Saturday, 6 October 2018

the best of fashion month: the rebels reimagining haute couture

Fashion month is over. The leaves have turned orange, Halloween is on its way and it’s time for all us seasonal affective disorder sufferers to get out our SAD lamps. That said, there is still plenty of inspiration to be found in the Spring 2019 collections. Whilst some of the major labels brought disappointment (*ahem* Burberry, Celine, Dior), smaller brands asserted their place. These designers are the ones creating the most interesting trends, shaking up the industry and altering our perceptions of what fashion is and can be. There are more than the ones mentioned in this post, but I decided to focus on brands that I had not written much about before.


This was one of the only Spring 2019 collections that actually felt new. Fabrics are used in a new way; punk, blue jeans, and gowns all come together and somehow it works. Denim is such a wardrobe staple for many that we forget it can be reimagined in such creative ways. As we edge closer towards winter each day, jeans and a jumper become the default. Junya Watanabe reminds us of the fun that can be had in experimenting.

There was no clear political message. Watanabe would never be so tokenistic. However, the deconstruction of haute couture templates into youthful streetwear stands up to the fashion establishment, whilst leather chokers and bright hair colours signal to the anarchism of punk. There is a romance to the collection. Referencing Dior's New Look and Vivienne Westwood's punk, the nostalgia for couture is undercut by imaginative styling. The Junya Watanabe woman is a daring creative who is not afraid to mess with the status quo.


Matthew Adams Dolan has his finger on the pulse. His expert tailoring in brights and neons is Insta-ready for street style influencers, but we don’t need influencers to convince us of their beauty. We love a good statement jacket and Adams Dolan offers several incarnations. Pair this with a diverse casting of non-celebrity models and it is clear that this is a brand dripping with coolness.

Adam Dolan’s inspiration is therefore somewhat surprising: American fashion and, more specifically, Claire McCardell. McCardell is credited with the creation of American sportswear in the mid-20th century. Instead of churning out a trite vintage-inspired collection, Adams Dolan reimagined McCardell’s influence on American fashion today. Counting Rihanna as one of his fans, Adams Dolan does not need to dive into vintage because he speaks to the style now.


Christian Cowan's Spring 2019 collection ranges from sophisticated to tacky, but he makes tacky work. This is a collection for pop stars. Cowan counts pop princesses Christina Aguilera and Kim Petras as fans. The daring dominatrix mood harks back to Lady Gaga circa 2008. With fashion and pop culture references throughout, Christopher Cowan is everything I wish that Jeremy Scott's Moschino would be. There is a dress made of straw in reference to last summer's Jacquemus hat controversy and the ensuing Insta trend, glitter masks in reference to the Gucci glitter bodysuit that was later worn by Rihanna and checker prints that nod to Cardi B's Invasion of Privacy album cover.

There are t-shirts, joggers, bum bags and hoodies for the more conservative dressers who still want a slice of the brand their pop favs wear. However, these casual pieces clutter the show and make it less cohesive. Future collections would be stronger if only statement pieces were shown, with the more sellable extras available to order later.


What does timeless style mean anyway? It's a question that many grapple with. Rachel Mansur and Floriana Gavriel provide an answer to this eternal question with this timeless, ageless, versatile collection. It is functional and neutral without being boring; glitter boots made sure that was never going to be an issue.

Mansur Gavriel is an anomaly on this list as they do not follow the traditional show schedule. Their New York Fashion Week show last month was actually for their Fall 2018 collection and it is available to buy already. This accounts for the fur coats and autumnal pallette. The show took place whilst guests sat at tables set for afternoon tea, with pastries provided by a French patisserie. This set the sophisticated tone for the collection. The Mansur Gavriel designs for the modern woman. Their accessories are not extortionate, so they are definitely a brand worth investing in. 


This season, sustainability is the mot du jour. Burberry vowed to stop the practice of burning its stock. London Fashion Week announced it was going fur-free. Is all this just box ticking or are designers interested in catalysing real industry change? For Marine Serre, sustainability is essential. Thus, 50% of the French designer's Spring 2019 collection was made from upcycled materials. The clothes themselves did not disappoint. Serre gave us the staples she is known for; crescent moon prints, sportswear, and inventive layering. However, there was also smart tailoring in the form of a navy pantsuit and mint green skirt suit. Shown alongside Formula 1 references, this is power dressing re-energised.

The show had an impromptu atmosphere. Taking place on a park bridge near where Serre lives, modeled by a diverse cast that included children and older women, these models swung full bags, as if they were on their way back from the grocery store and happened to end up on the runway. The closing looks reimagined the classic couture gown. Utility wear, basketball slogans, and scuba suits are reborn as floor length dresses. There is a sense of defiance as the brand refuses to be too pretty. It is more important to be tough, creative and ambitious. One stand out look was a coat with multiple key fobs attached to it. Serre explained how they were all from her own grandfather's key fob collection. This kind of personal link to the clothes, in a fashion industry that can often be so detached, is what makes Marine Serre special. 

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