When Emilia Wickstead began researching ideas on uniforms and the work of visual artist Man Ray, it didn’t take long to join the dots to the spirit and style of Lee Miller, a regular reference point on Wickstead’s mood boards. “She’s the consummate polymath: artist, muse, model, surrealist, journalist, Vogue photographer, and the first female war correspondent,” said Wickstead. As the London-based designer explained, this collection touched on the many facets of Miller’s career but at the forefront of it all was her determined independence and freedom to move across those different worlds. At its most obvious, the idea of uniform was evident in oversized shirting with neat boyish collars and utilitarian flap pockets, rendered glamorously in sheerest organza, and beige wide-leg trousers in silk satin, not workaday cotton. Miller’s sensuality and her love affair with Man Ray were explored via off-the-shoulder shapes, a glimpse of underpinnings, and a feeling of unraveling – of fabrics peeling away. One of the most interesting references was how Wickstead approached Miller’s pioneering photography techniques. Miller and Ray discovered solarization, a process that gives photographs a ghostly, glowing, and surreal quality. Wickstead took this as a way to experiment with prints. Her painterly florals on silk were blurred and became further distorted overlaid with printed organza; the effect, she noted, was as softly focused as a Vaseline-smeared lens. Pleats were also warped – either stitched back or falling in rebellious folds rather than rigid, linear formations. This was a collection with all kinds of shapes and silhouettes, from rigorously fitted and immaculately tailored to easy and loose, from ultrashort to long and narrow gowns with trains. Others were full and floor skimming. Overall it was feminine and formal but with a spicy undercurrent of edge and modernity. It’s this clever and precise balance that ensures Wickstead’s clothes don’t veer too far one way or the other.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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