Victoria Beckham, Erdem, Christopher Kane, Osman Yousefzada, Feng Chen Wang, & Kaushik Velendra
Show Reviews of Victoria Beckham, Erdem, Christopher Kane, Osman Yousefzada, Feng Chen Wang, & Kaushik Velendra Spring 2021 Fashion Shows
The Past, The Present, & The Future
BY LONG NGUYEN
In a more sober group discussion of where the luxury industry is heading with a mixture of retailers with a launch of My Wardrobe x Harvey Nichols new rental program, Caroline Rush – the Chairperson of the BFC – emphasized that the opportunity to pause was also a period to start to look ahead, especially with a focus on sustainability and responsible production and consumption.
Passionate young consumers have been leading the demand for reducing waste and now at the many fashion companies the notion and the activation of sustainable measures are all across the board from the procurement of raw materials to the amount of collections presented on a yearly basis. London designers have been at the forefront of sustainability in the last decade in questioning the relationship and the cost of the fashion business to nature.
Meanwhile London designers are figuring out what to do and how to do it.
Just out of the gate and about a year into building his own menswear brand business after graduating from Central Saint Martins MA Fashion program in 2019, the Indian born, London based Kaushik Velendra has already cemented his ideas and aesthetics of menswear with precise new tailoring for all body shapes with careful attention to fabrics chosen to enhance the effects of the draping.
The shoulder is the focus of the eighteen looks Velendra specially designed and crafted for spring at his London Hoxton atelier and shown to a small audience and filmed for his LFW presentation titled ‘Romeo & Romeo’ – “a collection celebrates being reborn as the most powerful incarnation of oneself” after a period of adaptation to new ways of living.
Velendra aims to open his studio for customers to experience the design process and to place orders.
The tailoring workmanship is omnipresent in every garment. The opening look set the tone and acted as a starting block for the collection – a slim tailored black one-button single-breasted suit with a cigarette pant and a defining torso fitted jacket with protruding around shoulders and slim hanging sleeves. Over this broad round shoulder base shape, Velendra either replaced the sleeves in a black wool crepe cropped jacket with an open short flare sleeve creating flap movements or added an asymmetrical black overlay to create the illusion of a draped puffy sleeves. For a classic white jacket, the designer took out the front lapel and inserted layers of white silk tulle transforming the jacket into a cape. A cropped short sleeve metallic silver jacket worn with a sheer tee shirt and fitted pants was another more extreme version of these sharp shoulder cut.
Looking at the filmed show and the accompanying pictures of the models in each of these looks reminded me of another era years ago when Thierry Mugler had shown his men’s collection separately, a few times at his showroom where the clothes could be seen up close rather than at a mass show. Then at Mugler’s, there was a clear sense of his majestic display of men’s clothes, tailored but with standout proportions not entirely catered to business wear at the time.
Perhaps some may consider these Velendra exaggerated shapes borderline silliness, but there is also something equally majestic here as well but in a more private way.
There aren’t so many young designers who focus on men’s tailoring exclusively. The way that Velendra held on so firmly to his beliefs and execute his vision in this non-ordinary time is something to cheer for especially for such a new brand.
Seeing Victoria Beckham opening remarks for her video presentation of her spring collection sitting on a multicolor canvas sofa at the Victoria Miro Gallery in central London reminded me of the very early years of her brand when she would convene about twenty or so editors to a sumptuous townhouse in Manhattan’s upper east side to unveil her clothes in a very intimate and personal way at precisely 9 AM on a Sunday morning.
Back then with little fanfare, Beckham came out and greet each of her guests individually as they sipped on warm coffee and by the second season she knew each of us by our first names before proceeding to explain her new collection as each model came out wearing what would become her signature dresses, nonfuss clothes for professional women.
“Limitations can be liberating. Working remotely, for this collection we reacted spontaneously. We were instinctive. We asked ourselves what has changed? Who do we want to be? What will we desire?”
Victoria Beckham introducing her spring wardrobe
“This collection is about freedom – to explore to dress up, to be yourself. It is rooted in our true DNA, our language, strong tailoring, sharp color, modernity. And dressing women,” Beckham said about how she thought through what the collection should be during the lockdown.
“There are different silhouettes, different facets of dressing. Coats, fluid dresses, denim, and elongated trousers. Hemlines are longer, fits easier. It’s about a true wardrobe. This collection is rooted in reality, in life, and in living but it’s a dream inspired by reality,” Beckham explaining the genesis of spring.
By ease the designer meant slightly oversized brown or bright green patch pockets trench coats, a short sleeve cinched waist long flared high neck smocked dress, a light yellow long sleeve cut out jersey dress, or a double-layered wool jacket as light as a shirt. Even the tailored jackets in both single and double-breast while slim-cut yet they don’t feel constricting. The tan cotton canvas or raw indigo denim wide flare boot cut trousers added a touch of fashion with any combination of tops available here – either a leather blouson or even a simple men’s white cotton shirt.
The white wool double breast jacket paired with a tuxedo vest and flare pants is a perfect representation of this versatile collection that addresses the needs now of women wanting to dress up but in a more subdued manner.
This well-edited collection can stand on its own without the need for a fashion show to boost the worthiness of the clothes.
Erdem Moralioglu, the Canadian born designer who launched his London based eponymous brand in 2005, has always been very serious about enshrining his spring collection with meaning and with a sense of history, wrapping his collections and the clothes with a certain gesture of greatness and of belonging to the grand historical epochs. Now, it is the historical romancenovel written in 1922 by Susan Sontag – The Volcano Lover – that recounted the love threesome between the heroine Emma Hamilton, her husband the British Consul Sir, and volcanologist William Hamilton and Lord Horatio Nelson set against the Vesuvius volcano in the background.
In the novel, the constant presence of the dangers of the smoking volcano mirrors the unknown dangers of our present time, thus an apt place to look for how to find solutions to the global problems today.
“As the volcano rumbles and revolution rolls around the continent, everyone understands the future will be different from the past. It is a precipice moment in time, such as we face ourselves today.”
Erdem Moralioglu, on his reference to the romance novel of The Volcano Lover
Erdem created this spring collection imagining the clothes that Emma Hamilton would wear in the court of Naples as described in the Sontag novel. The film was of an actual taping of a live show that took place at an earlier time frame in the ancient Epping Forest where models walked along the avenue of oaks and hornbeams wearing garments that could have been the perfect costumes for a movie version of the novel with Erdem’s perfect execution of detailed craftsmanship combined with a great choice of textiles that included the use of floral print denim.
The clothes sure do have that connection to history, to another place and to another time. “In the shadow of the volcano, she is a force to be reckoned with. Unrelenting in the face of adversity she carved opportunity from insecurity, passion from chaos” is the description of Emma and more precisely of how Erdem views her and the kind of clothes she should have worn if designed by him.
Black and white floral print long dress and white floral print sleeveless long coat vest, ecru jacquard puff short sleeve long dress with black over the waist belt, black tulle embroidered sheath dress with an ecru silk blouse, and a pink tulle embroidered long gown reflected the overall mood with reworked Grecian dresses whose formality were broken here and there with a knit olive cardigan or a long olive military parka. It is the certainty that dressing up is still fine and it is courageous of Erdem to complete this collection under lockdown in the way that he imagined his customers would want to see and to have.
These flawlessly made Empire waist gowns in sumptuous silk and in elaborately embroidered organza with black bow belts – these dresses in their billowy sleeves certainly provide the juice for optimism, for dream, and for a romantic future on the horizon where pestilence and misfortunes are passed shadows.
While there are great individual pieces like an olive military jacquard short jacket with embroidered sleeves and matching long skirt or that jacquard military coat, there is a sense from the collection of being stuck in time, in the past rather the present. Perhaps the clothes would be greater set against a decadent stage environment rather than a pristine forest.
There is courage in the defiance and the refusal to let the dangers of the volcano threatened the dream. But in fashion, there may also be the need to evolve, to mold new aesthetics not in conformity with the time but in anticipation of the new horizon.
Feng Chen Wang is a Beijing born, London based menswear designer whose first collection in 2015 upon her graduation from the Royal College of Art MA established her as a bona fide futurist. With a conceptual eye on the technical deconstruction, the designer simultaneously draws from her life experiences and her Chinese heritage.
In her ongoing partnership with Converse, Nike, and Levi’s, Wang deepened her deconstruction/conceptual approach creating a range of Jack Purcell shoes engraved with the Chinese characters of her name, specially natural resist and sustainable dye techniques ‘Lanyinhuabu’ specific to Fujian province to make six new shades of cotton denim, and custom Air Jordan 1 exclusive collection and the Air VaporMax.
In ‘An Ode to Community’ video, Wang chose seven people who she considered part of her core community and had them choose outfits from among the pieces that she had made for spring in her to continue the effort and her emphasis on the meaning of connecting people together from all different parts of the world via a common language of clothes made from the bringing together diverse cultural and knowledge in a dress, a jacket or a sneaker.
“We seek connection with who we are and what we do. What is your connection?,” Wang asked in the opening segment. In the film, Charlene played around with her young child wearing a white/green sweatshirt and olive skirt, Ivo in a black shirt-blouson and red pants, James in a white crochet sweater and black pants, Tina in acid-washed denim cropped bolero jacket and matching shorts, Natasha in an olive uneven side cut cotton jacket and short brown skirt, Manuel in a denim jacket and stripe shirt and Hai in a black jacket with attached hanging metallic Wang logo. Each talked about the importance of being and sharing – “Connection is eliminating the distance and engaging with your opposite,” Hai said at the end.
This video was a natural project for Wang – it showed the heart of her design philosophy in such a human way and not the kind of artsy short video seen over the weeks of digital fashion weeks. It’s a better way to ‘connect’ with ‘community’ as now imperative for brand building.
’Here to Stay’ was the chant that my uncle and elder cousins used in the ’80s to fight racism on the streets: against police brutality; against the racism of state institutions in housing and immigration, against the pay gap; and for equal access to education. The chant feels relevant today.
– Osman Yousefzada
Osman Yousefzada shared his experience and that of his family speaking ahead of his video presentation that also served as a launch platform for his new brand and capsule collection under his full name debuting at LFW.
As a mixed tape video fusing social activism with fashion, ‘Here to Stay’ clearly focused its lens on the garments and avoided being just an art short film posing as a fashion release. A white long sleeve jersey dress, black broad shoulder wool jacket, black hooded parka and sleeveless blousons, black wool Nehru collar jackets are among the nice range of clothes seen in the film with a narration in collaboration with the artist Makayla Forde whose did the voice over. Among the more subdued clothes of brown linen suits and white cotton wrap dress is a white cotton fabric ruffle coat/dress made from over fifteen meters of fabrics.
In line with the new conscious efforts to reign in a fashion production system that is overtly exploitative, Yousefzada said that the production of the clothes would be primarily in Italy and the U.K. with key pieces made by artisans in India and Pakistan. Even the sourcing of the prime materials took the values of sustainability to heart – hand dye print fabrics from Multan in Pakistan and twin set fabrics hand dyed in Mumbai using beetroot and okra. The brand will also be supporting Skate Girls of Kabul to ensure the young women receive help in higher education.
Hard to imagine what it takes to start a new fashion brand at this juncture in time. Courage, social and environmental consciousness, and yes some nice clothes.
The Scottish Christopher Kane, a 2006 Central Saint Martins MA graduate, had an immediate hit with his debut in September 2006 showing super short bandage dresses in neon colors because as he said then he wanted the collection and his start to be as bright as possible.
Kane’s ethos in design rested on the need for constant innovation and extraordinary skills in making the clothes coupled with his aesthetic views of rebellious femininity as a source for creative direction. “Neat cuts and structural shapes combine with a refreshing blend of pattern and texture and glimmering graphics” is how the e-commerce site FarFetch described Kane’s clothes to its customers.
His fall 2020 show had a theme of sex and nature with the idea of that the perversion of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden as a love triangle between man, woman, and nature expressed in the print jersey fabrics using Lucas Cranach the Elder’s Adam and Eve. Now that’s a great description of a show.
For his Spring 2021 collection Kane spoke to the current climate and covid.
“I started to paint in my garden, primarily to pass time and escape the daily onslaught of the Covid pandemic news and Zoom calls. It was liberating and fun. Painting during lockdown replaced the void of making collections. It became a way to escape my own mind – no rules, deadlines, or pressures. I paint with acrylics, glue, and glitter,” said Kane in the video conversation with Kirsty Wark, a journalist and presenter at the BBC Newsnight at Kane’s home studio where he showed her the pile of small and large paintings he had done since end of March.
“It was fear and anxiety. Is fashion even relevant? I love fashion and the process. I don’t have to have thousands of pieces around next season. Retail is suffering,” Kane said apropos what to do with making some kind of spring collection. Kane painted abstract portraits of all the people he knew growing up rather than anyone in particular. “The Brats are a collection of faces inspired by my nieces, sisters, and fashion acquaintances,” he said.
For SS21, I had zero desire to create a large collection. I want to simplify and reduce output. The exhibition is a selection of clothes that are extensions of the paintings, some are digitally printed, others hand-painted, and some glitter screen prints. They are unique and one of a kind.
Kane chose simple shapes garments in white to add the painted textures – a hand-painted white jacket, a long sleeve white duchess satin dress now painted with multiple strokes of large brush watercolors, or a Tyvek mock neck dress hand-painted and sprayed with glitters are among the unique pieces Kane made ‘in collaboration with myself’ as he wasn’t able to see anyone else.