My first great love was a New Forest pony named Pippin. I would wrap my arms around her neck in a field in the middle of nowhere and question those who told me “when you discover boys, you’ll forget all about horses” as I twisted her mane into a neat row of bobbles. Oh, how we laughed.
Two summers later Pippin became Pip, and I had physically and emotionally outgrown her. Now all that mattered was whether or not Daniel would notice me on my way to PE in a pleated netball skirt (which had been phased out of the school uniform at least a decade before I insisted on wearing one). Sadly, Daniel was in love with my friend Kate, and Kate had a really great pair of combat trousers which she wore on weekends. Being the younger version of the rational woman that I am today, I swiftly bought myself a pair because it was obvious to me that it was the multiplicity of pockets that were inspiring his affections. Let it be known I was single for the next three years, which in teenage years is 50.
During this time I loved many people. Pop culture became a dartboard for my lust. There was Drazic from the television series Heartbreak High, who had an incredibly appealing eyebrow ring and lived in a warehouse. I started talking out of the side of my mouth because Leonardo DiCaprio did in Romeo and Juliet. I loved Damon Albarn in the music video for “The Universal”, Jeff Goldblum in The Fly and my geography teacher.
When I reached the sixth form I fell in love with a boy named Tom who wore dungarees and a rainbow-coloured jumper to school. He read me poetry under the weeping willows in a corduroy patch-sleeved blazer. Poetry that could make the trees blush. He was known throughout the universe as Beautiful Boy. Tom once took me to the Natural History Museum on a date and told me he loved me by the fibreglass reconstruction whale. He even said, “By the whale, I love you.” I dumped him shortly after this incident.
When I was younger I was in constant danger of falling in love. Like running along the side of a pool, it was only a matter of time before I slipped and fell in. It was all such a lark! But on one occasion the lifeguards were off duty, and ever since then I’ve been more of a slow wader, to varying degrees of success. Currently, at 34, I attend on average five weddings per year. Alone. Beautiful, inspiring, moving weddings. Close friends marrying close friends in far-flung places that take months or years to plan. And as these couples slow-motion down the aisle under confetti showers, I’m there clapping and smiling and crying and planning where to stand to catch the bouquet.
A few years ago in an interview I was asked to describe what love feels like, and for me at the time it was a matter of fact: “Love feels like there is nothing you can do about it.” I was younger then – and smugger – but even on the other side of it, I believe that statement to be true. There’s nothing you can do about love, so while I’m here waiting to slip and fall in again, I’m going to buy myself a pony.
At the (literally) blossoming 6-month pregnancy mark, I am faced with the undeniable fact; as I expand, my wardrobe shrinks. Each morning I open my once adored treasure chest of a wardrobe, hoping for inspiration for a stylish maternity get up. Instead, a mocking abundance of items looks back at me, taunting, reminding me of my pre-pregnancy self. Admittedly, it does not help that I am a clothes hoarder, still ardently possessing T-shirts I have had since I was 14 – that are the perfect shade of washed out black, may I add.
Always quietly relishing in the title of #effortlesslystylish in my pre-pregnancy days, I miss the freedom to chuck something on and feel, well, myself I suppose. However, two trimesters into growing my little human, I’ve turned a corner in the daily wardrobe battle. Although it’s been a journey, and not always a comfortable one, I am slowly learning how to navigate and dress my ever-expanding bump.
It does not help that the offering of stylish maternity wear is limited and seemingly revolves around functionality. Trusty tops that enable you to whip out a breast in one swift move, jeans that go up to your nipples and practical waterproof coats with 10,000 mum pockets. My main gripe lies with the wrap dress, with which I am currently engaged in a love/hate battle. I wish I could be one of those glowing women floating around in a gorge wrap dress from Réalisation Par, tanned with beachy hair and the perfect bump. Don’t get me wrong, I tried, but what looked back at me in the mirror told a slightly different story. Less beach babe and more beached whale. Turns out wrap dresses make your already growing boobs look less abundant earth mother and more like something bordering on the obscene.
Whoever says you won’t need to buy clothes when you’re pregnant is, quite frankly, lying. Your body grows, thickens, expands, swells and it does this all over. You will even need to buy new underwear (Marks and Spencer’s wireless bralettes are a must) and new tights (HM, always). The largest items in your wardrobe will be tight in places you never thought of; even your feet can go up more than one shoe size (and this can last post preggo).
Thankfully, I am no Meghan Markle, all eyes are not on me whilst I go about my day to day or, in Meghan’s case, cradle my bump on stage. However, as I become this ever-growing vessel, who is refusing to give up fashion along with booze and soft cheese, it has become imperative that I find a way to accommodate my growing body and still feel myself.
Here are a few essential items I have in my preggo wardrobe:
– The Stretchy Dress
The stretchy dress is easy to wear for everyday dress up or dress down. Zara have curated a corner on their site which houses all
the current collection that works for your maternity bod (game changer – kudos to Zara). My black ribbed number with exaggerated sleeves gives major Morticia vibes, working both with Converse as well as a chunky hiking boot.
– The Over-Sized Anything!
Before I was pregnant, I wore a lot of oversized dresses and jumpers. Ganni has saved the day for my maternity looks as any pieces I buy now, I know I will wear post pregnancy. Sister Jane also has great selection of oversized smock dresses with a modern silhouette at guilt-free prices.
– Maternity Jeans
An essential investment for everyday, Topshop do a great range that grow with your bump. These will see you throughout your
– A Coat
If you want, like most people in winter, to actually do up your coat, you’re most likely going to have to invest in a new one. This
has been the season of the oversized puffer, which works in any pregnant person’s favour. Never the understated wallflower, I
naturally invested in a leopard-print knee-length puffer from Whistles that feels practical without being mumsy.
Few designers are such kindred spirits as Claude Montana and Gareth Pugh: the former, the rockstar of eighties fashion; the latter, the anarchic spirit of London subculture; both united by their love for razor-sharp tailoring and an architectural silhouette. So, there was little question in the mind of Byronesque founder Gill Linton that, if someone were to oversee the re-issue she was organising of Montana’s original work, it ought be Pugh. “The attention to detail, cut and craftsmanship that went into creating Montana’s collections was meticulous and couture-like – and when you think of pioneering and meticulous cut and craft, (and let’s not forget dramatic strong silhouettes), Gareth is an obvious choice,” explains Linton. “I knew there wasn’t anyone else we wanted to work with. Luckily, he said yes.”
Her invitation fortuitously coincided with Pugh’s decision not to show a new collection for the first time in 13 years, choosing instead to focus on projects outside the rigorous confines of the fashion cycle. “I’ve made it no secret that I’m interested in a world of things that lie outside the natural remit of a fashion designer; being part of the wider cultural conversation has always been at the heart of how we roll,” he says. “And the time felt right to assert more control over my creative output, and diversify the end result of some of our work – fashion, creative direction, stage design, film – whatever it might be that gets us up in the morning. The Montana project is just part of this new way of working.”
Launching today on Farfetch, the 11-piece collection that embodies Pugh’s newfound freedom reprises some of Montana’s most iconic pieces and has used even the same manufacturers as the originals: the leather dress embroidered with an eagle, originally from 1979, has been re-made using one of only two remaining machines of its kind, guided by the same women who were around the first time. “It’s an epic piece!” reflects Pugh. “The time we spent trying to get the embroidery just right was well worth it.”
The assembly of the capsule has been a labour of love – the house of Montana has not maintained a particularly extensive archive, and so much of Pugh’s research has revolved around studying old fashion show videos and editorial shoots to reconstruct the garments as they originally were. Equally, as Linton reflects, “While the collection is an exact reissue of past Montana designs, this isn’t an exercise in nostalgia. It is very important that the brand and the collection is honoured in a very contemporary way.”
Here, Pugh outlines what it is that makes Montana appeal to him so particularly, and how the process of re-assembling his work has operated. And stay tuned: while Pugh might not be showing this season, he’s got plenty in the pipeline (not least including a Queer Fantasia commemorating the 50th anniversary of Stonewall and a new venture with Virgin). But, in his truly dramatic style, he says “If I told you now, I would have to kill you.” See, kindred spirits indeed.
What appeals to you about Claude Montana as a designer?
I’ve always been drawn to Montana: his work challenged convention and managed to equate power and seduction. I feel he never fetishised women, he celebrated them, and that is key – especially today.
How does his aesthetic resonate with your own?
There is a strong sense of discipline in Montana’s work – he was a renowned perfectionist, and the razor-sharp tailoring, impeccable styling and sense of drama are all things that resonate with me and my own work. It’s also interesting to note that Montana started as a costume designer, as did I, and you can see how that sense of drama permeates his aesthetic. Obviously the structure and volume, and the almost architectural rigour of his work is something I really appreciate.
How much of the collection is a direct re-issue of his work, and how much is of your design? Have you directly reconstructed the archive pieces?
The collection is predominately made up of archive, but we were only lucky enough to find a couple of physical samples – and only one that we were able to copy directly. The House of Montana sadly doesn’t hold an extensive archive of their previous styles, so it was painstaking work studying old fashion show videos and pictures as well as editorial shoots from magazines of the time in order to reconstruct everything as it once was. It was a real labour of love.
What makes Montana feel relevant for today?
The legacy of Montana is one of aspiration and dreaming. His shows were always a theatrical presentation – I’ve even heard them described as ‘high mass’. I’m naturally drawn to fashion that serves as a counterpoint to reality, something that is aspirational, or offers fantasy and escape. It is something I think we all need a little of in the world in which we live today: the power of dreaming.
The 2019 Grammys ceremony was truly a gift for BTS fans everywhere. From an unforgettable Dolly Parton singalong to another stylish walk down the red carpet, the K-Pop group was having the best night at one of music’s biggest events. And to top it all off, they took to the Grammys stage, presenting the award for Best RB Album.
Following a red carpet appearance that had them shouting out their fans, BTS again shared their appreciation for members of their fanbase. Before presenting the award, the band noted how they had long dreamed of attending the ceremony. “Thank you to all of our fans for making this dream come true, and we’ll be back,” the Grammy-nominated group noted.
It’s unclear what exactly the group meant by their promise to return, but social media is already excited at the possibility of seeing BTS again in the future. “THE PROPHECY IS OUT THERE,” a fan wrote of the appearance. Another Twitter user speculated about the many possible meanings, writing, “So….. WE’LL BE BACK AS IN…. WE’LL BE BACK TO PERFORM or….. WE’LL BE BACK FOR GRAMMY NEXT YEAR or….. BTS COMEBACK ALBUM…….”
So….. WE’LL BE BACK AS IN…. WE’LL BE BACK TO PERFORM or….. WE’LL BE BACK FOR GRAMMY NEXT YEAR or….. BTS COMEBACK ALBUM…….
— ✩ LY ? ✩ D-54 | I SAW BTS ? (@jungkookreally) February 11, 2019
In addition to celebrating their Grammys appearance, fans couldn’t help but notice another special aspect to the award presentation. As H.E.R. took to the stage to accept her Grammy, she bowed slightly to the singers. “Her did a little bow to Bts and that was so cute. We love artists who respect other artists cultures,” one fan tweeted. While another person called it “the cutest and most respectful thing of the night.” And while the group may not have walked away with the Grammy for Best Record Packaging, it’s clear that the night was certainly one to remember. And as we already know, they’ll be back.
Her did a little bow to Bts and that was so cute. We love artists who respect other artists cultures.
— ? Esme ? (@palettehyuna) February 11, 2019
This article first appeared at TeenVogue.com.
Ariana Grande might have given attending the Grammy Awards a miss, but there was no way she was going to lose out on the sartorial opportunity events such as these permit.
Last week, it was announced that she would no longer perform at the 2019 awards show in Los Angeles owing to creative differences that the singer explained felt were stifling her “creativity self expression”, all centering around her desire to perform her record-breaking “7 Rings” track.
With such a change coming at the last minute, Ariana was left with a custom ballgown by Zac Posen to wear but no place to go. So, lounge at home in the dress she did.
And then Ariana turned the moment into a true fashion photo opportunity. “When @zacposen makes u a custom gown it doesn’t matter if you’re singing or not” she wrote about the series of images that sees her posing in piles of angelic baby blue silk.
While she might have been at home, the ceremony celebrated her work by awarding Ari her first ever Grammy for Best Pop Album.
It’s a shame that a gown as gargantuan as this has missed out on its red-carpet potential, but has instead become an icon of the JOMO moment. If FOMO was once a thing now it is all about the joy in missing out, dressing up and staying in in all your finery instead.
I think Ariana just defined luxury…
The fifth and final series of Poldark may have just wrapped but Eleanor Tomlinson is not going anywhere. The 26-year-old actress who made her name playing Demelza Poldark is mid-leap from British television to Hollywood screens, having recently starred as the hypotenuse in a love triangle opposite Keira Knightley and Dominic West, who play a married couple in Colette. 2019 looks bright: she is set play the leading role in BBC One’s three-part adaptation of The War Of The Worlds opposite Rafe Spall.
BAFTAs 2019: Red Carpet Dresses
BAFTAs 2019: Red Carpet Dresses
Naturally, she navigated this weekend’s BAFTA Awards 2019 schedule like a pro. Enlisting the services of Rebecca Corbin-Murray, the stylist whose roster includes Brit break-out stars Lily James, Jenna Coleman, Gemma Chan, Laura Carmichael, and Raffey Cassidy, she hit Friday night’s BAFTA film gala at the Savoy in inky black Ralph Russo velvet with an organza train. For Saturday evening’s Chanel pre-BAFTA dinner, she donned Chanel’s second-skin crepe cycling shorts and a collarless jacket, paired with De Beers jewels.
A day later, she paid another visit to Ralph Russo’s Mayfair townhouse to don a one-shouldered column couture gown, which boasted a sugar-mouse pink, custom-dyed neoprene bow (bows, incidentally, are everywhere this awards season) and a curving graphic black velvet stripe as well as an embroidered panel chock full with 1800 Swarovski rosaline crystals
and 1500 metres of rose metal plating. For Vogue and Tiffany’s Fashion and Film party later than evening, she switched into a refined Victoria Beckham look: silk camisole and smart black trousers with Tiffany jewellery.
The look was leading-lady polished – something she’s been working on with Corbin-Murray, with whom she first collaborated two months ago. “We first worked together for Eleanor’s Colette premiere where she wore custom Tom Ford,” says Corbin-Murray. “She loves keeping it clean and simple – ideally in tailoring. The aim is always a cool, understated look.”
Crafting a signature style takes time, but Corbin-Murray is quick to point out Eleanor’s adventurous spirit. “I loved that she worked Chanel cycling shorts on Saturday, Ralph Russo couture on Sunday followed by some elegant Victoria Beckham tailoring – she’s not afraid to play with her look and switch gears.” She’s dedicated, too: for December’s Fashion Awards, when she wore JW Anderson chainmail, Tomlinson joked “underneath I had heat packs everywhere”. Those who dare…
Fun, fabulous and future-proof,” says retail queen Marigay McKee, referring to what others might describe as ‘retail’s last hope’. She was talking about New York’s Hudson Yards, an area of Manhattan overlooking the High Line and which is destined to be ‘a landmark project in experimental retail’ when it opens on 15 March.
The difference between this mighty project and the city’s many department stores, some teetering on the brink of closure or collapse, is that Hudson Yards is supposed to encompass the new retail concept of ‘experience’.
You won’t just amble through rows of restaurants or pick out something to order (cheaper) on line. Instead McKee – whom I knew first as a powerful luxury manager at Harrods in London – has been hired as strategic retail adviser to bring her savvy to the Hudson Yards development.
“It’s about making the magic happen with tech, commerce and aesthetics,” she says. “The new brand concepts are based on experience, environment and emotion – all three aligned to get the real engagement of the consumer and to create an emotional connection to the brand – and the ethos behind it.”
She has made sure that enticements to the zone will include many different categories. In fashion, there will be a focus on tightly edited collections, rather than on the designers, and an embrace of both digital and actual store presence.
Art will play its part, with The Shed, a new arts centre for Manhattan’s West Side, and retailer Four Five Ten, offering a multi-brand edit of stylish art and architecture.
With a Neiman Marcus to prove that the department store is still alive and thriving and a hundred shops gathered in a glass ‘box’, this is a bold new shopping world.
I have not yet been able to see the full scope of Hudson Yards, located between 10th and 12th avenues and spanning West 30th to 34th streets.
This supposedly ‘swanky and sexy’ neighbourhood of 18 million square feet – both commercial and residential space – is being developed by Related Companies and the Oxford Properties Group.
The fun bit, even as it is still under construction, is The Vessel, a free-form futuristic vision by the adventurous British designer Thomas Heatherwick. I have yet to mount The Vessel’s 154 interconnected flights of stairs, or the 100 floors of the observation desk at 30 Hudson Yards, to the highest man-made viewing area in the Western Hemisphere.
This vast area, with its affluent fashion-minded neighbourhood residences, sounds like a city utopia for the 21st century. “I am positive about the future of new experiential destinations that focus on dining, exercising, working, living and shopping,” says McKee. “All in a community-style vibe, which is what Hudson Yards embodies, atop the High Line on the west side of Manhattan.”
Let’s hope it works, because rethinking retail is not just desirable, but essential, so that our city centres remain vibrant places to live and work in. Especially in America. And the digital revolution is surely much more than a problem to be solved by sharpening up stores. It is a tsunami that has already swept through cities and out-of-town venues, particularly in the USA, where, on a recent visit to California, I saw so many empty or abandoned shopping malls blotting the landscape.
When I was looking at the figures for an article in Vogue Business, I was shocked by the fact that traffic to malls and other major retail centres has fallen by 25 per cent since 2012 alone, leading to a mass shuttering of stores across the US.
But I saw some signs of hope, paradoxically from European stores that embraced a fresh attitude to retail long before the new millennium.
Retail original: Dover Street Market, Los Angeles
What could be more dramatically different to the retail attitude on Rodeo Drive, the epicentre of the Los Angeles big-brand stores, than a visit to a downtown area of crumbling buildings that are being taken over by digital and movie start-ups.
In this new arts district, where an abandoned train track may soon replicate Manhattan’s High Line, I found at the junction of Imperial and East 6th Street a long white wall with a small triangle-topped sign reading: ‘Dover Street Market, Los Angeles’.
Inside, two vast, abandoned warehouses had been transformed by Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons, the force behind her husband Adrian Joffe’s DSM stores.
She has always – from London to New York – designed the shops herself, but completely differently. The one constant is the mix they offer: pricey and reasonable, male and female, and always encouraging visionary designers to create a fashion community.
I was immediately struck by the high, open space, the mix of street style and unexpected pieces of art. (Think of animalistic skeletons with sharp white tailoring).
The impression was not so much from the clothes themselves, whether it was Gucci florals or CDG (Comme’s own label) or Maison Margiela’s Galliano collection among names that, as a fashion editor, I had not yet registered. Nike and as-yet ‘nobodies’ had equal space. Overall, it was exciting, intriguing and often mouthwatering.
“CDG and its 18 different brands are the cornerstone of the stores, but DSM is just as much about sharing our space with other brands, designers and people who have something to say and a vision to fulfil,” says Joffe. “Whether we give them their own space to design, they share space or do an installation or have a contemporary shop, they are an integral part of DSM.”
I asked Joffe how he thought this retail ‘magic’ worked.
“If there is magic, I guess it is the combination of us: Rei designing the overall architecture and all the CDG spaces,” he explained. “I and my incredible teams fill in the blanks, find the talents, make the choices and imagine the events and installations.”
He continued: “For me, being free is doing your own thing, not following the crowd. In that respect, Gosha and Chanel are as cool as Brain Dead or Doublet. There is enough so-called luxury in LA already, so the accent is more on young creative talents like Marine Serre, true streetwear, LA artistic T-shirt brands, mixed with designers like John [Galliano] at Margiela and, of course, Prada and Alessandro [Michele] at Gucci.”
Joffe and his team constantly change the content, because the element of excitement and surprise is so important. But how is it possible that, while retail in America is in such turmoil, CDG can makes things swing, as it has done for at least three decades? Joffe’s reply was humble.
“I cannot be sure about what we are doing right,” he said. “I am fond of saying that it is pure luck or just karma and that we only do what we want, and that there is no plan.
“It was really tough for the first five years. Nobody could understand what we were and what we were trying to do. Maybe now the times have caught up with us and it’s our time.
“What we propose, and what we do, is about freedom of expression and creations; the importance of conversation and the individual inclusivity without borders. We have a sense of humour, giving the opportunity for chance and accident to happen and for synergies to occur by throwing all kinds of different things together in a constantly changing physical space. That is not possible online, and perhaps something that the big department stores have forgotten to do.
“I can’t remember the last time I was surprised or had a good laugh in a big store. I think what we offer is possibly what people need in these scary, uncertain times, when isolation and powerlessness are being sensed more than ever. It is important to be – and feel – connected to positive energy.”
Making Seaport Sing: 10 Corso Como In New York
With Hudson Yards about to open, there is another area in Manhattan where retail is moving forward: way down to the base of the city, near Wall Street and across the river from Brooklyn.
The Seaport District seems an unlikely setting for a concept store, but that is where Carla Sozzani was wooed by the Howard Hughes Corporation for her first New York store, in the historic Fulton Market building.
“Carla is the best expression of what I believe works in retail today, because you can’t just have traditional retail. You have to create an experience,” David R Weinreb, CEO of the corporation, told me two years ago.
“I always said that the mark of a great leader is someone who has the power to know to reach out to the people who are smarter than they are and do it better. That’s why we need someone like Carla,” he continued.
So how does the district look now? Tang from the water, swooping birds, tourists and not too many stylish shoppers in view are reminders of the courage of Sozzani when she opened a store in Milan nearly 30 years ago at an absurd location behind a garage.
By the time a jungle of shrubs had filled the courtyard, books had joined the carefully chosen clothes and both a restaurant and an art display area were opened. Now, the entire street took on a new fashionable perspective.
Can Sozzani, whose partner Kris Ruhs creates both avant-garde jewellery and stylish interiors, pull off the retail miracle again?
“It was in New York in the late 1980s and it was so vital and so inspiring that I got my idea: a living magazine,” Sozzani explained.
“Editing is my passion,” she continued. “In 1990, after 20 years as an editor in fashion magazines, I wanted to create a living magazine, where communication would be immediate. At that time there was no internet, no direct dialogue. So instead of turning pages, I sought a promenade through different experiences: art, fashion, design, music, books, food…”
In Milan, in Seoul, in Tokyo and now in Manhattan, the duo has done just that, with the decorative modernity of Ruhs. That includes his striking jewellery, his distinctive shapes on shopping bags and ceiling decoration that required making 500 separate lights by hand.
Born in Queens and raised in downtown New York, Ruhs wanted the store to respect its surroundings.
“I think it is crucial to have a craftsman and the building dictates what happens in it,” Ruhs said. “It’s a great street, it’s interesting and it’s a whole little community in a city. It’s like early Soho.”
The visual artistry is the essence of this downtown store, where exquisitely curated clothes lead one way to an art gallery and in the other to a fine Italian restaurant. On my three visits, the footage has been that of an art space: light but purposeful.
Rome, as they say, was not built in a day. For Weinreb and the Howard Hughes Corporation, the arrival of this store is a signal that the move from once-busy port to artists’ refuge and then tourist colony is under way. The area is having a massive overhaul, with the idea of building over time a cultural hub for everything from music through art, mixed with commerce.
The store is in itself a work of art that, if it could ever tempt the Wall Street bankers over the Seaport’s cobbled streets for a little R R, might find the same success as with the Italian experiment.
And Sozzani has dedicated herself to this new retail venture in a tough and digitalised retail world.
“I immediately fell in love with the area and the building – to be able to walk, with no cars, the water and the historic fish market building – the enthusiasm, as in Milan, all those years ago,” she said.
“I don’t think offline or online change the editing approach. They are both about sharing a point of view,” she continued. “Today, there are two ways of shopping: very fast online, or a slow service offline, living an experience where all your senses are involved, where you feel that you share the same values.”
The fashion industry has a short memory, so it’s easy to forget (or, if you’re young enough, to not have known in the first place) that many of the ideas proffered up by buzzy brands – luxe utility, urban deconstructionism, post apocalypse-chic – are concepts pioneered by Helmut Lang in the late 90s and early 2000s. In some ways, the AW19 show is a reclamation of that legacy; a reminder of who got there first.
This season also marks the runway return of the brand, absent since SS18, when Hood By Air’s Shayne Oliver took on a one-season role of “designer-in-residence”. Now under the editorial direction of Alix Browne, the founding editor of V Magazine who took over from Isabella Burley, it is Mark Howard Thomas’ designs that will be under scrutiny as he takes the reins permanently as creative director, having already made an impressive menswear debut for the brand. Vogue met the designer ahead of the show, on a bone-chilling morning, while he and Thomas Cawson, creative director of Helmut Lang Jeans, wrapped up the runway looks in their white-walled studio in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District.
“I wanted to focus on something sartorial,” says Thomas, handsome with his Caesar haircut and salt-and-pepper beard, wearing an off-white button-up shirt. “We’re coming out of a period where there’s so much sportswear and logos, and relaxed fabrications, tailoring should almost feel like you don’t have anything on. To wear a jacket and not feel constricted, [that] is where I want the tailoring to go.”
There’s an incredible sense of rigour and specificity in his designs; jackets feature sharply gesticulated shoulders and an upright, ceremonial feeling. The colour palette is classic Lang: black, white, and grey with pops of cherry red and bubblegum pink. There are also plenty of allusions to some of Lang’s signatures – transparency, a fascination with workwear, a hint of fetish and kink – like some sexy undercurrent beneath the tailoring’s restrained façade. Cawford’s denim is more formal too, as a result of wanting the denim component to feel part of the whole and not, as he puts it, some “weekend” proposition. Other items, like the clear plastic “jeans” and denim screen-printed by artist Josephine Meckseper, add a graphic, conceptual appeal.
But it was Joseph Beuys’ 1970 sculpture “Felt Suit” that Thomas refers to as his key inspiration. “It’s an image I’ve always loved, and I love Beuys as an artist,” he says. Hanging close by are an overcoat, a five-pocket trouser, and a trucker jacket – all in a flecked grey, the outerwear unlined – directly informed by Beuys’s work. The garments have a sculptural quality and, simultaneously, feel like a sly wink; Thomas has taken traditional denim pieces, like the trucker jacket and trousers, and reimagined them in more formal fabrics. They feel familiar but special, which is the point.
“These are all garments you relate to, these aren’t wacky clothes,” he says. “It’s about creating new suits.” Demonstrating Thomas’ foundational idea of a “new suit,” a model enters the room in a severe black coat and matching trousers, with an opaque organza shirt. The jacket and trousers are made from moleskin, giving the look heft and density, but without feeling overly precious. At the knees are patches of tuxedo satin, adding a dimension that’s at once strange and alluring. He likes the idea that over time the moleskin will fade, giving the look an aged, worn-in patina.
Modular dressing is a phrase and concept that Thomas keeps coming back to – a wardrobe that just fits together, like building blocks, in interchangeable “sets”, for both men and women. (After all, Lang championed androgyny long before today’s gender-fluid movement.) There’s an undeniable ease and logical appeal to that, like the sensible answer to the overwhelming choices that online shopping and Instagram feeds have wrought.
Still, there are moments of, if not eccentricity, then subtle ostentation. The blouse and trousers set in a nubby, fluid metallic silver, for instance, come across as both robotic and sensual. There’s a creamy silk jacket with a wool fringe that adds a lush textural element, and a double-faced alpaca jacket in forest green with a detachable collar that can be worn in a variety of ways, or transform into a cape. “There’s a lot going on in this jacket,” says Thomas, smiling bashfully.
Being at the helm of a beloved, trailblazing label like Helmut Lang comes with its own set of challenges, not least the weight of its legacy. “People have such great memories of the brand,” says Thomas. “They still remember that coat or those trousers; people even request things!” But the designer, for his part, is not allowing himself to get too bogged down in nostalgia, or indeed the archive. “There are so many interesting codes and DNA to the brand; I think it’s about taking them and deciding how you make them relevant for today. We can’t be what it was in the 90s.”
Helmut Lang’s influence is still strong, and Thomas and Cawford have leveraged it in ways that relate to the current climate, as we navigate the digital age (don’t forget, Lang was well ahead of the moment; he was the first designer to show a collection online back in 1998). Their vision – monochromatic, austere, a fashion look reduced to its essence – flies in the face of the current mania for visual excess, ironic ugliness, and streetwear’s slouchy, oversized fits. It feels like a breath of fresh air. Suddenly, tailoring with such precision looks incredibly dynamic. Or as Cawford puts it: “We’re tired of meme fashion.”
While the Duchess wore a pair featuring dramatic South Sea pearl drops that were once a favourite of her mother-in-law Princess Diana, nominee Glenn Close wore Cartier Évasions Joaillières shoulder dusters that came alive as she moved. Viola Davis also went for sparkle-enhancing movement with Fernando Jorge’s Disco earrings.
Cate Blanchett provided a welcome splash of colour with her Christopher Kane gown of giant coloured ‘gems’ that were brought to life with real coloured gemstones from Pomellato. Laura Harrier wore a Bulgari brooch in her hair featuring black onyx, emeralds and Mandarin spessartite garnets that perfectly complimented her orange Louis Vuitton dress.
Salma Hayek once again proved her red carpet chops in a black velvet Gucci gown paired with a beaded headdress and giant lizard brooch that few could carry off with such elegance. She wore jewels by Boucheron to complete her look.
On a night that brings together movie-star and real-life royalty however, it was left to Michelle Yeoh to wear a necklace fit for a queen. She channeled Crazy Rich Asians glamour with an incredible necklace from Moussaieff that centred on a 74 carat fancy yellow diamond.