Cool Folk. Chopova Lowena SS20

Chopova Lowena is currently one of the most fascinating, emerging labels from 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. Chopova Lowena is beloved for its juxtapositions, subtly combining modernity and nostalgia, luxury and kitsch, craftsmanship and humour. The same spirit of new and old, rare and mainstream, is reflected in their spring-summer 2020 lookbook. Skin-tight layers of tartan-checks printed mesh are paired with their signature Bulgarian pleats in wool and nylon (they sell out super fast and you’ve surely seen them gracing street style slideshows this fashion month). Big, punk-ish belts double as mini-skirts underneath delicate harnesses made from metal hardware. The folky, peasant dresses and blouses with theatrical sleeves are another highlights. Chopova Lowena has an anthropological approach to design, observing traditional customs and revisiting them through a contemporary lens – often through collaborating with craftsmen in small Eastern European and English communities.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Commission SS20

Meet Commission, a brand that you’ve got to have on your radar right now. The New York-based co-founders Huy Luong, Dylan Cao and Jin Kay set out to redefine their Asian heritage using Western style codes. Their third season – spring-summer 2020 collection – is a modern reinterpretation of what their mothers wore to work in the ‘80s – think boxy shirts, tailored jackets and retro prints. When Kay, Cao and Luong met a few years ago, they were all getting different commissions for work at various brands. When the three found that they shared a visual language, they decided to commission their own work. “It was time to commission something for ourselves,” said Luong. “For our culture.” And so they created Commission, a label that wins hearts with sophisticated, yet unpretentious clothing born of the 1980s and ’90s nostalgia. Kay grew up in Korea, while Cao and Luong hail from Vietnam. As Cao tells Paper, “we’re first-generation immigrants to the US. So around the time that we started there was this conversation we wanted to have, about Asian, especially East Asian, culture and representation in the visual world, and especially in the fashion industry. And for a long time we found it really limiting, and really literal.” When looking at family photos, all three designers realized that their mothers styled themselves in a similar manner to go to work in the late ’80s and early ’90s, dressing with the same “visual code,” as Cao put it. “The ’80s and ’90s, that’s sort of a period when not a lot of people talk about Asia, because there’s less to romanticize” he continued. “By then there were a lot of Western influences in the way people dressed in Asia. Growing up we’d see our parents go to work and tweak the Western-style codes in their own way. And just looking at our moms and the way they dressed – the big suits, the shoulder pads, the pants – but adding their own personal flares to the way they styled the clothes, that’s what kind of connected us.”  Commission’s spring-summer 2020 line-up’s highlights? To be honest, I love everything, from the refined tailoring to the ‘ugly chic’ colour palette. To discover more, check out their site.

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Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Slavic Romance. Magda Butrym SS20

For spring-summer 2020, Magda Butrym does her thing in the best possible way. The Polish designer looks at the East through her own, idiosyncratic perspective, creating the modern-day “Slavic romance” – even suited for a client who not necessarily has much to do with the region. Her signature, sharp-shouldered silhouettes beautifully define her mini dresses and vintage-y tailoring (just take a look at the masculine, silk coat in polished white to see the sharpness I’m talking about). Florals take center stage, either as reworked folk prints or an incredible 3-D sculptural bodice that stands away from the body to resemble a rose in full bloom. The pleated, long-sleeved dress in bold pink is equally appealing. Butrym’s love for folk is never too literal in her work, but the previously mentioned Slavic romance she manages to incorporate in her fashion is always charming and heart-warming (especially for Poles like me who really wish Polish labels embraced its local heritage – without falling into folklore clichées, of course).

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Bold And Sustainable. Colville SS20

 Co-founded by Molly Molloy, Kristin Forss and Lucinda Chambers, Colville – the London/Milan-based brand – is independent, off-kilter and too cool for the traditional fashion industry. Colville is the creative encounter between three different minds and three personal points of view. The trio have worked together at Marni, while Chambers was Consuelo Castiglioni’s longtime stylist and is famous for her sense for eclectic layering. Their spring-summer 2020 collection involved working collaboratively with a Colombian women’s group on charming woven bags, and they’re sourcing vintage silk scarves and old shell jackets from the ’90s and turning them into graceful dresses and  sleeved shrugs. Social responsibility and upcycling are buzzwords that fashion companies use as their marketing ploy. But for Colville, this isn’t a trend. Molloy, Forss, and Chambers are really, truly close to the product. Those are clothes to be worn, cherished, mixed and matched. Clothes that are bold and brave, considered and careful, sensitive and detailed. Colville designer have a soft point for bold floral prints and off-kilter silhouettes (if you worked with Castiglioni, that’s an inheritable trait), like an upside-down shirt whose sleeves drape below the hips and a trompe l’oeil skirt that looks like a folded-over dress. The collection as well features amazing raincoats made from boat sails. Keep this brand on your radar next season, if you’re looking for truly sustainable, bold fashion.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.