Regal. Emilia Wickstead AW21

I’ve slept on most of Emilia Wickstead‘s career – majority of her collections felt too preppy, too controlled for me – but the autumn-winter 2021 line-up is quite something. This season, I feel like most brands and designer lean on styling too much, and in case of Wickstead, we see actual clothes, which are proof of excellent cut and tailoring. From the caped coats and suits to wonderfully refined eveningwear filled with couture-ish, lady-like silhouttes for day and evening, this is a regal, yet contemporary wardrobe for a modern-day dame. You know, that kind of Agatha Christie character, but living in social media times. And really, that woman doesn’t have a single pair of sweats on her racks. She will wear one of those shoulder-revealing dresses, in classy black or timeless florals, to a Zoom meeting (or a socially distanced five o’clock). I sense some Prada influences here and there, like the cut-out, pleated skirts especially, and that sort of elegant strictness, but those are equally signatures original to Wickstead.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

The Look(s) – Prada SS21

I knew I would end up being obsessed with the new Prada, co-designed by Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons. The nylon wrap-coats from the show (which we’ve all seen live-streamed from Milan back in September), with utilitarian, triangle-shaped pocket on the back, yet draped and cut in a lady-like, statuesque silhouette, are the definition of contemporary elegance and a sharp exercise in refinement.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Refinement. Richard Malone SS21

Who would have ever known, that during confinement, when our clothes were all about lazy-wear, one could come up with such beautiful refinement? Richard Malone, the Irish designer, brought back elegance to London Fashion Week, done in his signature, sustainable way. It was those months which became the genesis for the spring-summer 2021 collection, a period when, even without a team or regular resources at his disposal, he had the luxury of time: the opportunity to rifle through deadstock materials and hand-dye them in his bathtub, or tie them with twine and run them through his washing machine to achieve the right crinkled effect. “Because my language is very much making, perhaps lockdown wasn’t so bad for me,” he noted. “I could just do whatever I wanted in my studio. It was a distraction.” DIY as it was, the luxurious feeling that Malone came up with is just so refreshing: velvets dramatically draped into floor-sweeping Grecian numbers; discarded theater curtains cut into body-con glamour or gathered around padded bustles. “They’re fabrics that lend themselves to lounging—the velour is like Juicy Couture tracksuit material,” he smiles. “It’s comfortable; it’s loungewear.” He was clearly going for a sense of comfort in the armor of sutured breastplates and the padding of cushioned hips. “It wasn’t intentional but I was trying everything on as I designed it and I suppose it was in response to the moment,” he reflects (Malone has always worked as his own fit model in the formative stages of his collections). “I hadn’t worn shoes for three months. Everything, the very idea of clothes, felt abstract.” The abundant historical allusions, too, were instinctual rather than referential. Without access to research libraries, “I was reliant on the guise of memory,” he says. “And I read a lot of books about time: Iain Reid, Doireann Ní Ghríofa, Ali Smith… I was interested in the idea of how all these different time periods can somehow exist at once.” Cropped and gathered matador boleros, their shoulders warped into shrugs, evolved from the idea that “everything’s sort of fucked, so you shrug and you move on” rather than the usual archival imagery; corseted lace-up backs from the simple fact that Malone was having to somehow strap himself into the more elaborate numbers. Sometimes, the simplicity of an accident brings the most spectacular effects.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Elegance. Thom Browne Pre-Fall 2020

Thom Browne‘s pre-fall 2020 is at his gender-blurring best. “I love the sensibility of it being so beautifully masculine; but on a girl, I think there’s something beautifully feminine about it too,” he said of an ultra-high waist held up by suspenders, pleats so sharp they draw shadows, and shoulders shaped with the gentlest slope. The black tuxedo, which closed the look-book, is most seductive look of the entire collection. But for those who aren’t always impeccably elegant suit & tie fans, Browne also shows his “fun” side: take the skirt and jacket incrusted with a giraffe worn with a matching coat for an example. Style the look with argyle socks and quirky shoes, and here you’ve got the edgy-snobby, polished-kind-of-look you can only get from Thom Browne.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – How To Be. Dries Van Noten AW19

It’s one of those sober, darker Dries Van Noten collections, that still has a lot to say. It seems that the Belgian designer asked himself: at time when world politics is in its sad state, how should a civilised, well-cultured adult comport himself? The autumn-winter 2019 collection has the clear answer: dress well, think clearly, keep a sense of what’s important when all around are loosing their heads. You might say its just a bunch of (what seems to be perfectly tailored) blazers, coats and suits, but this outing was a wardrobe of a level-headed man who knows what’s really right. It’s refined, but unpretentious. Wise and mature. Loosely fitted, cropped, pinstriped pants, duvet shawls in monochromatic tie-dye and an elegant, belted cardigan in beige are the items I’m drooling over. It’s not a buzzy Van Noten show, and it never intended to be one. With all the men’s shows getting bigger and more entertaining, Dries kept it rather quiet. But silence is a statement as well, sometimes even more meaningful and deep than thousands of euros thrown into a showy, Insta-worthy venue.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.