IMAGE Courtesy of Bethany Williams, shot by Ruth Ossai
Bethany Williams – 12pm
British designer Bethany Williams continues her philanthropic design collaboration with the Magpie Project, a Newham-based organisation supporting children and mothers who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. In 2017, the Project’s founder Jane Williams first became aware of the plight of these children in her community. She sought help from the local authority. She was told by councillors, service providers and commissioners that they had no duty to look after these vulnerable children because they were not in the right catchment area, they were not entitled to help, they were “not our children.”
Williams’ latest collection – aptly titled All Our Children – not only finds its inspiration in the stories and lives of the people she met and worked with there, but also the importance of family spirit in a child’s life. Debuted via fashion film, The video is soundtracked with a poem specially written for this occasion by playwright and writer Eno Mfon. Powerful, moving and encouraging all of us to own up to our collective responsibility for the next generation, her words verbalise the mission of the collection and Bethany’s work at-large. “They say it takes a village to raise a child, And I say, we are that village and they are all our children.”
This is the first time Williams has included tailoring in a collection, and her first move into childrenswear. Through her continuous work with environmental health in mind, she has once again worked with deadstock, organic and recycled materials, much of which was donated by Adidas Originals for this collection. It’s another confident offering from one of the industry’s leading innovators, and the best example to set for fledgeling designers.
Williams is not the only one expanding their range this season, as Irish designer Robyn Lynch premiered her first womenswear pieces. “I’ve always worn the pieces I’ve made, so I wanted to expand the wardrobe and make womenswear for the first time. It’s exciting to explore my language in a new way, with the same point of view, the same humour and sensibility,” she says.
Inspired by Taz Darling’s photographs of the Tour de Ireland in 2008, Lynch has subverted the logo-centric sportwear of cyclists and replaced them with the local brands of her hometown who have supported the young designer since she started her BA in 2011. From lending her her first sewing machine and building displays for her degree show to printing her fabrics, Lynch wanted to celebrate the local community who have always celebrated her talent.
During the lockdown, many of us had to narrow the scope of our support systems and rely on local organisations, communities and families to see through the months and protect the most vulnerable in our communities. Much like Halpern yesterday, Lynch has translated her gratitude into her presentation. The collection launched via a fashion film featuring mixed footage of her local area, filmed by her dad.
Sometimes inspiration can come from the most mundane and unassuming places. For Richard Malone, amidst the ominous, cyclical days of the lockdown, the designer has been drawn to what he describes as “rigorous comfort.” Malone has been reading Ian Reid’s 2016 novel, I’m Thinking of Ending Things (which has also just had its movie-adaptation released on Netflix), and opens his press release with a quote from author: “We’re stationary, and time passes through us.”
The novel explores a contortion and curvature of time, as characters age inexplicably. This sense of the surreal manifests in the collection as hyperextended proportions – exaggerated shoulders as if fixed in a permanent, peculiar shrug, dramatic drapery and rounded, cushioned hips.
Much like Bethany Williams, a significant portion of the collection was created using past-season off-cuts, and Malone continues to push for sustainable innovation in his designs. This collection questioned the form and purpose of clothing, creating “set-like” pieces that you “want to climb into, or run away in”. Or in our case, run straight out to buy.
Over the last few seasons, Portuguese husband and wife duo Marta Marques & Paulo Almeida have garnered a reputation for alternative fashion week offerings – having experimented with the see-now-buy-now-model, cut back on size and number of collections, introduced a diffusion line comprised of upcycled one-offs made from deadstock and in June, for LFW’s test-run at a digital fashion experience, the pair released a documentary about their recycled line.
This season, the pair have decided to skip the clothes altogether. In lieu of a collection, Marques Almeida have launched online zine See-Through, with issue one dedicated to the makers, processes and values that advocate for a more transparent industry. The issue also launches the M’A Environmental and Social Responsibility Manifesto, guiding the designers’ journey to sustainability. To foster transparency, they have pledged to release twice-yearly reports on their website recording their process.
On schedule, they launched the first issue of the zine with the first of a series of fashion films, this one featuring dancer Andre Cabral.
While this fashion cycle has had many designers questioning the purpose of clothing and importance of luxury during a global pandemic, for a brand that had only made its LFW debut this February and started to build its reputation for glamour and opulence, it must be particularly tough. For Federica Cavenati and Marco Capaldo, the pair responsible for 16Arlington, however, they’re taking it in their stride. Rather than feeling that the coronavirus pandemic has stolen opportunity from the label in these pivotal days of infancy, the two have instead taken it as a chance to explore a new way of approaching things.
In comparison to their previous collection, full of marabou feathers and metallic jacquard and Swarovski crystal-encrusted mini dresses, their SS21 offering is much more minimal. In amongst the pastels and colour-pop pink, brown is championed as a softer alternative to black. The duo opted for the shade in surprisingly light leather pieces in an ode to the desire for clothes “that feel really good on your skin.”
The resulting collection strikes a near-perfect balance, creating garments subdued just enough for real-life application while still exciting enough for a LFW release.
In the face of the uncertainty and hardship this pandemic has brought, many designers have reached outwards – expanding their teams of collaborators, relying on the support of their local communities, and then turning the focus of their collections outwards back onto their team members. In his first solo show as creative director at ART SCHOOL, Eden Loweth instead decided to look inward.
Titling the collection ‘Therapy’, Loweth used the lockdown period to really focus on the quality of their garments, and it showed. The collection was an impressive display of tailoring, from military trenches to suits to khaki cowhide coats, along with their usual array of bias-cut slip dresses and A-line gowns. “I wanted something that set out that I’m a sewer and a cutter. I did everything myself. But I could not have done it without all the amazing people who called and checked in every day,” they told Vogue.
The show itself, which was shot several days before and strictly under lockdown rules, was held in Waterlow Park and featured 54 looks. As is very ethos of the brand, the feeling of collective strength, pride, and equality radiated from the models of differing ages, genders, races, sizes, and abilities who emerged from the house to walk in a show of human unity.
“I want to make clothes that make people feel joyful,” Molly Goddard told AnOther in an interview before the show. I have to say, I wasn’t exactly expecting Goddard to refigure her entire design aesthetic to adopt a sombre mood for SS21, although perhaps that would have been more interesting. And while yes, the colourful explosions of tulle that we’re used to seeing plod down her runway are far from scowl-worthy, it did feel a tad out-of-touch to see such a notable designer produce a collection practically unchanged from her previous work, with what appeared as so little introspection and just a blatant ignorance to what a shiter of a year this has been.
Where she has spent her time is with her knitwear, and with denim – the collection included pairs of relaxed mom jeans printed with roses, and a number of knitwear items following the success of her fair isle iterations in February. The new additions to her collection are impressive and a reminder she can do more than just design the same dress – hey, if it’s ain’t broke… But while her classic silhouette and styles are far from needing repair, the lack of reference to our broken fashion system, when many other designers have used this season as an opportunity for radical reconfiguration, left this showcase feeling comparatively lacklustre.
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