Beauty In Danger. KNWLS AW22

It’s quite impossinle to move past the cat hats in KNWLS autumn-winter 2022 collection. The result of many years of perfecting, the hats nod to Harajuku and raver aesthetics, pulled right from the pages of Fruits magazine, and Charlotte Knowles and Alexandre Arsenault‘s own club kid lifestyle. Once you get past the immediate and delicious pang of the foxy little toppers, you’ll find an expanded KNWLS multiverse. As a brand beloved by Dua Lipa, Emma Corrin and Julia Fox, KNWLS has become synonymous with stringy sexy corsets and attenuated shoes and bags. Knowles and Arsenault can deliver that in spades – see their well-engineered ice blue bodysuit and platform shoes this season – but rather than just do what they do, they want to do more. Newness abounds in textural, chunky knits, with clubby fringe fraying off and cropped space-dyed wrap cardigans. Leg warmers are belted just below the knee and flare out in shearlings and knits. The proportion play is almost cartoonish – like a video game vixen, the KNWLS silhouette knows exactly where to exaggerate and where to cinch, contrasting gigantic fluff-coats with slender flared leggings, and maniacally slender waxed leather corsets with the lowest of low-rise pants. Each piece is tailored precisely – these aren’t just fun sexy clothes without craft – adding to the sharpness and the spunk of the look. The real story, though, is about movement. Flutter hems would seem like anathema to the KNWLS look, but here, Knowles and Arsenault have built a minidress with dozens of inset panels so the fabric dances around the model’s legs in a video by Jordan Hemingway. It’s sexy and innocent in an almost terrifying way. But that’s the KNWLS look – as per their press release, this season, it’s equal parts Suspiria and Nine Inch Nails, riffing on that tension of beautiful, scary, corporeal horror. Don’t get the wrong impression, though. Knowles and Arsenault are lovers, not fighters. “We just wanted to make things that are precious to us,” she says. The beauty in danger is their sweet spot – and the cat hats just top it all off nicely.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Oomphy Glam. Ashish AW22

For 20 years Ashish Gupta has created joyously ironic garments that are highly compatible with pleasure. And by developing his pieces in sequins via Indian handcraft rather than pixels via code, these garments command real-life attention on multiple levels. For autumn-winter 2022, Ashish is offering what appears to be uncomplicatedly oomphy womenswear. Halston-reminiscent bias cut slip and halter dresses, the Edith Head–evocative goddess gown shot by the fireplace, and the vaguely-Valentino ruffle mini are as exacting to craft as they are apparently enchanting to wear. Sprinkled around these conventionally glamorous shapes worn unconventionally were denim, separates, and swimwear, plus a powerful fringe bomber jacket that lent this collection enough versatility be worn anywhere from evening reception to all-night rave. With Ashish, the real decoding lies in the pattern. This season he went back to one of his most enduring inspirations, the intersection of modes of dress he observed on the street in Delhi before he set off for London and Central Saint Martins. “In winter you will see Indian ladies in their silk saris, and then putting over a little Fair Isle cardigan – saris meet Scotland.” This became the launchpad for a seasonal in-sequin-remix of ikats, stripes, argyles, and houndstooth (some cherry-strewn) that spoke directly to the spirit of cross-cultural relish that is central to Ashish. That fireplace dress was cut to evoke the sari as much as it was to conjure mid-century glamour. A sequin cricket jumper spoke of another shared language, and a Chanel-template jacket and mini dress were emphatically anti-monochromatic. While Ashish talked about these elements “clashing together,” that clashing was anything but antagonistic; instead it proved the source for some sparklingly fresh and fun fashion harmonies.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

NET-A-PORTER Limited

New Eclecticism. Chopova Lowena AW22

Chopova Lowena‘ cult carabiner skirts are a runaway success, worn the world over by Fashion Week guests, pop stars, and Real Housewives. The brand’s monogram chain necklaces and upcycled jewellery sell out instantly, and their growing blouse and bag categories have set the business up well for the future. But Emma Chopova and Laura Lowena aren’t the type to take it easy. As Chopova says, “Every season we’re trying to do new things, things that don’t feel like us. It’s interesting to see how we can make new categories our own.” For autumn-winter 2022 they have tackled suiting. “Skirt suits felt the most Chopova Lowena, obviously,” says Lowena. Theirs are made with a rounded double breasted jacket and pleated miniskirt, in deadstock orange plaid or deadstock silky synthetic. Necklaces and bracelets are laced into the collars and cuffs so that the pieces jingle and sparkle. The integration of metal chains into their clothing comes from their research into medieval dress. Each season, the designers clash a folk reference with a sport one – this time they’ve landed on ice hockey versus Renaissance Faire, extrapolating tying and knitting details and armor-like finishes and titling the collection “kiss the hare’s foot,” a medieval expression used, per Chopova, “for when you miss dinner but savor the leftover scraps.” A witty reference to their deadstock practice. The romantic-meets-brutal spirit of their collection works well, the CL boys and girls existing in an in-between. They are not pretty in their laced-together flocked dress with a white slip. They are not strange in a taffeta skirt made of 8 plaid panels, each knotted at the hem, worn with a fuzzy floral cardigan, the brand’s first earnest foray into knitwear. They are not silly either, even if rabbit-ear hoods and cartoon-print tops telegraph childlike humor. Standing boldly in their velvet tops and hardcore metal-trimmed trousers, they are something else, a new aesthetic, a new spirit of furious eclecticism that could only be Chopova Lowena. That’s the genius of their work: it simply cannot be mistaken for anything else.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

NET-A-PORTER Limited

Britishness. Burberry AW22

In 1856, young Thomas Burberry set out to equip local sportsmen from a small outfitter’s shop in Basingstoke, England. He made his name by inventing gabardine, a waterproof, tightly woven cotton inspired by the loose linen smocks worn by English shepherds and farmers. And by the early 1900s, business was booming in the Burberry emporium on London’s Haymarket street. The firm gained prestige by outfitting high-profile Antarctic explorers, aviators, and mountaineers. And, in addition to kitting out more humble seekers of adventure – golfers, skiers, horsemen – it soon got into the business of fine everyday outerwear, too. It’s an unmistakably British brand, and in 2022, it’s really worth digging into a brand’s heritage and redefining its codes. After seven full seasons, Riccardo Tisci is finally on (what seems to be) the right path. For the autumn-winter 2022 fashion show, presented a few days after fashion month’s finale in London’s Central Hall Westminster, guests stood massed together in the dark, shuffling back to give way to Tisci’s supermodels, friends, and artist-celebrities as they descended from somewhere high up in the wood-paneled auditorium. Clad in the spectrum of Tisci’s ideas about global, generational, and gender non-conforming realities, British tradition and, of course, Burberry checks and trenches, they climbed up to pose on tables which were set with silver and crystal, as if for a country-house dinner. “It’s a reconstructed collection of what I find in Burberry, and what I’ve been living as human in this moment in Britain too,” Tisci said before the show. “It’s a different perspective – you know, the way you feel things was a very deep different journey.” That stood as an explanation for the leveling, everyone-together breaking of catwalk convention, except that the event simultaneously managed to be a bombastic reclaiming of Burberry’s corporate position, a landmark of the British fashion business with global reach. So two collections came out – a menswear one and the women’s. For women, he ran the gamut of trench-and-check daywear through to grand ballgowns, segueing though deconstructed evening trenchcoats. He said he’d pulled it together by focusing on country waxed and quilted coats, and pulling out the symbol of the Burberry Prorsum knight on horseback. There were blanket-skirts and tartan capes, as well as old-school, fleecy twinsets. The designer reflected on how he was initially daunted by paying tribute to Britishness, but now feels much freer about applying his own instincts. “I was scared,” he admitted. “You know, as an Italian, Britain is important – it’s a such an historical country, with so much to say. So at the beginning, it was like the first kiss. It takes time, you know. And now I find my own way.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

NET-A-PORTER Limited

1930’s Berlin. Erdem AW22

For autumn-winter 2022, Erdem Moralioglu imagined the night lives of four extraordinary women from Berlin’s 1930s arts scene. As silence fell upon a black box inside the Sadler’s Wells, a pianist took to a grand piano and began to play a dramatic solo. From the ceiling, pillars of dusty spotlights shot through the blackened-out room as Erdem’s austere, androgynous, unsettling – and totally beautiful – collection meandered around the arena. “I liked the idea that it was a club, and maybe they were on their way out, like ghosts. It’s the end of the night and they’re trailing away…” he said backstage, before detailing the historical influence that inspired the collection. Following the launch of his second men’s collection in January, Moralioglu wasn’t done exploring its muse, the photographer Madame d’Ora, who embodied the free and alternative spirit of 1930s’ Berlin in a time of political unrest. Imagining how her nightlife might have been, he found another four muses to join her: the painters Jeanne Mammen and Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler, and the dancers Anita Berber and Valeska Gert, who were all contemporaries of d’Ora and personified the cross-dressing, sexually ambiguity, and liberated identities of the time. “There was something about the effect of doing menswear, and the exercise of adding that masculinity into the collection, and maybe thinking of the extremes of femininity and masculinity mixed together,” Moralioglu explained, using Karen Elson’s opening look of a floral-embroidered black men’s coat with a black sequined evening scarf and big leather boots as an illustration of his intentions. It set a muted and reduced mood for the collection, which was mesmerising through an Erdem lens.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.