Under the arches of a crumbling old station in London’s East End, with the trains whooshing by, Portuguese duo Marques’Almeida sent out their most coherent and uplifting show so far – without compromising their fashion codes.
At least half the ‘models’ were friends from the local community of grungy – but increasingly gentrified – east London. Many of the clothes were mock-glamorous, as in a fluffy ‘fur’ coat that was in fact made of feathers. Or striped dresses deliberately set at askew angles.
With Dolly Parton on the soundtrack and a multi-ethnic cast, there was a feeling that the designers were following fashion’s chaos theory: that if everything is fast enough and cool enough, it will turn into a sharp show.
“It’s this weird connection with every woman around the world in all these crazy different circumstances,” Marta said. “It could be like a mum of three in middle America living in a trailer park; or it could be an artist; it could be a retired woman. There’s all these crazy references coming in, and it just builds on that. So yeah, there are Americana references and Oriental references. It was a very messy approach, but – as always – it’s about who they are; their personalities. I think we had 44 girls and 35 of them are Marques’ Almeida girls that we find and that we’re friends with. It’s about how we put it together in the end.”
The entire show seemed to cross continents: a denim jacket patterned with a flower vase and blooms; a Gallic gingham dress with a pair of cowboy boots climbing towards the thighs. A pair of gold striped circus boots were teamed with a tailored oversized jacket.
Listing the looks that came out pell-mell does not explain the energy of the show, its feeling of freedom and fun, while retaining clothes that are wearable and desirable.
Marques’Almeida seem so far the only winners of the LVMH Young Fashion Designer Award who have managed to grow slowly and steadily afterwards. Denim – say an oversized smock and baggy pants – is still the core of their business, but with many other looks added, especially striped ones, both straight and at an angle, even when knitted.
But why Dolly Parton? As a symbol of a strong woman who, in this 21st century might not stand by her man?
“The whole idea of an American vibe made sense – struggling women,” said Marta. “And Dolly Parton is what I have been singing to get my daughter to sleep.”
Like strands of human hair, as fine as any brush could produce, threaded fabric was turned into dresses, jeans and even shoes. This was the first live runway show of Faustine Steinmetz, the French designer who was one of the last to train at London’s Central Saint Martins under the late Louise Wilson.
Instead of a presentation of each outfit, the models walked the catwalk proving that Steinmetz’s aim is increasingly to use extraordinary materials and treatments – while making the clothes themselves seem streamlined and normal. As ever, the designer believes in ecological treatments, especially for denim – the processing of which is often the cause of so much pollution.
Although the clothes showcased exceptional developments in material, like a blue and white jacket in silicone, with a soft and squidgy scuba-like texture, this time Faustine focused more on a coherent display of clothing. For example, there was a dress with flowered patterns as on a tablecloth using roses in red and yellow, although that seemed less striking in its originality than the rest of the collection.