“The question I asked myself is: How can I deal with the prints in a totally new way? I wanted to go out of my body and see things from a completely different angle,” Veronica Etro explained backstage of her autumn-winter 2022 fashion show. “So I imagined aliens coming across our archive in 200 years and looking at them with micro-lenses that are sort of zooming in and blowing everything up. So it’s like zoomed heritage!” With Etro’s heritage looping back via its family-founded roots in Italy during the hippie late 1960s, to a style of shawl named after a Scottish mill town that made a massive 19th-century British Colonial fashion business out of appropriating a precious fabric whose culture belongs to Kashmir, on the border of India and Pakistan – the paisley pattern is always the given medium. Veronica Etro’s conundrum has been to contemporize and reconfigure all of that, expanding the range of what her brand can be without losing its character. “You know, Etro was a lifestyle brand,” she observed backstage. “I think the strength is that it has a strong identity, but at the same time it leaves women open to interpret and to be individual and to personalize. It’s about how we can embrace different personalities – I never wanted to make it homogeneous, to make uniforms.” This time she traveled through boho, arty-crafty knitwear to ’80s puffy-silhouetted patchwork bomber jackets to end up with suave, ’70s crushed-velvet trouser suits and slinky bias-cut black satin dresses. Some of it looked like an Italian version of Isabel Marant – and this isn’t something bad. The paisley registered in various graphic forms – super enlarged to look like an animal-print lining on a shearling aviator jacket, or deconstructed down to its “harlequin” elements, stamped in repeat on a vibrant pink velvet jacket and a semisheer, diaphanous chiffon dress.
It’s really fascinating how designers in London look at the lexicon of all things Americana. Matty Bovan‘s take tackled toxic masculinity and deconstructed American pop culture. Conner Ives‘ autumn-winter 2022 runway had a more humorous approach towards the American Dream, as the designer made a strong statement about the sentiment of new American style. He drew directly from American archetypes and aesthetics: Jackie O, Andy from The Devil Wears Prada (!), contestants from America’s Next Top Model, and even the models from Isaac Mizrahi’s iconic film Unzipped. “It sounds really cheesy, but honestly, this is something I’ve dreamed about doing since I was five years old.” It was a big rite of passage indeed for the young American alum of Central Saint Martins – a boy who grew up in Bedford, New York, logging onto Style.com and watching Tim Blanks’s Fashion File interviews. In 2021, he graduated – in the misery year when no student was able to have a final runway show. Though that proved no barrier to being able to build up a retail market for his reclaimed patchwork T-shirt dresses, getting picked out by Andrew Bolton for a purchase that put a design of his in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute and getting invited to the Met gala, and being selected as a runner-up in last year’s LVMH Prize competition.
If Central Saint Martins teaches one bottom-line rule, it’s always the individualistic insistence on students being true to their identities. That’s a lesson that Ives has patently taken as gospel. His show said that in every look, each one systematically named after Y2K pop movie/reality show actors, actual girl clique leaders he knew in high school, hero-worshipped female relatives, and American women he has always fantasized about knowing. There was Ives’s vision of Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy as a bride in a sleeveless, bias-cut dress and matching headscarf-cum-train. He had a “Madam Vice President” look: a dream pitch for Kamala Harris to wear a Conner Ives cream and brown patchwork scarf dress. There was a cowgirl, representing an influential aunt in Santa Fe, wearing laser-printed denim and turquoise jewelry. And “The Editor,” an Ives fan note to Anna Wintour, thrown back to an evening in the 2000s when she wore a white tank and a red flounced flamenco-ish skirt designed by Oscar de la Renta for Balmain. Near the finale, Jackie Kennedy came out in a simple cream Watteau-back gown with a huge quilted patchwork star planted in its midsection. Another lesson Ives has seriously taken to heart is upcycling and repurposing. The sexy-skimpy glam and funny identifiable references might be the primary attractions of his kick-flares; leisure suits; and silk-fringed, piano-scarf dresses and skirts, but Ives sources all of it from deadstock and vintage garments and materials. In other words, here was the first public outing of a very modern designer – fun and good times on the one hand, and on the other as much of a stickler as he can be about his production process. Rarely do those two things go together in contemporary fashion. Ives also intends to forgo the waste of showing every season. He plans to do a runway show only once a year.
For me, London fashion week kicked off with Molly Goddard‘s wonderful spring-summer 2019 outing. Goddard is known for her carefree way of staging a show – his season, we’ve had a Mediterranean vacation of sorts. Market stalls were set up alongside the runway, designed by her talented set-designer mother, Sarah Edwards. Some of the models, other than wearing frivolous daisy dresses and sweet gingham print short-sleeved coats, carried a salad. “It’s that moment when you’re ready for the party, but your mum asks you to go to the market”, the designer said backstage. All dressed up, but still in the ‘organising’ mode. Other than Molly’s beloved, signature tulle (which seemed be more down-to-earth that usual, not that colour-explosive), there were lots of pieces trimmed with frills. Take Edie Cambell’s second look, that white, mini-shirt-dress cut with a plunging neckline, with the meringue-ish detailing at the hem. That’s a perfect summer dress, no?