Sharp Femininity. Emilia Wickstead SS23

When Emilia Wickstead began researching ideas on uniforms and the work of visual artist Man Ray, it didn’t take long to join the dots to the spirit and style of Lee Miller, a regular reference point on Wickstead’s mood boards. “She’s the consummate polymath: artist, muse, model, surrealist, journalist, Vogue photographer, and the first female war correspondent,” said Wickstead. As the London-based designer explained, this collection touched on the many facets of Miller’s career but at the forefront of it all was her determined independence and freedom to move across those different worlds. At its most obvious, the idea of uniform was evident in oversized shirting with neat boyish collars and utilitarian flap pockets, rendered glamorously in sheerest organza, and beige wide-leg trousers in silk satin, not workaday cotton. Miller’s sensuality and her love affair with Man Ray were explored via off-the-shoulder shapes, a glimpse of underpinnings, and a feeling of unraveling – of fabrics peeling away. One of the most interesting references was how Wickstead approached Miller’s pioneering photography techniques. Miller and Ray discovered solarization, a process that gives photographs a ghostly, glowing, and surreal quality. Wickstead took this as a way to experiment with prints. Her painterly florals on silk were blurred and became further distorted overlaid with printed organza; the effect, she noted, was as softly focused as a Vaseline-smeared lens. Pleats were also warped – either stitched back or falling in rebellious folds rather than rigid, linear formations. This was a collection with all kinds of shapes and silhouettes, from rigorously fitted and immaculately tailored to easy and loose, from ultrashort to long and narrow gowns with trains. Others were full and floor skimming. Overall it was feminine and formal but with a spicy undercurrent of edge and modernity. It’s this clever and precise balance that ensures Wickstead’s clothes don’t veer too far one way or the other.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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NET-A-PORTER Limited

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.