New Heritage. Chopova Lowena AW20

I bet you’ve seen the unmistakable, Chopova Lowena skirt – multiple-pleated patchworks, suspended by mountaineering carabiners from chunky leather belts – on the street style arena. They are so distinct in their look you that just can’t miss them in the crowd. Emma Chopova and Laura Lowena‘s signature, made out of traditional fabrics from Bulgaria – and produced there – was the start of their label’s story. In a short space of time they’ve developed a cult following for their upcycled collection: colorfully cool, full-skirted dresses with big puffed sleeves, layerings of tartans and ’70s prints. Also, their way of doing things is so appealing. “It’s important for us not to make clothes for the sake of it, but to make things which are part of our heritage, and are helping people,” they say. Chopova’s light bulb moment was realizing that her home country is full of under-recognized cultural resources – both in terms of rich fabrics and skilled female sewers. “After communism in Bulgaria, it was all about adopting a Western lifestyle,” she says. “So all the beautiful traditional clothes which had been made as dowries for brides, which people kept in trunks for generations – they didn’t find them precious anymore, and were throwing them out.” The designers began retrieving them, along with 1970s mass-produced flower-print and check taffeta deadstock, then made a network of Bulgarian women seamstresses to make their collections. “It’s built up by one friend knowing another – someone knew a granny who loves embroidery, the old technique they used for aprons. So now it’s great that everything’s being made by these women who really know their skill.” Thanks to another friendship-group link, Chopova Lowena has hit on original way of making jeans this season, printed with beautifully faded marbled patterns, inset with florals. “It’s made by women in their houses in Bursa in Turkey,“ Chopova told Vogue. “We discovered it through one of the Bulgarian women we work with, who goes there. It’s a-300-year-old technique which is used for making Turkish tiles; but now we’ve transferred it to fabric,” she continues. Every piece is unique. In times when sustainability must be the keyword for every brand out there, this ethical way of working comes naturally for these two designers. “We think it’s a luxury to be able to have something handcrafted, and to know where it comes from,” Chopova says. “When we were starting, with all these old materials and telling buyers that, no, everything we make can’t be the same – we never even guessed that it would be welcomed.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

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.