Chopova Lowena

Meet Chopova Lowena, one of the most fascinating, emerging brands in London. Emma Chopova and Laura Lowena‘s Central Saint Martins MA graduate collection began with them looking at Bulgaria’s mountain dwellers, particularly the women, and the way they dressed. There, they found all the contrasting elements they felt so intrigued with, like intricate handmade folk costumes worn with secondhand western sneakers and sunglasses. The same spirit of new and old, rare and mainstream, was reflected in their autumn-winter 2018 look-book shot by Charlotte Wales (with whom the designers worked on Kukeri – Chopova Lowena, a photographic portfolio focusing on Bulgarian culture and the traditional fur-clad masked Kukeri).The label is already known for its harmonious juxtapositions, subtly combining modernity and nostalgia, luxury and kitsch, craftsmanship and humour. Skin-tight layers of brightly printed mesh are paired with their signature Bulgarian pleats in wool and nylon. Big, punk-ish belts double as mini-skirts underneath delicate harnesses made from metal hardware – very Vivienne-Westwood-gone-ethnic. Chopova Lowena has an anthropological approach to design, observing traditional customs and revisiting them through a contemporary lens. Their design ethos stems from a desire to work with niche and forgotten techniques, and to collaborate with craftsmen in small Eastern European and English communities. By working with artisans, they aim to preserve disappearing crafts – that is quite a t to praise in today’s fashion industry. Take a look at the designers’ works, from 2017 and 2018, below.

Chopova Lowena’s latest offering is actually a mini-collection of three, hand-knitted sweaters. With this project, which launched on their website just now, the Emma and Laura “sought to take this one step further by attempting to create knitwear with the sole purpose of highlighting the manufacturing processes behind it”, as Another puts it. The process behind the sweaters spanned across borders. The works began with wool from Yorkshire mills, which was then knitted into the pieces by three skilled craftswomen from a village in Bulgaria’s remote mountain region. The knits look more than lovely – it’s visible that they’re warm and will serve for years, years to come.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki. Photos by Charlotte Wales and Laura Lowena.

Drama. Richard Quinn SS19

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Although the Queen didn’t attend Richard Quinn’s show this season, the front row at his spring-summer 2019 presentation sparked interest. Art students from Quinn’s high school in London and Central Saint Martins, where he earned his degree, were all here, absolutely stunned and impressed by the British designer’s creations. In recent years, arts programs have been dramatically underfunded in British schools, and this was Quinn’s admirable way of drawing attention to that problem (cutting out art programs is a short-sighted action – it’s the fashion industry, for example, that plays as a very profitable export for Great Britain). Speaking of Quinn’s collection. ‘Dramatic’ is the word that fits it perfectly. Models in velvet ski masks opened the show in black tutus and heels, with a storm clouds projection in the background. Three looks in, and we’ve got 50s cocktail dresses in the boldest florals, gowns with feather trimmings and meticulously embroidered pyjamas. That major sequin work is just ‘wow’. The leopard print that appeared on the ladylike coats and drop-waisted frocks in the end brought the collection proper spice. Quinn conquers the evening-wear niche, that’s for sure. And proves he’s not a one-season wonder.

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Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Tisci’s Take. Burberry SS19

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London fashion week didn’t see a big debut for a while. But was it worth the wait? Riccardo Tisci at Burberry seemed to be an unlikely choice from the beginning. The brand’s logo and identity changes felt vague and predictable. A post-show, 24 hours only merch shopping via Instagram had to have everyone like ‘wow’, but I guess no one really bothered to buy anything. You might think that 134 looks in a collection have to speak loud and clear about the designer’s vision. That’s what I thought before. Well, maybe that number of looks tried to say a word or two, but in overall it felt like Tisci wanted to seize too much and mention too many things at a time in his first collection for this historic, British brand. The first part of the collection referred to Burberry’s heritage – trench coats, Burbs checks and silk foulards – and played with the notion of conservative, British middle class from the Thatcher era. If Riccardo developed that a bit further and kept the show in these 50 outfits, that might have been a good shot . But then, a dozen of identical menswear looks appeared, aesthetically closer to Prada and 90s Helmut Lang than Burberry. Another ton of womenswear (this time related to the punk movement, unfortunately looking shallow, preppy and… tired) and a portion of men’s unamusing streetwear (think sweatshirts and prints that are very close to Riccardo’s work at Givenchy – this time, however, we’ve got creepy, Victorian families photo instead of Catholic iconography) appeared on the runway.  In the end, we had this quite stiff line-up of ladies’ eveningwear. I liked Christopher Bailey’s last seasons at Burberry, but I never really looked at his collections again. Tisci’s debut could have been more focused and gripping, that’s sure, but let’s give him time. And please, narrow down that scope!

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Collage by Edward Kanarecki.