History. Erdem SS23

Erdem‘s spring-summer 2023 collection captured an important moment in time. The last moments of the show – three models walking, their faces and full-skirted ball gowns fully veiled in black tulle – felt like a page being inscribed in the annals of British fashion history. This was a show on the eve of the state funeral of a monarch who had reigned for 70 years. This finale, slowly walked through the grand colonnades of the British Museum, did indeed feel like a dignified, loving farewell to Queen Elizabeth, from a fashion designer who has researched and referenced her long before now. Looking at history and being a museum, gallery, and library geek is totally Erdem Moralioglu’s modus operandi. His first show was in the V&A. He’s had a long relationship with the National Portrait Gallery. He spends days in the London Library. And actually, this collection—as he explained afterwards – had to do with his fascination for the behind-scenes work of museum conservators. “It’s so funny, because I started the collection research here at the British Museum actually, and taking the design team to look at how they were restoring 17th century etchings; or how they might deal with restoring a tapestry or a Dutch Master.” At the V&A, he was inspired by seeing the crinolined structures the conservators built to slowly, painstakingly put the decaying fragments of an 18th century gown back together – and by the dust-sheets they use. And by happenstance, those dust-sheets were already translating themselves into the veils he wanted to show. “It was this idea of, if you study an object or dress so closely, over such a long time, do you start to become that thing?” A romantic, vaguely crazed projection of ideas onto imagined characters: this is Erdem all over. It produced all the kinds of sweeping shapes, prints, and embellishments his customers love: a grand sweeping trench-ballgown with a train, the appearance of fraying hems, a touch of antique-contemporary undone-ness. There is a lot to think about in Britain about the passing of an era. But then again, as his work – and the existence of all the British museums proves – the momentous significance of the past is never gone.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Harnessing An Emotion. Simone Rocha SS23

Simone Rocha‘s collections are never just “pretty” or just “feminine“. There’s always an underlying, slightly dark, raw energy behind them. “This collection was very much a reaction to the last few years. It was very much harnessing an emotion that felt like this kind of powerful, feminine statement.” Her harnessing literally went into the parachute tapes threaded through dresses and big, bubble-bomber jackets. She demonstrated how the tapes can function to change the shapes of garments – making something long or short, or giving it a different volume, according to mood. There were lots and lots of airy, pale white-beige-pink layers of tulle, what looked like a pink wallpaper print of flower-wreaths contrasted with a punkier strand of army green, tough aviator pants, and deconstructed corsets. And then, there were veils. Rocha has used veils powerfully before, more in contexts that have hinted at weddings and christenings – echoes of her upbringing in Catholic Ireland. Now, they were flounced, tiered constructs covering the heads and shoulders of women and men. There was a strange coincidence of fate in that. Considering what to do as she was absorbing news of the death of the Queen, Rocha was afraid that the audience might take the reference as a last-minute reaction; but in fact they were part of her own creative origin story; part of her instinct for going back to reconnect herself with the forces she’d been channeling as a student – a rebel girl beginning to grapple with her attraction to history. “There’s definitely pieces within the collection that I think people will feel potentially a response to the current situation. Because my original inspiration, back at Central Saint Martins, was this old tradition of the people of the Aran Isles, where women would dye their petticoats red and wear them on their heads in a funeral procession. I almost took them out at one point. It was touch and go. Then I thought no; because to me they represent this idea of ceremony, but also the vulnerability of it.” She’d also recalled them because she was starting with menswear (yes, finally!) – throwing the veil over the head of a boy was an early gesture in her process. “I wanted to work into this beautiful masculinity, and really think about the juxtaposition to everything I’ve done within the last decade with women, and see how that world plays out in the crossover between the two.” The dynamic had men wearing fragments of petticoats, styled with utility pieces and black tailoring. As Rocha found, creative ideas can’t be contained; she let a sense of the toughness flow over into her womenswear. With great, and emotional, effect. That’s what brought the audience to its feet. “I think clothes are sometimes an escape and a release,” Rocha reflected. “ And then I think I think they’re the reality. What can they be in that reality? For me, it was about making something protective, and healing, and an urgent sense of wanting to go forward.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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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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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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