It takes time for a designer (even a very renowned one) to find his voice again. Riccardo Tisci‘s first seasons at Burberry felt overdone and unedited. But lately, starting from his spring-summer 2021 collection, it seems he finally feels confident with his role at the British house and knows what his vision for Burberry really is. The spring-summer 2022 line-up is quintessentially Tisci: dark, sensual, sharp. Filmed in an urban desert landscape by the Millennium Mills in East London’s Royal Victoria Docks, Tisci’s men’s collection distilled the aesthetic so distinct to his career into his most personal Burberry show to date. There were trench and carcoat references aplenty, but in its pure expression, this was Burberry learning Tisci’s language and not the other way around. He hacked the sleeves off outerwear and re-sculpted it into warrior form, refined the raglan lines of sportswear, and managed to make a halter-neck silhouette look hunky. Combatant chest plates continued those conversations, some reduced to just a ghostly outline on a T-shirt, while the exaggerated straps of workwear conjured visions of skeletons and rib cages, bringing back those delectable Memento Mori or Día de Muertos images Tisci’s work so often evoked in the past. Lifting each color of the Nova check, he covered the whole thing in a thick, luxe, dusty blanket of beige, white, red, and black, with sky blue nods to “the only thing we’ve been able to watch” while trapped lockdown. His interpretation of Burberry’s codes – deconstructed but refined – felt so authentic to his ethos, you wondered why he hadn’t taken this route sooner. “It takes time for a designer to find the right fit when you’re working in a company. For people outside, it seems like you just go there and…” he paused. “It’s an interesting process. The bigger the team, the more interesting and tough and difficult it is. So, it’s good that we’ve arrived here. After three years, the identity is getting clear.”The pandemic has also changed Tisci’s outlook: “I feel at home, even if I’ve been in lockdown. The world is going to restart, and for me, this was fresh. It’s what we want today: expression, freedom, physical freedom; to be ourselves. It’s punk in a positive way: breaking the boundaries.” Watching the world come back to life – “and the young generation pulling crazy looks again!” – Tisci was reminded of his early twenties when he escaped to India and had his eyes opened to another reality. “I remembered my first rave in India, with Shpongle, one of the best DJs in trance music,” he said, referring to the group that also scored the show, “partying in these open spaces, with all this nature, with all these young generations from around the world, being myself and expressing myself. I come from a poor family, but raves were somewhere I could express myself and be on the same level as everybody else.” Imbuing his collection with those memories of rave, it was as if that scene was once again giving Tisci a place to freely express himself.
After a two season hiatus, Richard Quinn came back yesterday, and pulled off a mega-production collection, with a sort of badass Cruella energy. The autumn-winter 2021 line-up was released through a 25 minute long video fairy-tale, “an ode to Hollywood Technicolour”, full of haute fetish couture. “It’s bigger, a lot bigger than anything we’ve done before. I wanted to do something that was really creative, that was not a catwalk show, the usual“, the designer explained in the press notes. Latex gimp-suited cats and dogs, ballerinas and ballgowns, a story that spiralled from a red-light, nightlife London Soho-on-steroids scene through manic Alice in Wonderland and Cinderella-ish twists and turns – it had it all. All it took was a hundred people on a movie set – sets which were entirely printed by Quinn, including a blue-and-white flower-printed grand piano and three London black cabs printed with psychedelic ’70s daisies. The Lilies Cole and McMenamy and U.K. Drag Race’s favorite star Bimini Bon-Boulash made cameo appearances. “Because I wanted it to be a showcase of what we can do in London, even in a pandemic,” he said. The clothes? Well, the clothes appeared to be costumes, really, all the recognizable, blown-up Richard Quinn vintage haute couture pastiche shapes “with everything crafted to within an inch of its life,” as he put it. There were embroideries laden with pearls, bugle beads, sequins, and gemstones. A mini bride’s dress and matching groom’s bell-bottomed suit were sewn with gold crucifixes, padded love hearts, and tiny turtledoves. And on top of all that, he showed acres of printed pouf dresses, a whole wedding-turned-disco party packed with guys dancing in flowery suits among ball-gowned women. Quinn dreams big.
Erdem Moralioglu delivered a mesmerising collection. He is at heart a dramatist, forever living for theatrical moments. Conceived in the realm of ballet, his Erdem autumn-winter 2021 collection freeze-framed a dancer’s wardrobe between the stages of rehearsal and performance. “When I was working at the Royal Opera House, that was the moment I found so exciting: the dancers shifting around, criss-crossing, half-dressed in what they wear during the day and half-dressed in their costumes,” he said on a video call with Vogue, recalling Corybantic Games, the ballet he created costumes for in 2018. Incidentally, the contrast between a ballerina’s everyday dancewear and her ornate costumes served as a rather poetic illustration of our impending transition from domestic dressing to dressing up. The exquisiteness of feather-embroidered 1940s jackets, Swan Lake headpieces and plumed skirts, giant opera gowns daubed in night-time florals, and jewel-encrusted shirts came as no surprise. The gray ribbed knitwear fashioned into dramatic skirts that moved like pleats, into softly cinching cummerbunds, and body-conscious tops that had the elegance of eveningwear but the tactility of the comfort-wear of lockdown. With similar duality, he elevated ballet slippers onto stilted platforms that gave his silhouette an air of fetish. Perhaps that feeling was spurred by the narrative that underpinned his story: the relationship between Rudolf Nureyev and prima ballerina Margot Fonteyn, whose on- and off-stage wardrobe also informed proceedings. “The contrasts, the dichotomies of a dancer… that Hitchcockian self-possession and drive for perfection,” Moralioglu paused. “I find the psychology of it interesting.” Perfecting a look – a sculpted sleeve, a nipped-in waist, a little plumed hat, a pair of neat red slippers – seems shocking in our home-bound reality. It was pleasant to be reminded of that feeling.
In London, the new-gen designers thrive. Emma Chopova and Laura Lowena, the design duo behind Chopova Lowena, have always fused traditional folklore with sportswear, and this season they keep on building their style vocabulary. For autumn/winter 2021, they put emphasis on the ‘uniform’. “We were looking at the tension and strictness of school uniforms, but then the freedom of the vigour, colour and nature of horse jockeys and their riding attire,” they say of the brand’s most “challenging” collection yet. The designers traditionally use deadstock material sourced from Bulgaria, and this season they’ve added in some new fabrics and techniques. “We’ve used an appliqué, which is more like the horse jockey shirts… graphic shapes.” Buttons, meanwhile, were sourced from the biggest English button factory remaining in Nottingham. Having sewn about “70 per cent of the collection”, while adapting to “making linings and patterns”, the pair is making resilience and adaptability a cornerstone of their rising, sustainability-forward brand. Also, love the voluminous, patchworked dresses with ruffled sleeves!
Simone Rocha‘s autumn-winter 2021 collection is brilliant – and it took us to the darker side of the designer’s off-kilter, romantic universe. Amidst the frenzy of the upcoming H&M collaboration (one of the best in years coming from the high street giant), the designer appears to have doubled down on the codes upon which she established her brand, with the themes that defined her early collections re-explored and elevated anew. Her debut collection, inspired by teenage rebellion and tucking tracksuits under her school uniform to go and smoke cigarettes in the alley near her house, set a blueprint for her world which has been expressly reasserted this season. Over a decade later and biker jackets and leathers appeared for the first time on her runway, in a manner that beautifully reflected the subversive femininity so key to her work; a distended, oversized knit worn with heavy brogues and satchel directly evocative of times spent in alleys. “I really wanted this collection to have a lot of clarity, a lot of identity,” she told Vogue. “To look at the codes which felt very me.” She continued: “I was working my femininity into a harder, more protective shell; working with fragile fabric which would explode out of it.” So, from beneath cropped leathers bloomed layers of tulle; pretty dresses harnessed to the body; heavy patent bovver boots laced with pearls. Some exceptionally fabricated 3D satin roses managed to maintain a somewhat imposing presence and, rendered in a waxed cotton khaki jacket, appeared almost utilitarian. “The petal of the roses and the spike of the thorn,” is how she described it – a sentiment which might sound trite were it not so expertly executed. “We all feel very kind of internal at the moment; I wanted to look after that fragility, but give it a harder shell. I like how, at the beginning of the collection things appear tight and closed, but throughout the collection, the woman blooms open until the leathers are just strapped on. The shell breaks down, but the tulle keeps its strength.” There’s melancholy, yet there’s plenty of hope – a cocktail of feelings we all might going through now, and Rocha captured that just perfectly with her pack of goddesses and fairies. It’s no revelation that Simone Rocha’s accessories are a standout. But this season they make you drool: porcelain cameos turned into earrings; crumpled leather rose bags; a new floral iteration of her classic chandelier earrings; thick-soled shoes with scalloped platforms. Love, love, love!