It’s a baby-boom among fashion designers in London! Both Molly Goddard and Simone Rocha have returned to the new season with infants. Molly’s Frank was charming visitors with appointments at her studio this morning, while his mother was explaining how being pregnant made her “think about baby clothes” for the spring-summer 2022 season. In fact, it’s intrinsic to her origin-story as a Central Saint Martins fashion student: “My graduation collection was all based on blowing up the dresses I had when I was a child,” she said. That’s where her obsession with smocking grew. This was a woman-centric staring down, laughing at and toying with whatever toxicity might be meant by “Lolita.” The multiple meters of pink net which typically explode from this designer’s little baby-smocked bodices are definitely not for women who simper. There’s one of those dresses in her spring collection: a classic Molly Goddard party frock. More noticeable, though, is her diversification from full-on going-out clothes. Instead of a show, she shot a video in her studio which demonstrates what Molly Goddard people can wear all of the time. Excellent wide-leg jeans. Neon-bright Guernsey sweaters and Aran knit cardigans. Smocks to layer over track pants. Menswear – including flared trench coats, stripy sweaters and ballet flats. Next season, Goddard is aiming for a full runway show again. In the meantime, her baby-time has generated as much joy as ever, and possibly even more clothes that a lot of people will want to have in their lives.
Hot Girl Summer all year long – that’s the key message from the first day of London Fashion Week. Nensi Dojaka is one of the freshest forces in womenswear for a long time to emerge from London. The creative directors of LVMH judged her to be that the other day, when they awarded her the 2021 winner of the LVMH Prize from an impressive field of global contenders. Dojaka has a lot of fans. Dua Lipa and Rita Ora are among them; like her, both have Albanian roots and have grown up in London. Dojaka has lived and studied in the city since she was 17 years old. First she learned the exacting art of lingerie technology at London College of Fashion, hence her fanatically perfectionist expertise in the minute calibrations of fitting bras and multiple, adjustable straps. She then progressed through the Central St Martins MA course, then to her first group outings with Fashion East. She had her first solo show yesterday – a collection which showed all the finesse she’s managed to evolve in dressing the female body in classily engineered nuances of reveal and conceal. Dojaka’s is a total look that’s arrived just in time to greet the pent-up longings of women who’ve spent too long in confinement and are looking for an exit from all-concealing smocks and whatever homewear descended to during lockdown. Here was her antidote: dresses topped with petal-like bras held on with minute rouleau straps to reveal plunging backs; high-waisted, super-fitted, tapered trousers and draped, twisted georgette tops. Tailored jackets, some of them detailed with separate sleeves, were tied on with slim black ribbons. Then the tights: who’s ever seen leg-wear like Dojaka’s hosiery, with a cut-out zone containing a tulle flower on one thigh, and seams running up the front? Her repertoire runs through pointy, strappy, kitten-heeled shoes, rib knit dresses, draped swimwear and bras. The fact that her business was essentially formed during the worst of the pandemic is testament to the down-to-earth realism of this hard-working young woman. She makes sophisticated, desirable, complex product that’s centered on the complex desires of her sophisticated female peers.
Khaite’s spring-summer 2022 show was incompatible with Instagram, from the intentional lack of photographers to the (also intentional) dim, hazy lighting. This was Cate Holstein‘s intention. Set in the bowels of a Lower East Side apartment building, there were wild green vines climbing up the walls, tumbling from the rafters, and snaking across the floor, as if we’d descended into an overgrown, long-forgotten basement. It was something of a metaphor for New York’s resilience and regeneration, and echoed a collection designed for the equally resilient New York woman. Much of Holstein’s focus this season was on the touch and feel of the clothes – and not just in the materials but how a garment might alternately embrace or liberate the wearer. Gigi Hadid’s opening look was a luminous ivory satin coat lightly filled with down, “like your duvet cover, but more elevated,” said Holstein at a preview. “I think it’s still important to be gentle to ourselves,” she added. A crinkled organza bubble dress would be almost weightless on the body, while a new hand-stitched satin harness might feel satisfyingly snug over a T-shirt. A chrome sequined mini was deliberately heavy, she noted, “to ground you.” These are details that can’t be captured in two dimensions, but make all the difference IRL. “I think we’ve really established the brand’s character, so now it’s about pushing our materials and construction techniques,” said the designer. Holstein pointed out a ruched sequined dress in glittering pale gold, styled here with an oversized chocolate bomber. The effect was of a woman heading to a glitzy party – maybe her first since lockdown – and on her way out the door, she throws on her everyday jacket, not a fancy evening coat. Why fuss when you can be comfortable? Now more than ever, she’s less inclined toward prescriptive full looks and deeply curious to see how each customer puts their own unique spin on a Khaite piece.
Tom Ford really delivered this season! The collection was phenomenal – I would even say it’s one of the best outings of this New York Fashion Week. For spring-summer 2022, Ford is ready for the good times to start rolling again. Though there were laidback, athleisure-y shapes, these were not clothes for staying home, or going unnoticed. Quite the opposite: racer back tanks and basketball shorts or track pants were stitched all over in neon sequins: fuchsia and orange or acid green and pool blue. To finish the look: an oversize satin blazer in another bright color and accessories in the form of a crystal studded choker and barrettes, and a towering pair of satin heels. In his thoughtful show notes, Ford observed that LA has changed him, and that Instagram has changed everybody. “Photogenic clothes today by their very nature mean that they are not at all timid… My clothes this season are simple in cut but not in impact.” Then he went on to quote the imminently quotable Diana Vreeland: “I know it’s a lot but is it enough?” No to gowns and tuxedos, but a resounding yes to sparkle, the more the better. In addition to the sequins and satin, there were jean jackets encrusted with gilt chains, leopard spot lamé tailoring, and masses of gold necklaces worn over shirts unbuttoned down to there and knotted at the navel, and lots and lots of metallic ribbed knits. “Mostly,” Ford wrote, “I think that this is a hopeful collection and at a moment when we all need hope. We need that now more than ever.” Envisioning the light at the end of the tunnel, he just amped up the glam factor.
Vaquera is growing up, but it keeps on being true to its core identity of one of New York’s most daring and intriguing brands. Where the label had once used real trash bags and duct tape as textile stand-ins, it is now using specially developed fabrics. And spring-summer 2022 saw the first Vaquera handbags – shaped like classical instrument cases including shrunken carriers for a violin, snare drum and flute. “It’s changed everything, as we headed into the pandemic we probably wouldn’t have been able to keep this business open without them. We owe everything to them – it’s been an incredible partnership,” Bryn Taubensee said of Dover Street Market Paris’ September 2020 pledge to help the brand’s development. “I think this brand started with a DIY spirit and now we have this structure with Comme and have come so far with sales,” Patric DiCaprio added. The designers, which recently saw their third counterpart Claire Sullivan depart to work on personal projects, said their overall mood was swayed by notions of “luck and superstition and trying to take control of a situation that’s out of control – the rituals you can do to make yourself feel powerful”. Between the lace tights, leggings with a heart cutout perfectly aligned over the buttocks and ballooning gowns tiered in the formation of a New York City sidewalk trash heap, Vaquera delivers its underground quintessence in a less amateur manner.