Refined Sexiness. Nensi Dojaka SS23

It’s rare to see a relatively young brand like Nensi Dojaka having such signature and consistent vocabulary of style codes. The London-based designer’s evolving label of sophisticated sexiness continues to stand out for its refinement. Close up, the sensitive construction of Dojaka’s work, with its tiny rouleau straps, asymmetrical suspension and delicate trimmings, is so obviously in a class way above the world of cheap stretch imitations that have hit the market after the designer went viral. For spring-summer 2023, the designer said that her starting point was thinking about using lace, the shimmery qualities of silvery lurex textures and palest pink sparkles, and as always, inventing newer things to do with chiffon. She never talks concepts or narrative, only about fabrics – her work is evolutionary, never theme-based. Her micro-focus is only on supreme fit, and perfecting the beauty of each piece. Against the illuminated backdrop of a white space, all of her lingerie skills in creating cutout shapes with intricately invisible boning and bra-cups edged with fragile frills looked immaculately accomplished. She moved forward with some of the best slip-dresses of the season; a tiny bit ’90s grunge-influenced, but for a new generation. She switched things up with a few cycling shorts and jeans contoured in two shades of denim, the latter worn with a black tailored jacket over a bra which was inserted with cutout hearts (a recurring motif throughout.) Then, the show-stoppers: three long, sinuous, virtually transparent chiffon evening dresses – beige, black, and one in a combination of dark cranberry and pink. They had trains. Dream silhouettes guaranteed to put the name of Nensi Dojaka on many a red carpet.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Subverted Realism. JW Anderson SS23

Jonathan Anderson is high on surreal, escapist and subverted fashion he has been delivering lately, and his spring-summer 2023 JW Anderson collection is one of his best yet (I really can’t wait to see what’s to come at Loewe in a couple of days). But then, the direction Anderson is taking isn’t that far from reality. In the middle of Soho, on the most packed London Saturday night of all, the show’s guests were plunged into the Vegas video gambling arcade (the location was just next door to his JW Anderson flagship store on Wardour Street). His models made a short walk past marshals, crash barriers and hustling crowds into a place where people go for the thrill of gaming the random fates of fortune. A big, metallic bubble of a dress symbolically took in the whole of the scene in its distorted silver surface: flashing screens, views of the audience perched on stools. Everyone laughed delightedly and lifted their phones. “I like this idea of a transient moment in time. I’ve been exploring this for several collections,” Anderson extemporized afterward. “Are we falling into our screens, becoming our phones? I think it’s really like an alternate universe, and there are layers and layers and layers to it. I think it’s probably about realism. I don’t think it’s about futurism. It’s more about a reflection of ourselves somehow.”

In his frank observation of the state of human consciousness in a disorderly world of events, it’s as if Anderson has turned the bizarreness of chance itself into his medium, and he’s playing with it. Parts of the collection, the prints of goldfish in plastic bags, a map of the planet, pictures of palm-fringed beaches and sunsets, were lifted “from stock digital pictures you find on the internet and can buy for a dollar.” Then came a halterneck top made out of old computer keys – a person half-merged with their machine. In this topsy-turvy world, chunky sweaters might also be worn upside down – why not? But Anderson is simultaneously in the mood for straight-up clarity. He also showed long charmeuse lingerie lace-trimmed slips and draped T-shirt dresses with plenty of hip and torso exposure. Exactly like life these days: one thing can come along after another without warning. This past week, as the whole world knows, Britain has had to deal with the death of its monarch. So did Anderson. On an emergency British Fashion Council conference call with fellow designers, he was the one who took a decisive lead in rallying the community’s resolve to carry on with London Fashion Week for the sake of small brands who couldn’t afford to cancel. And then, to mark the moment, he sent out a black T-shirt printed with a graphic commemoration of Her Majesty The Queen as his finale. All was not quite as it seemed, though: he said it was a replica of the posters which have gone up on bus stops all over London. Marking the significance of a passing moment of history with an image of an existing image. How very JW Anderson is that?

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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English Charm. S.S. Daley SS23

S.S.Daley, founded by London-based designer Steven Stokey-Daley, won the prestigious LVMH prize this June. His graduate collection was picked up by the stylist Harry Lambert, and later featured in Harry Styles’ music video “Golden”. And once you are worn by Styles, you become loved by the entire fashion industry. But there are many more reasons to love Stokey-Daley’s work. The designer uses donated, deadstock and end of roll fabrics, while exploring themes of British aristocracy and class in regard to uniform and attire. S.S. Daley is a modern brand redeveloping ideas of British heritage – exactly what London fashion needs right now.

For spring-summer 2023, all kinds of wearable new treats were scattered through the collection in the form of ticking-stripes and balloon-sleeve blouses with botanical prints, sweaters with Wedgwood plate blue-and white embroidery, zip-up cardigans with a pair of rabbits on the front. There was a lot of bunny action, too. The collection’s context was based around a dramatized reading of the love letters between Vita Sackville West and Violet Trefusis. Daley explained that he had come across a sketch from one of Violet’s letters. “It was about a time in the south of France together, when Violet dressed like a man, in a full length morning coat, and they could pass as a couple. A time when they could enjoy love freely.” The women also coined a codeword for writing about their love – it was ‘rabbit.’ The clandestine relationship became increasingly sad, though. “They were trapped, society dragged them apart, and they couldn’t be together.” Daley’s interest, right from college, has always been about looking at the behaviors and dress codes of the British upper classes, chiefly of the 1920 and ’30s, from the point of view of a working class designer. “In my first collections, I was looking through a homosocial gaze at public boys schools. With this, I was doing the same, but with a relationship between two women. It’s quite nice to explore that from a different viewpoint.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Fun Messiness. Molly Goddard SS23

Molly Goddard hopes you have unforced fun while styling – and wearing – her clothes. “I wanted there to be a clunkiness to it, and a messiness, and to slow down the pace and give everything a bit more breathing room.” Now an established star in the London fashion constellation – with a consistent, solid business there to provide gravity – Molly Goddard can dictate her own pace. She added: “When I start a collection, it’s sketches, silhouettes, fabrics, textures: we swatch fabric samples and work out frills, and frills in different fabrics, and the combination of prints. I love clashing prints, clashing colors, and clashing textures.” Goddard did deliver the explosively expansive and colorful tulle dresses that fueled her meteoric rise, but they came later in a show that was served in four phases, purposely disjointed against the soundtrack. This was in order, she indicated, to echo the unchoreographed organic spontaneity of pre-internet red carpet dressing. We started with a series of dresses and a skirt whose sumptuous silhouettes belied the purposeful plainness of their fabric, a calico-toned cotton she said was there to echo the toiles that are her starting point when realizing designs. Cut in jersey, some epically ruffled pink gowns with demonstrative darting at the torso were later experiments in this contrast between silhouette and material. Goddard’s cutesy ‘Twinky’ print returned, printed on knitwear, mesh and denim sometimes worn under a layer of contrasting opaque tulle. The models wore colorful Spanish-made cowboy boots and shoes and carried ruffled bags. Menswear featured shrunken-proportioned tailoring, some frill-edged; color-drenched aran knit hoodies; and a handsomely shirred high-waisted bomber. There was also a full-length pinstripe skirt. The fireworks phase arrived in a salvo of retina-drenching intensely-colored tulle dresses, sometimes worn against casual shirting in powerfully complementary tones; pink v orange, green v purple. Full length dresses in lemon or lime tulle came over bee-striped underwear. Then we circled back to that toile-referencing starting point. Three final high-volume silhouettes in not-quite-white concluded this expertly orchestrated exercise in high-impact contrast between color, fabric, texture, and shape.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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The Path to Liberation. Dilara Findikoglu SS23

If Ti West’s “X” and “Pearl” (the A24 film productions starring Mia Goth) are contemporary slashers revamping old-school horror vocabulary for a new generation, then Dilara Findikoglu‘s hypnotizing spring-summer 2023 collection is a fresh take on Alexander McQueen and John Galliano’s 1990s dark anglomania book, from the former’s infamous interpretation of Jack The Ripper stories to the latter’s gothic Victorian sophistication. But don’t get it wrong: the designer isn’t imitating the legends. She’s becoming a London-based legend herself, telling through fashion her own, personal stories. “This collection is about my journey to physical and spiritual freedom,” Findikoglu explained. She elaborated that a return during the pandemic to her birthplace, Istanbul, had begun the process of liberation we saw expressed on the runway. During her 18 months in the city, its association with her childhood memories plus some visa problems acted as her madeleine. “Because of the visa problems I felt trapped. And that’s the feeling that I had throughout my whole childhood and teenage years. I just wanted to get out, beyond the control of lots of factors like religion, like tradition – things that I couldn’t change.

And so began the process of conception and creation of a collection whose pieces in some cases – such as the mini-pannier dress decorated with a universe of plaited locks of hair – took six months to realize. It came in four phases, characterized by Findikoglu as “trapped child,” “chained good girl,” “the funeral of Dilara’s own past,” and lastly “rebirth.” Layers of tulle were used to trap totemic elements. Upcycled vintage Victorian silk brocades were recast into bodices to reinforce the sense of a second life unfolding. Menswear jackets were worn, pulled down from the back and held at the wrist, as nearly cast aside shackles. A corseted look wrapped in vintage Union Jacks and topped with a crown of braids articulated Findikoglu’s transport to here. Coins and bells, emblems plucked from vintage Anatolian pieces, jangled on the runway as they passed. We knew that as there was no soundtrack, just a focusing silence as the models walked in the romantically destroyed rooms of a 19th-century hotel that will soon be demolished. A train made of old tailoring tugged and scratched against the puckered parquet and kicked up dust. There was a lot of dark sexuality – a lot of skin. “To me this comes from that feeling of being trapped,” said Findikoglu. “I want to take my burdens off: I feel strangled with modesty, I hate modesty, I want to destroy it.” Ghostliness and vivacity wrestled gorgeously together in a collection that was deeply mixed-up, and something of a classic.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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