Sex Cult. Christopher Kane AW20

Sex, subversion, fashion – Christopher Kane always works within these three points. “And this season it became all about triangles—I don’t know why,” he exclaimed backstage of his autumn-winter 2020 show. “But it started with us looking at triangle bras, saucy underwear, and went from there.” Christopher, his siter Tammy, and their design studio play instinctively with shapes and forms, see what interests them, and then they make their magic. Next thing, Kane said, he discovered that “the triangle is the most powerful, strongest shape in nature. And all of a sudden—this was after we’d designed everything—the eye of God came into it.” The triangular Christian Eye of Providence symbol was superimposed over a image of the temptation of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden on the season’s t-shirt. All that religious disapproval of sex is exactly what makes it illicit and exciting. It’s the idea behind the viral status of Kane’s More Joy brand (which sells bedroom stuff like silk pajamas and vibrators), as well as the erotics visible on the runway. Party dresses, sheer knitwear smothered in paillettes, harnesses with jewels and bulbous plastic. Sexuality read between the lines.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Nouveau Chic. JW Anderson AW20

JW Anderson was brilliant! “Nouveau chic” was the term Jonathan Anderson coined for his autumn-winter 2020 collection. The designer mentioned he’d been thinking about what it takes to enter a room – and clothes are the first (and the best) communicators. The ability to take up space with a strong silhouette is part of that – starting with the impression one can make with a fabulous coat. There were three iterations of huge trapeze shapes in tweed, camel hair, and black wool: blown-up classics with generous leather shawl collars that will catch attention wherever you are. This season, not only the couture silhouettes stunned, but as well the innovative, sci-fi direction of the fabrics. It came with a puff of what Anderson called “antique celluloid” around the shoulders. It was part of the experimental theme that played around the sleeves of a series of black dresses. In a strapless version, it fell like an angel-wing cape around the model’s arms. The simpler offering was delightful as well. Take rib-knit dresses with caped shoulders or a shawl-collar black tuxedo suit. Now I can’t wait to see what Anderson cooked up at Loewe for this season…

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Cecil Beaton. Erdem AW20

Erdem’s autumn-winter 2020 collection brought old-school glamour fit for a modern-day dame. Learning that “Beaton, Bright Young Things” – a show of Cecil Beaton’s twenties and thirties portraits of dazzlingly glamorous socialites – is opening at the National Portrait Gallery (co-incidentally the label’s frequent show venue) in March meant that Erdem Moralioglu’s inspiration was right there. Some of his takings from Beaton were literal. Look one – a black slicker mackintosh – was directly in honor of a photo of the aesthete Stephen Tennant. And then there was a direct replication of the pearl-festooned flapper dress, look 30, “in which Beaton photographed himself,” said Moralioglu. Tissue lamé and silvery lace dresses ensued. There were also black and white checkerboard prints inspired by Beaton’s early backdrops; echoes of the celluloid frills and fancy-dress rose-strewn brocades; and a nod to the Pierrot pajama suit that was one of the photographer’s role-playing costumes. But if not knowing any of this, you can as well place this collection on the list of season’s best eveningwear. The lime-green, silk dress with subtle floral embroideries worn by Grace Bol is my ultimate favourite.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Gentle Rebellion. Victoria Beckham AW20

As Victoria Beckham put in her own words, “the collection is about staying true to ourselves and our woman, but still surprising her, and us. Twisting our codes. This what I call my gentle rebellion.” Beckham has developed a knack for putting her practical-chic advisory into action. For autumn-winter 2020, check the way that she paired English tweed crombie-style overcoats, worn open over tonally matching skirts or culottes. A new kind of suit this is – easy and confident. That’s the kind of thought-out problem-solving attitude women love to see on the runways. Beckham has reached the stage in her work where she doesn’t attempt to shift the design needle so much as point it in a useful, wearable direction. Her collection read as a checklist of the season’s trends: the return of black, dress silhouettes with skin-baring necklines, so-odd-it’s-cool colour contrasts. Beckham’s intention isn’t to be ground-breaking. But do great clothes for everyday life.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

What The Water Gave Me. Simone Rocha AW20

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There was something beautifully sacred and mystical about Simone Rocha’s autumn-winter 2020 collection. Ribbons and ties, fisherman’s nets, white lace and baptism-like cotton cloths, pearl details from head to toes… and of course the Aran knits. “Procession, baptism; birth, life, and loss,” began Simone Rocha. “It’s about the Aran Islands, the life there, and J.M. Synge’s play about it, ‘Riders to the Sea’.” The cream wool Aran pattern is the centerpiece of Rocha’s collection – the Irish stitch is world-famous, even though if originates from a tiny sprinkle of islands off Connemara on the country’s west coast. “It’s the color of the unbleached wool from the sheep there,” Rocha explained. An what about the slightly nautical feeling? In the past, people on the remote islands lived only on sheep and the proceeds of battling with the sea – Synge’s drama is about the tragedy and the resilience of a woman who has lost her husband and sons to drowning. Rocha is never afraid of the less optymistic themes for her shows. But somehow, they never appear heavy or dull. After the virgin-white looks, something darker began to flow in. Women in mourning, church rituals, priests, legends, and the Virgin Mary all became wound into this one. Rocha never had a religious upbringing from her parents at home in Dublin, “so I never made my first Communion, so I never got to dress up in the white frocks, though all the girls around me at school did. Maybe that’s why I’m obsessed, making up for it,” she said with a laugh. “Of course, you can’t look at Ireland and not be influenced a little bit by Catholicism.” As always with Rocha, I’m completely in love.

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The House. Richard Quinn AW20

I want it to be London-centric, but looking out towards the world,Richard Quinn declared after his autumn-winter 2020 show. The set – a house facade with his name above the door – was right there. And then the doors opened and the inhabitants, smothered head to foot in crystal and pearl from gimp masks to shoes, began to walk out. The first two were a bedazzling haute-couture beaded sublimation of a London king and queen. GOD SAVE THE QUIN was embroidered amongst their insanely armored finery. Yes, Quinn debuted menswear. That was a surprise. “If we’re building a house, we need men and women in it,” said Quinn. “I’m imagining a house with rooms that have all these different people living in these interiors, whether they’re the harsh, dark and sexy S&M ones, or the more romantic ones.” The idea – and a very Yves-Saint-Laurent-meets-Christian-Lacroix execution – feels appealing. But I just can’t get why Quinn, whose label is so young, does nearly the same thing over and over again. I understand that he wants to establish the brand’s codes, but isn’t it too early to be so retrospective? The dresses come in identical silhouettes every season, while his prints – which are also his house-made signature! – always end on big florals. He’s a big talent, but I really want to see his creativity go elsewhere from time to time.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Personal. Dilara Findikoglu AW20

Dilara Findikoglu is a designer who injects cultural commentary into each of her collections, having spoken out about climate change, women’s rights, marriage equality and gender disparity in recent seasons. For autumn-winter 2020, she’s speaking out for herself. Backstage, Findikoglu explained how events in her personal life led her into a deep introspection. She psychoanalyzed herself in this collection, christening her models into two sects: light Dilara and dark Dilara. The division didn’t exactly correlate to a color palette or silhouette, but was more about mood. As is her habit, each look was named. Here are some of the most brilliant looks: “Mother” was a blooming harness top in fuchsia with a red, slashed-away maxi skirt. “Self Destruction” was a viciously ruched dress that appeared on the runway on a model holding a white cat. “Borderline” was a ruched black bodysuit, “Insecurity” was strips of silver fabric with floral appliques worn with a bridal veil that came after “Future”, a similar ensemble cut out of blood red fabric. A crimson tweedy skirt suit with a logo belt was called “Gabrielle” (as in Chanel). “Enfant Terrible”, long-sleeved corset top with low-slung skirt, would work for day job goths, as would “Real World”, Findikoglu’s version of a business suit with pointed breasts darted into its vest and high-cut briefs stitched into the trouser. Pretty much always (if we aren’t speaking of anonymous, fast-fashion studios, of course) a designer’s collection is somehow autobiographical and personal, but in case of Findikoglu, this really blurs the lines between fashion and psychology.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Your Inner Child. Molly Goddard AW20

Freeing your inner child through fashion began this season at Alessandro Michele’s Gucci menswear and recently has also appeared at one of my favourite labels in London – Molly Goddard. In lieu of a press release, Goddard sent out a throwback London street style photo as the explainer for her new collection. First published in Fruits, the cult Japanese magazine, back in 1992, the image features just the kind of cool-looking dad and daughter duo you’d expect find on bohemian Portobello Road: him in distressed denim-on-denim and a baker boy hat, his insanely cute sidekick dressed in a tiny ruffled skirt over jeans and a chunky knit sweater. “The little girl is me!” said Goddard backstage at the autumn-winter 2020 show. “I remember those times growing up in Notting Hill so fondly, and really wanting to get dressed up for the market and all the characters who lived there.” In this joyful line-up, you could trace the influence of her toddler self, starting with an exploding blue taffeta dress that was layered over a salmon pink cardigan and worn with chunky creepers, then topped off with a beanie hat that was topped with a giant bow (the accessory of the season is here!). Then, things got even better: Molly’s signature tulle dresses in crayon kept on growing in size, while her sense of layering made it all look somehow… wearable. Goddard showed menswear for the first time this season, largely inspired by her musician-turned-fashion-PR boyfriend Tom Shickle. “He always moans that there’s nothing for him to wear, so I made a suit,” said Goddard, laughing. The retro-leaning checkered tailoring she created had a nerdy sway about it, something you could imagine Jarvis Cocker might have worn in the 1990s. One of these Fair Isle cardigans, please!

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Lovers Rock. Wales Bonner AW20

For her autumn-winter 2020 show in London, Grace Wales Bonner had friends and audience members sitting at tables around a dance floor, joining her celebration of Lovers Rock, the specifically British Afro-Caribbean music scene sprung from underground London house parties in the ’70s. “Lovers Rock was created by second generation Jamaicans in this country, their own kind of sweet mix of reggae and soul,” the designer explained. “It’s a reflection of my family on my father’s side. My grandad came from Jamaica in the 1950s. My dad used to work on Lewisham Road, and I found these documentary photographs by John Goto of teenagers at Lewisham Youth Club in the ’70s.” What fascinated and touched Wales Bonner was how kids of her dad’s generation wore clothes which referenced Jamaican style and Rasta flag colors, woven into a “a fun mix-up” of standard English smartness, “irreverent, but always elegant.” There was a denim tailored coat lined with velvet; a women’s look featuring  a corduroy patchwork matching shirt and skirt color-blocked in red, yellow, green, and black; slim-fit ’70s track pants; and “the kind of Adidas trainers Bob Marley would have worn.” The full repertoire of Wales Bonner’s refined tailoring was on display as well: tweedy suits, separates and coats, worn over body-hugging sweaters and roll-necks, with a stronger representation of womenswear in combinations of blazers and full pleated skirts. The self-knowledge Wales Bonner has gained over the years means she knows who she is and what her brand stands for by now. “It’s coming up for five years,” she summed up to the press. “I’m looking back and consolidating. For me, my approach is elegant, designed, and crafty—about what’s the perfect suit? Now I want to build the business.”

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.