by Adam Lehrer
London Collections. The young creative one. The cool one. All that. God it can be boring how the entire fashion industry jumps on the same narrative train. But it’s true at its core: London is the best city for emerging fashion talent. Of course much of the designers that helped put London on the map as a hotbed of radical fashion thought, like JW Anderson and Gareth Pugh, are in their ‘30s now and are entering into mature phases of their brands. Or if not more mature, at least older. Then you have someone like Molly Goddard who three seasons in already seems to be tapping into something that actually does seem to be missing from fashion, and not just in a stock quote, “I became a designer because I felt it was missing something,” kind of statement (usually that means there’s a rip in a shirt or something). Claire Barrow seems to use fashion more as a means to show her art, which is very cool and different and radical and I love her for it. And then Marques ‘ Almeida, fresh of its LVMH prize, is still nothing approaching commercial but still cranking out clothes that a specific customer can’t get enough of. So, as much as I hate these pre-written narratives, I’m in agreement with the fashion consensus: London rocks.
Designers Marta Marques and Pablo Almeida prefer a frayed and lived-in quality to their clothes. Less we forget the heavily treated and distressed denim pieces that the label made its bones with. And while their line of products has grown exponentially, the label remains intimately aware of its customer. That lived-in quality was all over the FW 2016 show. Watching it, I envisioned a strong and self-assured woman who had just finished a near-degenerate night of partying but finds herself not on a walk of shame, but a walk of triumph. The clothes, while gorgeous, make the wearer look incredibly self-assured. Not quite a “don’t give a fuck” vibe, but a confidence it one’s own beauty. With a perfect party soundtrack of contemporary hits by Beyoncé and Rihanna (two stars arguably at the zenith of their powers and making the best music of their lives), the pieces came in metallic leather and featured over-the-knee boots, corseted bustiers, distressed and fucked up looking bags, and so much denim. Blue denim dresses, blue denim hoodies, pink denim, and more all tied the collection together into the Marques ‘ Almeida world. This is the best the label has ever been.
Designer Anya Hindmarch locked her models inside a retro arcade game and it worked wonders. The garments while ostensibly minimal appeared retroactively maximal. A trench coat and a bag were emblazoned with visions of Tetris and creepy digital animated graphics were used as continuing motifs throughout the collection. Hindmarch’s customers are going to love this stuff regardless, but she really gives to the fashion press with awesome presentation. As someone who is more an appreciator of aesthetics than anything else, I must give Kudos to how thoroughly Hindmarch brings her ideas to life. The set, the lighting, the color-blocked garments, all of it made for something a little more special.
I pretty much always include Gareth Pugh on my favorites list, but it’s clear to me now that he has softened his aesthetic approach and that is in no way a bad thing. He was once a disciple of Rick Owens and Michelle Lamy, and his clothes were fittingly brutal and architectural. He’s still conceptual, but his SS 2016 collection and his similar FW 2016 collection seem to have a sense of humor about themselves. For FW 2016, Pugh was playing with the idea of female authority; he examined the ways in which a woman commands the respect of everyone around them. The collection featured Pugh’s magnificently sculpted take on the female power suit alongside power suit glitzed up with star prints. I loved the masks clearly rendered from Hannibal Lecter’s infamous mouth guard, there was something very Margiela about them in a collection that was by most standards one of the most conventional that Pugh has ever designed. Pugh has struggled with money, even having had to squat for a period of time to make ends meet. He seems ready to make clothes that sell, but not ready to give up on his ideas. That’s a good thing.
Does showing 12 looks qualify as a “fashion show?” I don’t know and I don’t care. Unlike almost every other designer in the world, I can truly say that there is no one on Earth doing what Claire Barrow does. Into punk rock, the occult, and historical gangs, Barrow applies her illustrations to near every garment she produces. A pink tye-dye dress came blazoned with vague and slightly demonic faces, there were wide leg trousers with a dragon motif, and outerwear accessories like gloves and scarves were etched with patchwork graphics. Barrow truly uses her brand as a way to express herself and her interests, and her taste is so succinct that she is still able to find her customer. People want her outlook.
Molly Goddard gets talked about for designing party clothes. That is true, but she also seems to be designing party clothes for specific woman, maybe we could use Broad City’s Ilana Glazer as that ideal woman. The woman emanates a specific cuteness derived out of an immense comfort inside her body. She’s free. That party DNA is carried through the shows, which as planned by Molly’s friends and casted with women off the street that all seem to have that Molly Goddard vibe. On a set inspired by Tokyo Drifter, Goddard indulged her very pronounced for making dresses. Those dresses came in magnificent proportions, all ruffled at the hem of the skirt emanating playfulness ad seduction. Also of note were the sliced to almost nothing leggings that literally revealed half the model’s leg. Goddard at three seasons in has already carved out her fantasy woman: this woman might hate dressing up, but if she has to she is going to have some fun with it.
Simone Rocha just had a baby. With that, numerous fashion medias have tried to find a matronly theme in Rocha’s FW 2016 collection. But Rocha’s clothes, to me, are far too austere to draw upon any single narrative. Her presentations evoke a feeling, maybe a message, much more than they do a clear storyline. Like poetry. This collection shifted between romantic hues of white and sharp dashes of black, ending with a pink robe coat and a blood red dress. Romance was optimal here, with the knits and the dresses both winking seduction.
Sometimes it feels like Alexander McQueen is still alive, and that is largely due to his protégé Sarah Burton’s unbridled dedication to keeping the conceptual approach of her mentor alive. Case in point, Burton’s FW 2016 Alexander McQueen collection. As the label should be, the clothes were opulent but simultaneously macabre. Describing the collection as a world between reality and dreams, the clothes honed in on something mystical. Evening gowns came with the metallic butterfly motifts, a dress exposed half the female form, and my favorite piece was a lace dress that had a unicorn graphic cover half the body. The clothes were so utterly beautiful it was hard to imagine them as corporeal, and that was probably the point.
Text by Adam Lehrer. Follow @AUTREMAGAZINE to stay up-to-date on the latest fashion.