Financial Times Europe - 19.09.2019

(Jacob Rumans) #1
Thursday19 September 2019 ★ FINANCIAL TIMES 7

British designers offer

their own version of
sustainability, with clothes

that have enduring appeal,
writesCarola Long


Prada SS

In Milan, Miuccia Prada
championed simple,

sellable clothes and the
power of personal style,

writesCarola Long

Prada provided the first major show of
Milan Fashion Week yesterday. It was
held within the complex of the Prada
Foundation; the show space had been
designed by Rem Koolhaus’ AMO studio
with glossy, geometric floor tiles. Per-
haps Miuccia Prada shares the Insta-
community’s tile obsession.
Last season’s show had a dark tinge to
it, with a horror theme that saw painted
images of Frankenstein’s monster, mod-
els in stompy boots with Wednesday
Addams-style plaits, and lashings of
black lace.
For SS20, however,Mrs Prada was out
of confrontational mode and back in a
more pared-down, retro chic mood.
Sometimes she pushes the boundaries
of taste and sometimes she just offers
lashings of lovely clothes that would
slide seamlessly into most wardrobes.
This season it was the latter.
“The main idea is that the person is
more important than the fashion,” said
Mrs Prada backstage. “It’s about per-
sonal style, more style, less useless stuff,
but things that are meaningful to the
person.” She acknowledged fashion’s
dilemma that we need to consume less,
without jeopardising jobs and industry.
As a business, Prada is working on its
ethical credentials. In May, the brand

announced that it would no longer use
fur in its products, starting from this
season. Other sustainable changes
include a plan to replace all the luxury
label’s virgin nylon with a recycled ver-
sion by 2021.
However, this didn’t feel like the col-
lection of a designer who is disen-
chanted with fashion; rather it was a
paean to simplicity and clothes that will
last for years.
There were plenty of vintage Prada
tropes: the princess coats with big but-
tons, in shades of brown or slightly fur-
nishing-style fabrics, knit skirts and
vests in a geometric pattern, 1960s
inspired suits, and ’40s resses.d
Mrs Prada knows how to do a killer


lthough London Fashion
Week offers an escape from
the realities of the world,
only the most hardened cli-
mate change denier could
ignore the urgent ecological questions
that were hanging over theSpring/Sum-
mer 2020 showsthis week.
Environmental activists from Extinc-
tion Rebellion were a constant presence
outsideshows over the weekend calling
for an end to the event. They picketed
Victoria Beckham’s show at the Foreign
and Commonwealth Office on Sunday,
holding placards bearing slogans such as
“The Ugly Truth about Fashion” and
“Fashion=Ecocide”, before wrapping up
London Fashion Week with a mock
funeral procession on Tuesday evening.
The group was pretty effective in
questioning theraison d’être f the indus-o
try. Of course they are right that the
fashion system needs to change — as do
consumer attitudes — but in what way,
and how quickly that will happen in
reality is up for debate. It’s a discussion
that some designers and brands are
more directly engaged in than others.
The British Fashion Councildidn’t
heed Extinction Rebellion’s calls to stop
London Fashion Week, butit has contin-
ued to address the need to help fashion
become more green. The event’s open-
ing breakfast was staged amid ts Posi-i
tive Fashion exhibition — a showcase for
designersfocusing on sustainable prac-
tices. One label involved was Re:code, a
Korean fashion brand that repurposes
and upcycles old stock from major
brands to create new garments.
While sustainability can entail recy-
cling, or using fabrics and dyes that are
less harmful to the environment, some
designers and consumers are looking at
other ways to approach it such as buying
high-quality clothes sparingly. Michael
Halpern is known for his use of sequins
— made from plastic and aren’t eco at all
— but he said he had thought this
through and that his clothes are
intended as lasting collector’s pieces.
This season, he was inspired by Bar-
bra Streisand in the filmFunny Girl, and
the show featured ultra-glamorous
1970s trouser suits, flares and draped
evening gowns covered in crystals and
sparkles, in deep red and gold, and a
blue and white fish print.
While it might not be a sufficiently
radical strategy, several other designers
were also offering what they hope will
be future heirlooms. Erdem’s muse this
season was Tina Modotti, the 1920s star
of silent films turned communist agent,
and he created alovely collection of long
gowns with puffed sleeves and ruffled
hems with a magical Victorian meets
Mexican alchemy. They came in an
array of spicy shades, wallpaper florals
and vibrant scarf prints.
Simone Rocha placed emphasis on
craft and tradition: her romantic, ruf-
fled and embroidered organza dresses,
some of which were overlaid with hand-

made macramé and raffia aprons, drew
inspiration from the Irish Wren boys
who would hunt the wren on St
Stephen’s Day, and knock on people’s
doors to sing for money.
Christopher Kanedubbed his show
Ecosexual and explored the idea of fet-
ishising nature through floral printed
blazers, skirts and tabard dresses as well
as black dresses with cutaway sections.
Kane’s clothes are so original, that
somehow it futureproofs them against
looking dated.
In New York last week, some of the
best received labels were the ones that
offered wearable, timeless designs;
there seemed to be a move towards
wearability in London too, with a sense
that clothes need a practical purpose in
the wardrobe to be worth buying.
Victoria Beckham s known as a go-toi
for smart workwear and formalwear,
and this season’s show was full of real-
life clothes where the sense of fun and
frivolity came from colour rather than

any fussy detailing or cuts. Beckham
said of her collections that, “I only ever
put out there what I want myself,” and
there was a strong identity to her mix of
eveningwear, separates and tailoring.
Highlights included fluid silk
dresses in apple green, biscuit, imperial
purple and black, as well as tailored slim
flares in a mix of checks and neutrals.
The slim flare is theformer Spice Girl’s
new trouser shape and you can be sure
that if she considers it flattering, leg-
lengthening and bottom sculpting, then
it probably is.
A palette of neutrals, combined with
amped-up pastels and brights, was pop-
ular with several designers. Roksanda
had toned down her signature strong
colour clashes with neutrals, and bal-
anced the feminine shapes with more
masculine tailoring and shirting. Rejina
Pyo has fast become a hit with fashion
insiders for her feminine clothes with
artsy twists. This season she offered tai-
loring in rustic, neutral shades such as

brown and beige linen, as well as zingier
looks like an apple green puff sleeve
dress with mismatched, handmade but-
tons. Her designs evolve from season to
season rather than ricochet from trend
to trend,making them more enduring.
After her show the designersaid she’d
been working with green fabrics such as
organic cotton and recycled polyester.
As well as the environmental crisis,
the uncertainty of Brexit is looming over
the fashion community in the UK. Not
many designers were overtly addressing
the upcoming crisis: when Riccardo
Tisco was asked about it, he said he sees
fashion as a fantasy. Certainlythe Burb-
erry showitself was a departure from
the real world. His highly commercial
collection of streetwear, eveningwear
and more classic Burberry tailoring was
shown on a fairly extravagant set featur-
ing a large white metal installation, and
a mirrored curtain that rose up as the
show started. It was certainly a confir-
mation of Burberry’s new, slick chapter.
A smaller, but very effective spectacle
was on display as part of Anya Hind-
march’s presentation for her new Post-
box bag, which features a technically
impressive vintage clasp like a letter-
box. She had a red maze installed inside
the Brewer Street car park, which was
prompted by an MC Escher mural
designed for The Hague Post Office. Not
only was it a sustainable maze — as the
walls are re-used for conferences and
other events — she has been thinking
about slowing things down. She said
that the postbox theme was a look at
“the slow art of communication. We are
all firing off emails and texts and don’t
think about the way we communicate. I
wanted people to get lost in the maze.”
Of course there was a certain irony in
just how Instagrammable the maze was.
The accessories designer, who
launched he I Am Not A Plastic Bag totet
in 2007, takes a practical view of sus-
tainability. She said: “I think the envi-
ronment is this generation’s war. It’s
hard when you are a business, because
you have to make changes quickly but
also not destabilise the business because
that isn’t responsible either. There’s a lot
of hysteria; it’s about trying to find out
what really makes a difference.”

A slow fashion revolution

Clockwise from top left: Erdem; Victoria Beckham; Christopher Kane; Simone Rocha; Roksanda; Burberry Jason Lloyd-Evans—

black dress with a twist, and this sea-
son’s versions came in tiered black silk
with a tie at the back of the neck, and in
gathered chiffon in a knee-length1940s
shape. Accessories included clumpy
loafers with oversized snaffles, ladylike
bags, and sensible sandals.
Prada is in the process of turning its
business around, and posted its first
annual increase in sales for five years in

  1. However, reversing years of slid-
    ing revenues is certainly not proving an
    overnight process. Maybe a chic, com-
    mercial collection like this — tapping
    into the heart and soulof the Prada
    brand, what Prada co-chief executive
    and owner Patrizio Bertelli has called its
    cultural heritage — is just what it needs.

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