For Chopova Lowena, spring-summer 2023 collection means first fashion show in the brand’s history. It has become a sort of tradition that the London Fashion Week goers are mass-swirling in the label’s signature multi-pleated carabiner-suspended kilts Emma Chopova and Laura Lowena’s business is growing organically, so going for a runway experience felt like the right step. The driving energy the designers unleashed on the runway, personified to the max by their gang of friends, family, collaborators, and street-cast models stomping through a loud cacophony of Bulgarian folk song, Lacrosse-match cheering, and metal music – it was fashion moment. “We had three months to fit everyone, so they all felt perfect. Right space, right sound, a great experience emotionally, a different way of walking,” Emma Chopova declared afterward. Standing next to her, Laura Lowena chimed in: “Yeah, we wanted to make sure the time was right, that we could really create the Chopova Lowena world for everyone to see. And I think that waiting was the right thing to do. Especially after such a quiet few years, it felt amazing to bring people – our community – together like this.” The impressive part was to see everything Chopova Lowena have been building up through their lookbooks and videos come to life, confirmed as a fully formed multiplicity of looks, prints, denim, tailoring, skirts over dresses, metal jewelry, tinsel knits, with mad-cozy boots, hand-drawn cartoony artwork, cotton armlets, and all. It’s all completely coherently styled and identifiable, yet simultaneously it looked as if each person was having a good time walking around in their own clothes. Men owned kilts and uniform skirts with conviction for the first time since Jean Paul Gaultier in the 1980s. Although, Lowena firmly pointed out, “we don’t really think in terms of men and women. We think of people.”
Collage by Edward Kanarecki. Don’t forget to follow Design & Culture by Ed on Instagram!
Chopova Lowena‘ cult carabiner skirts are a runaway success, worn the world over by Fashion Week guests, pop stars, and Real Housewives. The brand’s monogram chain necklaces and upcycled jewellery sell out instantly, and their growing blouse and bag categories have set the business up well for the future. But Emma Chopova and Laura Lowena aren’t the type to take it easy. As Chopova says, “Every season we’re trying to do new things, things that don’t feel like us. It’s interesting to see how we can make new categories our own.” For autumn-winter 2022 they have tackled suiting. “Skirt suits felt the most Chopova Lowena, obviously,” says Lowena. Theirs are made with a rounded double breasted jacket and pleated miniskirt, in deadstock orange plaid or deadstock silky synthetic. Necklaces and bracelets are laced into the collars and cuffs so that the pieces jingle and sparkle. The integration of metal chains into their clothing comes from their research into medieval dress. Each season, the designers clash a folk reference with a sport one – this time they’ve landed on ice hockey versus Renaissance Faire, extrapolating tying and knitting details and armor-like finishes and titling the collection “kiss the hare’s foot,” a medieval expression used, per Chopova, “for when you miss dinner but savor the leftover scraps.” A witty reference to their deadstock practice. The romantic-meets-brutal spirit of their collection works well, the CL boys and girls existing in an in-between. They are not pretty in their laced-together flocked dress with a white slip. They are not strange in a taffeta skirt made of 8 plaid panels, each knotted at the hem, worn with a fuzzy floral cardigan, the brand’s first earnest foray into knitwear. They are not silly either, even if rabbit-ear hoods and cartoon-print tops telegraph childlike humor. Standing boldly in their velvet tops and hardcore metal-trimmed trousers, they are something else, a new aesthetic, a new spirit of furious eclecticism that could only be Chopova Lowena. That’s the genius of their work: it simply cannot be mistaken for anything else.