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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Hard-Folklore. Chopova Lowena SS23

For Chopova Lowena, spring-summer 2023 collection means first fashion show in the brand’s history. It has become a sort of tradition that the London Fashion Week goers are mass-swirling in the label’s signature multi-pleated carabiner-suspended kilts Emma Chopova and Laura Lowena’s business is growing organically, so going for a runway experience felt like the right step. The driving energy the designers unleashed on the runway, personified to the max by their gang of friends, family, collaborators, and street-cast models stomping through a loud cacophony of Bulgarian folk song, Lacrosse-match cheering, and metal music – it was fashion moment. “We had three months to fit everyone, so they all felt perfect. Right space, right sound, a great experience emotionally, a different way of walking,” Emma Chopova declared afterward. Standing next to her, Laura Lowena chimed in: “Yeah, we wanted to make sure the time was right, that we could really create the Chopova Lowena world for everyone to see. And I think that waiting was the right thing to do. Especially after such a quiet few years, it felt amazing to bring people – our community – together like this.” The impressive part was to see everything Chopova Lowena have been building up through their lookbooks and videos come to life, confirmed as a fully formed multiplicity of looks, prints, denim, tailoring, skirts over dresses, metal jewelry, tinsel knits, with mad-cozy boots, hand-drawn cartoony artwork, cotton armlets, and all. It’s all completely coherently styled and identifiable, yet simultaneously it looked as if each person was having a good time walking around in their own clothes. Men owned kilts and uniform skirts with conviction for the first time since Jean Paul Gaultier in the 1980s. Although, Lowena firmly pointed out, “we don’t really think in terms of men and women. We think of people.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Exploration. Paria Farzaneh SS23

Paria Farzaneh has built her platform London-based through a fiercely independent exploration of her Iranian heritage. The designer has used her brand as a means to challenge the western perception of Middle Eastern culture and aesthetic, by boldly blurring the lines between the two distinctly different worlds that have informed her experience. For her spring-summer 2023 fashion show, she invited her guests to Phoenix Garden, a charitably established community space. In a pre-show spiel there was talk of this collection reflecting Iran’s apparently 1.68 percent of citizens who are nomadic. Farzaneh mixes blatant ethnographic touches, almost costume, with highly sophisticated pieces that float above cultural codes; pants and shorts cut with a side-leg pleat, for instance, were fresh and new. The shroudy, geometrically cut lacy pieces were based on curtains Farzaneh remembered in her grandma’s bathroom. “I think in the fashion industry, utmost honesty is very lacking,” said the designer. So how to walk away from the table with a win in this dishonest business? The nomads of any culture who share Farzaneh’s roving curiosity, wherever they hail from, should understand her codes.

 

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Tiny Dancer. Harris Reed SS23

There’s no need to explain why this London Fashion Week won’t feel like a usual affair. The somber events of fate – the death of Queen Elizabeth – couldn’t help but have overtaken Harris Reed’s chosen position as one of the first designers to show in London. The plan was to stage his joyfully glam, celebratory queer show as a move-on, literally, from the high-drama static tableaux he’s worked on for a couple of seasons. It was a performance which was to have acted as a kind of ta-da curtain-raiser for all the fizzy anticipation people had been feeling about the first full comeback of shows since the end of the pandemic. Conscious of the very different load of responsibility that his massively sculptural looks were now going to carry on their scaffolded shoulders, Reed spoke up. During the days when there were heart-searching discussions about whether the week should be canceled altogether, he posted a respectfully-toned text pleading for the survival of the fragile ecosystem of young brands – his friends – for whom canceling could’ve spelled financial ruin, with no hope of recouping insurance on money already spent. “It has been a challenging two years… in these two years I have been absolutely blown away by how incredibly supportive the fashion community is in London. When put through massive challenges, designers, models, movement directors, casting directors, nail artists, [and] writers have supported one another, lifting one another up,” he wrote. “London is a place where community, creativity, and cultivation should always be in the forefront of what we support and nurture.” And he tagged all the names of the designers and friends he is “honored to be showing alongside.”

It was a generous, much-shared gesture, illustrating something of how Reed’s popularity as an optimistic personality-about-fashion has been a contributory factor in the massive amounts of attention, celebrity-wears, and magazine covers he’s managed to magnetize at an almost absurdly early stage of his career. So: it was on with the Debutante Ball-themed show, the hysteria generated by the appearance of Adam Lambert singing “Nessun Dorma” only slightly dialed back, given the circumstances. Earlier, in his studio, Reed related how his inspiration was a cross between Victorian crinolines and the great glittering days of drag clubs in New York. He has a bold sense of unputdownable optimism, which he attributes to his American upbringing. It shows in the scale of his ambition to make clothes which aspire to haute couture, or at least, the look of it. Fitting clothes to the body to be inspected in movement and in the round presented a technical hurdle, not quite a leap, if one was being Paris-picky. But then again, Reed’s can-do, let’s-pull-together American cheerleading has been a great asset to have around London in a time of crisis.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Rise. Roland Mouret Resort 2023

Last autumn’s news of Roland Mouret‘s collapse into administration was yet another reality check for the fashion industry: the consequences of global pandemic, from inflation to dynamically changing customer patterns, have no mercy. But with a surprising resort 2023 presence, it seems that the London-based designer’s label is rising from the ashes. For his first offering under newly-formed umbrella company SP Collection (owner of Self Portrait), Mouret brought forth fresh energy, while acknowledging his brand’s heritage. “To exist in the present, you must understand your own history,” said the designer at a showroom set-up in London’s Claridge’s hotel. “Now, it’s time to modernize our signatures to reflect how people want to dress today.” I was never really a fan of Mouret’s fashion – his runway collections felt overworked, the brand’s visual communication lacked freshness and kick. In his return collection, the designer streamlines his offering, presenting the most sublime silhouettes in his repertoire. And, believe it or not, the echoes of his signature “Galaxy” dress still do the work in 2022. Floor-length dresses range from rib-knit cashmere with fluted skirts in lilac, to iridescent micro-sequin gowns in crimson and emerald. Midi and mini-dresses are gently nipped at the waist with ruched and cut-out details. The tailoring is particularly exemplary, with two-piece wool suits in jet black, camel, and magenta featuring exaggerated shoulders and matching straight-cut and flared pants. As a designer who’s attained distinction with his trademark drape and construction, the garments play to his strengths yet feel new with their off-kilter-ness. “We’ve also updated our price points for the contemporary consumer market,” says Mouret. “It was a decision that made perfect sense for where we’re headed.” It seems that the brand is now branching out into the world of party-girl dressing, in addition to still being a go-to for workwear and cocktail attire. Looking forward to see more of the new Roland Mouret brand.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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