individual styles. 

Jewellery is another proposition. The glamorously-attired Bláithín Ennis from Gorey, County Wexford was receiving alacritous, well-wishing guests all evening, complementing her work which poses a contrast between “delicate and robust” metals. Joining her is Emer Roberts Design, and Helena Malone.

The work featured by Éadach by Sara O’Neill and Jill & Gill were the closest to the Instagram generation in terms of their style. O’Neill paints on vintage leather jackets; Jill & Gill have hand-printed the faces of Anna Wintour, Kate Moss, and more onto sweaters and t-shirts. 

Úna Burke’s work with leather is not only an insight into technical wizardry but because her past client list reads like a Who’s Who in the music industry: Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift.
Brown Thomas window: The dress Richard Quinn designed for Amal Clooney. Courtesy of Brown Thomas.

The exhibition crescendoes with the refined, monochromatic Mariad Whisker; Grafton Academy of Design graduate Sarah Murphy whose work recalls Simone Rocha; the sportswear of Amie Egan with a conceptual touch; the ethical fashion proponent Four Threads by Alanagh Clegg; Debbie Millington, a practitioner of printed silk scarves and accessories; Deirdre Duffy’s Wild Cocoon’s hand-woven, brightly-coloured scarves; Ale Walsh, the only handbag designer on display; Domino Whisker, creator of embroideries on Irish linen; Mookie & Boo by Suzie Beggan’s exclusive candles range, hand-produced in County Wicklow; interior designer Katie Larmour’s “couture cushions”.

2018’s instalment of Create has one message to impart: Irish designers are building a sustainable future. From Richard Quinn’s London-based production to the bespoke craftsmanship of many of the designers on show, the Irish designers of tomorrow are centred on environmental responsibility, lowering emissions, and carving a viable future for the planet. 

Furthermore, Shelly Corkery and the team at Brown Thomas are paving the way for the future of Irish design. (Other countries should take note—especially ones without a fashion week.) The nexus between designer and consumer will be pivotal in a growing fashion market like Ireland.

There is still ground to break in Irish fashion but there is also belief, and as proved by the intense labour and industrious nature of year’s edit of designers, where there's a will, there's a way.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

In Paris, Couturiers Propel Themselves Into the Future

Chanel

The backdrop to Karl Lagerfeld's Chanel haute couture show was the Quai de Conti. It's where les bouqinistes flog antiquary books and the Académie Française is located. It was quintessentially Parisian. But there was more. 

Lagerfeld isn’t blind to cultural relevance, despite naysayers' complaints. There was symbolism: Simone Veil, Holocaust survivor, and prominent women’s rights activist entered the Académie Française as the sixth woman ever to do so in 2008. She was dressed in Chanel. Two days before the Chanel show, she was honoured by President Macron with a reburial at the Panthéon. Veil’s campaigns for women’s rights included advocating for improved conditions for incarcerated women in French prisons, introducing contraception methods for women, and, most famously, her successful battle to legalise abortion in France. Lagerfeld subtly spun a narrative about women’s lives and what Chanel has to offer them.

The feminist gesture Chanel offered was catering to the duality of women’s lives, coalescing business and pleasure. How so? Zips. Sleeves could be zipped up to reveal flesh, or zipped down to provide modesty. It was as playful as it was perfunctory, adding an unexpected lightness to proceedings. As Karl Lagerfeld told Vogue’s Hamish Bowles, “You can wear it zipped down when you visit your banker and zipped up when you see your lover after!” 

The clothes were Chanel by the book, which meant a cast of bouclé suits and chiffon shifts that one has witnessed more times than probably any other suit ever. In that respect, it a bit antiquated. And the Star Trek-inspired hairstyles were unnecessary.

His bride this season was Adut Akech—the Sudanese-Australia breakout model of the year and the first black bride in a Chanel show since Alek Wek in 2004. Her seafoam green concoction was subtly subversive, zips-and-all. I learned it was a homage to the outfit Lagerfeld designed for Veil when she entered the Académie. The gravitas of Lagerfeld deploying Akech as the bride is not lost either. In a couture market dominated by Middle Eastern and Chinese clients, it’s a progressive statement to spotlight diversity. It’s a step towards the future of fashion.

John Galliano’s Maison Margiela collections are devilishly innovative and mildly humorous, a trait he’s possessed since the beginning of his fashion career.

His ongoing search for “new glamour” continued with his Artisanal collection, called ‘Nomadic Glamour.’ “New glamour” is an idea, he stresses, not a destination at which he hopes to arrive. It’s a concept based on evoking emotions through cuts of clothing, dressing in haste which results in paradoxical styling, and it questions appropriateness. What is appropriate? What is inappropriate?

In the context of this couture collection, it was a further example that couture is not bound by the past but it can still respect past techniques. For example, he endeavours to remove the seam from garments to create a more fluid garment. But he also reconstitutes throwaway cuts of fabric that are discarded by luxury houses. Recycling fabrics in haute couture might sound terribly surprising given the expendable budget of its clientele but for Galliano it’s fair game. 

“New” is the operative word. At Maison Margiela Artisanal shows, a cape can become a man’s tailcoat, stockings can become the final layer of an outfit, and a skirt can be worn on your head. “It’s magic,” he quips. It’s an ode to the renegades who don’t live in the confines of society, ones whose ensembles are punctuated by historical references and emotional ties.

Moreover, exposing the couture process is something Galliano favours. “Honesty” is a word that comes up in the Margiela podcast he taped. Garments in the collection revealed structures, padding, interlinings, usually concealed by couturiers. 

He spoke about neo-digital natives, the hyper-communicative iPhone-attachés. Some models sported iPhones supported by a ‘selfie pole’ from their boots. This was his ‘#real statement’.

His work, “the beginning of a symphony, maybe” as he describes it, is energetic, hopeful, and wonderful.
Giorgio Armani Privé

Giorgio Armani Privé too presented what can only be described as une surprise. The Italian couturier shed the frump which dogs his work and combined soigné lightness, and unabashed flamboyant frivolity.

In shades of charcoal, champagne, and cream, with a serving of turquoise and fuchsia, his models prowled the catwalk in an insouciant procession. There was something effortlessly self-assured and poised about their relaxed strut. They paraded in an array of updated 1940s-inspired gowns which bore unmistakably Armani silhouettes--an instantly recognisable sculptural modernity. But the effect it had this season was akin to a breath of crisp air. A designer primarily focused on propagating the same old, same old, this had a decidedly glamorous and contemporary edge.

There was more overt extravagance abound. A handful of models were decorated in flamingo-like finery: plumed shawls in shades of magenta. Elsewhere in the 92-look show, there were clouds of tulle floating on the models’ heads. For someone who has built on a career on understated sophistication, it was a lively addition.

Haute couture, as rarefied as it is, requires moments like this which push it into the future. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

In Paris, Pick-and-Mix Individualism is in Control


Maria Grazia Chiuri exercised a modest restraint for her latest haute couture collection at the historic Christian Dior. After two years, she stripped away the commodified feminism and focused on craftsmanship. There were decent dresses on display. She was thinking about the quietness of couture, the confidence in knowing that thousands of euros equates to exemplary service.

She wasn’t looking to provoke with this one. Or excite, seemingly. This much is surprising given the news that the V&A Museum announced it will host the largest and most comprehensive retrospective of Christian Dior. Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams debuts in February 2019 and it will be based on Christian Dior: Couturier du Rêve, the expansive recollection of the brand’s history Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. The exhibition will encompass Chiuri’s work too, alongside the work of Dior creative directors past. 

Although her clothes weren’t charged with drama or theatre, they were subtly elegant, quietly sophisticated, and inherently beautiful. One couldn’t fault the simplicity if it meant Chiuri was finally paying attention to the fact she’s designing at a couture house and not Forever 21. The women with the means to buy Dior will surely be swept away by a matte-duchesse satin pistachio gown with a pleated skirt. 

Bertrand Guyon continued to grapple with the Schiaparelli archive, unearthing surrealism gems and doctoring a modern vision for the house. Shocking Pink is the obvious reference, the kind that leaves you bleary-eyed after awhile. He toyed with the proportion of a sweeping cape, another Schiaparelli signifier. A flamingo fascinator by Stephen Jones captivated in its extravagance but also its wry humour, which is something you’d expect from Schiaparelli.

But you would also expect a greater deal of direction. Where will he take it? What’s his plan? How will he keep the spirit of Schiap alive if he can’t sustain energy throughout the course of a single collection? He’s good but he needs to be better.

Peter Dundas didn’t present couture, rather Resort 2019, but his constellation of sequin embroidery, lace (in cycling shorts), big 80s-inspired shoulders warranted a place on the calendar. It would tantalise the taste buds of the Biarritz bombshells, their hedonistic lifestyles and penchant for revelling until the early hours of the morning. His fans include Beyoncé and Kim Kardashian, megawatt celebrities who opt for flamboyant, unabashed glamour with a hint of kitsch and a dollop of hubris. 

It’s a type of glamour commonly associated with the 2000s, before the worst economic crash since the Great Depression beckoned and stealth wealth superseded decadent luxury. In the face of economic uncertainty, a minimal approach to dressing emerges. But Dundas was one of the few proponents of maximalism.

The variegated lens of contemporary couture collections revolves around one principle: the subjectivity of taste. In three days, there have been cases made for women of many fashion orientations. It’s something that stretches beyond couture and pervades the entire industry. Trends are gone. The colour of the season is no longer. The it-bag and the it-girl have vacated the premises. What we’re left with is an individualistic reign of fashion designers. But as individuals, they need to be more wilful with their expressions. It’s getting pretty dry out there.

Monday, July 2, 2018

In Paris, Haute Couture Shares the Spotlight with Ready-to-Wear & Resort

Uma Thurman sashayed down the marble runway in cat-eye sunglasses and a duchesse satin floor-sweeping overcoat. Moments later, she vogued again revealing a shimmering leopard print gown with an emerald bodice. The actress had turned model for the night. She was joined by actresses Kate Bosworth, Rowan Blanchard, Chloë Sevigny, and socialites Suki Waterhouse and Alexa Chung. It was Miu Miu’s Resort 2019 show in Paris, on a balmy Saturday evening. The clothes were characteristically flirty with marabou accents, delicate embellishments, and graphic prints and possessed a whimsical, youthful zest, revelling in their meaninglessness. 
Miu Miu

The haute couture shows in Paris officially began yesterday morning and continued to subvert expectation. It is no longer a week reserved solely to the august houses who spend thousands of hours on handcrafting ball gowns for the über-rich, the business tycoons, and princesses. Miuccia Prada’s Miu Miu wasn’t on the official Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode schedule but her fashion show was the unofficial, starry opener of the week’s proceedings.

Sonia Rykiel were also unlisted on the schedule but coincided the debut of their L’Atelier collection, a made-to-order line, with couture week. In a cloistered courtyard at the Beaux-Arts de Paris, creative director Julie de Libran continued to exhibit her acute awareness for the house’s codes with a distinctly Parisian display, comprised of darkly glamorous attire tinged with the 1980s. Power suiting was one of the main propositions, sans chemisier, and clouds of marabou adorned berets. The rebellious bride wore jeans and a glittering ivory corset, recalling something Carrie Bradshaw might wear in 2018.

Acne Studios, Hermès, and Vetements showed too further evincing the loosening grip of tradition. Of course, none of them were on-schedule, but that doesn’t matter anymore. Hermès, like Miu Miu, showed Resort 2019, upstairs at their Paris flagship. Acne Studios and Vetements presented Spring 2019.

Vetement’s Demna Gvasalia elicited terror from his audience. It wasn’t just the venue, underneath a motorway, but his fetish references, consisting of models wearing leather masks and stomping thunderously in frightening procession.

Post-Soviet youth culture, Gvasalia’s gambit, exploded on the runway to a soundtrack of thumping techno. There was punk plaid, military camo, garish tablecloth prints, and roughened leather. Bootleg denim and oversized tailoring, familiar Vetements propositions appeared elsewhere. There were explicit nods to Georgia, his native country with the flag appearing on an anorak. (Ukraine was also given a nod.) It was abrasive both in its brash styling and the strut of the models. The nationalistic militarism was both violent and pertinent for the modern world. 

The most amusing was the tablecloth-print dress bracketed by a Russian flag coat and a Stars and Stripes jacket. Trump and Putin’s conference in Helsinki in July, anyone?

Vetements, which is also the French word for clothes, is the antithesis of couture. It is just that: clothes. Product. It is a commercial success and wryly toys with its customers’ expectations and anything it produces rapidly becomes a cult item. The Georgian flag in the Pride colours with shoulder pads? Next season’s bestseller. But it comments on the diametric between the youth of today suffering from political oppression and the moneyed seated in tony enclaves in the 1st.
Givenchy

It starkly contrasts with Claire Waight-Keller’s Givenchy, a storied couture house helmed by a British designer who counts royalty like Meghan, Duchess of Sussex a fan. 

Off the back of the recent Royal Wedding coup, artistic director Waight-Keller returned to the atelier to conjure the Fall 2018 haute couture collection. Her show at the Archives Nationales was one of the first couture collections to be presented.

She issued an homage to the founder, Hubert de Givenchy, who passed away in March, following her sophomore Paris Fashion Week outing. She scoured the archives and plucked references from Mr. Givenchy’s oeuvre which is punctuated by glamour with a capital G. He was a man who appealed to women like Audrey Hepburn who appeals to women of today for her perennial sophistication and elegance without having to simultaneously perform the role of ‘sex symbol’. Her models wore kitten heels, trousers, and were modestly dressed in gowns, capes, and suiting that will allure an audience with an appetite for couture that is both timeless and modern.  

Encompassing the 1950s to 1970s, Waight-Keller re-edited many of the founder’s staples and rendered them anew, for a modern audience. While it wasn’t as evocative as her debut couture show in January, the craftsmanship was nevertheless spellbinding. (Les petites mains, the craftsmen and -women who work on the collection, emerged for the final bow, along with the artistic director.) The technicality of the collection is almost incomprehensible. The atelier spends thousands of hours labouring on garments which act merely as a proposition for the wealthy, prospective customers front row who will subsequently adapt the pieces to meet their requirements. 

It made you wonder: What will become of the white column gown dripping with feather embroidery, enveloped in a futuristic cape? How will the pailettes and ostrich-feather evening gown transform to suit the guest from Middle East or the China? And the square-shouldered metallic, military-inspired top with cigarette trousers, will it exist as presented or altered to become a dress or gown? We’re likely to not be privy to this information. Couture is a closely-guarded world, and the relationship between designer and client is a secretive exchange founded on discretion and privacy.

From pre-collections to ready-to-wear to haute couture, the past 48 hours has marked the diversified nature of the fashion schedule. You don’t have to be a couturier to present couture. You just have to show up in Paris in January and July and hijack the schedule. But at couture week, where escapism is the name of the game, only a couturier has proved themselves capable of achieving that thus far.