text by Adam Lehrer
With luxury fashion valued at $339 BILLION, it’s hard to imagine that some of the world’s biggest fashion brands are struggling. But the reality is, they are. Burberry’s gross margins dropped 1 percent in 2016; that might not sound like much, but in an industry that demands constant growth investors worry when number drop even slightly. The reality of the London Fashion Industry is that the massive brands are still the massive brands and the scrappy upstarts are still the scrappy upstarts, but those upstarts are draped in so much hype that inevitably they will cut into the conglomerates’ market shares. London brands run on hype and digital excitement. When JW Anderson or Marques Almeida show their new collections, I scour my Instagram feed and the fashion sites devouring images of the new collection. For Burberry: not so much. Burberry creative director and CEO Christopher Bailey must be aware of this dichotomy and has employed a new strategy to reinvigorate what is seen (by the fashion pack, at least) as a stale brand.
Bailey’s decision to make Burberry collections accessible to consumers immediately before the Spring Summer 2017 show, with Barney’s and other retailers, isn’t exactly the pioneering gesture that some would believe it to be. However, it is innovative in that it’s a luxury conglomerate adopting a Supreme-esque streetwear savvy approach to retail. Supreme is one of the most desired brands on the planet with its tried and true model of releasing products just a couple of days blowing up the blogosphere with look books and product pics (Supreme announced a sick Undercover collaboration on Tuesday, it came out today). Bailey has employed that model for the luxury market, and Tom Ford and Proenza Schouler quickly followed suit. I highly doubt that this will have any effect on the legions of everyday luxury buyers that flock to Burberry; those consumers don’t care about fashion hype. But it might shine the fashion spotlight back on Burberry. The press the brand is getting alone will have an impact, no question. Is Bailey’s new model perfect? Well, what is? But at the very worst, it’s a way to attach some much needed shine to what has become a bland brand. If the impending doom of Brexit rocks the UK’s financial system to the point that experts are predicting, industries across the board are going to have to get experimental and creative in their business practices. Perhaps decisions like Christopher Bailey’s are harbingers of what will be necessary to survive in a financially uncertain future.
Marques Almeida Spring-Summer 2017
As SHOWStudio editor Lou Stoppard pointed out this week in an interview, Paulo Almeida and Marta Marques only graduated from Central Saint Martin’s a few years ago. That’s remarkable, as Marques Almeida has evolved from an interesting brand with the weird denim to an LVMH-prize approved full range of left-leaning but wearable pieces. The Spring Summer 2017 collection added some more denim silhouettes to the brand’s range, like some JNCO-shaped jeans that were cuffed at the ankle. But the collection’s breadth of range here was superb. Though Almeida has said that the only decade he felt any connection to was the 1990s, there was a palatable sense of the early 20th Century in this collection: a William Morris print, Princess Di sleeves, chambray blouses, and a brocade jacket. The show also excelled in its casting: the designers had all of their friends walk the runway and allowed them to each put their own attitudes on display. It almost reminded me of what Pat Fields and Scooter Laforge just did with the Art Fashion show at New York Fashion Week; by allowing each model to own their senses of selves on the runway a simple fashion show can approach the gesturing of performance art. Marques Almeida is a funky brand and gets credit for said funkiness, but where it doesn’t get enough praise is its aspiration. Marques Almeida often feels like a brand for the punk and rave children of British aristocrats. Rebellion doesn’t need to look cheap.
Burberry Spring-Summer 2017
While Bailey is justly being praised for his business savvy, the Burberry Spring Summer 2017 collection spoke to his talent for creation. It was hands down the best collection of his career. Showing menswear and womenswear simultaneously for the first time, the show contained 99 looks. While I’m glad I wasn’t there in person, the collection still feels well edited despite its gargantuan length. The collection was everything one could love about Burberry: subtle, high-quality, and highly British. That is where Bailey has floundered with Burberry in the past: in his efforts to make the brand more rebellious he has forgotten what the brand actually means to people. Not with this collection that effortlessly incorporated Burberry-isms into Bailey’s rock n; roll sensibilities. A darkly colored embroidered dress was paired with Doc Maarten-looking heals. A nutcracker uniform was made a stunning black and white dress. Menswear shirts were ruffled and fey, paired sensibly with wide trousers or drainpipe jeans. And that’s Burberry: great clothes that you’ll want to wear. One criticism: not every designer needs to make Vetements shapes, and Bailey’s leather jackets looked ripped right from that brand’s playbook.
JW Anderson Spring-Summer 2017
Of all the people working in the contemporary fashion industry, it appears that Jonathan Anderson is the only one who thrives amongst the breakneck pace of the fashion schedule, he recently said to Interview Magazine, “It’s about quantity—not quality, it means you don’t overthink things.” That positive outlook is genuinely refreshing. There is no turning back time. Anderson’s conscious decision to embrace the instantaneous nature of modern media should be something to admire.
You can see Anderson’s understanding of the culture in his Spring-Summer 2017 womenswear collection. Unlike Raf Simons or Rei Kawakubo or even Miuccia Prada (all designers that Anderson has cited as influences), Anderson never centers his collections around a solitary theme or vision. His is a glorious hodgepodge of imagery full of products seemingly out of place with one another but still demanding a unified viewpoint. Focusing on summery dresses, Anderson placed look after Instagram worthy look on his runway. As usual, there were so many products and accessories here, one could argue that Anderson is over-indulgent. I say no. I believe that Anderson recognizes that the most successful designers aim to see their work all over cyberspace. It’s interesting that as pervasive as imagery has become, fashion temporarily went back towards the minimal. Anderson is a maximalist all the way. As superb as Alessandro Michele’s work has been at Gucci, it’s difficult to imagine Michele being as successful as he is if Anderson not already paved this path before him.
Mulberry Spring-Summer 2017
Seldom does one want to focus on the stylist of a collection more so than the designer, but not every stylist holds the influence that Lotta Volkova holds over the industry. Designer Johnny Coca, who is known mostly as an accessories designer, faced no small task when given the reigns over accessories house Mulberry’s recently launched ready-to-wear line. His first collection, Fall-Winter 2016, didn’t impress. Where was the story to build upon?
Luckily, this season Coca just focused on the products and allowed the story to be told by none other that Vetements/Gosha stylist Volkova. This saw Coca creating bland, almost dire, colored military-inflected suits and office dresses that recall more the grey of British townships than the vibrancy of London. But if there’s anyone who knows how to make bland exciting, it’s Volkova. The result was a kind of corporate-minded responsible woman just hung over enough from her punk days to make the tiniest of rebellious gesture in her clothing. Ultimately, the clothing served as a vehicle for the accessories, so Coca and Volkova did their jobs.
Ashish Spring-Summer 2017
London is one of the most multi-cultural cities on the planet and it is that diversity that has come under attack post-Brexit. London’s Indian population has deep and long-standing ties to the city (we can all agree that Indian food is generally the best culinary option that the city has to offer, for example). Designer Ashish Gupta immigrated to London from India in 1996 and seeing his community come under attack has influenced him to inflate his cultural heritage and slam it back in the faces of the emerging right wing British think-tank. “Tonight I wanted to celebrate Indian culture, because it is also such an integral part of British culture,” the designer explained to Vogue.
The Ashish Spring-Summer 2017 collection filtered Gupta’s penchant for gender-bending and rave-inspired wackiness through the beauty and spirituality of Indian garb. Embroidery was applied to everything from lungis and sherwanis to denim basketball shorts and track suits. The mostly Indian, Asian, and mixed raced runway cast came in all genders and wore crowns and Indian makeup stylings. Often, radical designers, like Gupta, will only focus on sub-cultures that hold relevance in the Western world, as if the Western world is the only world creating culture of value: punk, minimalism, abstract expressionism, film noir, whatever. Gupta’s choice to focus on his own heritage reminds the viewer that beauty comes from everywhere and should be loved and respected regardless of its origins. Bonus for New York scenesters: self-described Renaissance man and man-about-town curator Richie Shazam closed the show with a fucking python wrapped around his neck. As a man that carries a deep phobia of serpents, this show-stopping gesture became even more potent.
Simone Rocha Spring-Summer 2017
Simone Rocha recently told Interview Magazine that her primary inspiration comes out of two things: travel, and “a good show.” She was referencing, of course, an art exhibition. Inspired by a single Jackie Nickerson photograph, her Spring-Summer 2017 collection was indicative of Rocha’s sensitivity to aesthetic imagery. “There was a photo of someone wrapped in white plastic working in a field next to a painting of Irish girls—that did it,” said Rocha to Vogue.
Rocha’s clothing is fancy night our garb for Dover Street Market girls. All her dresses could get the wearer into the most exclusive of high society outings while still expressing her innate freedom and sexuality. A see through black dress, patch worked-florals, parachute sleeve white taffeta blouses; all of these looks are indicative of Rocha’s penchant for outré kink, self-expression in the face of well-coiffed mundanity, and an unwavering commitment to artisanal craftsmanship.