Hi there! I'm Nikki, a stylist and blogger from Glasgow and I’ve been asked to guest write for HOWSTE.
For as long as I can remember, fashion has fired my imagination and coloured my dreams. I grew up customising my Sindy doll’s clothes and plastering my bedroom walls with torn out pages of Vogue and Elle. This suffused my creativity and awakened in me an innate love of fearless fashion. After a corporate career in Future Trends, to say it's my dream to be reporting from the FROW at London Fashion Week is an understatement indeed. But that's enough about me! Let's get on with the FASHION!
PAUL COSTELLOE AW19 | BATTLEFIELD TO BALLROOM
“In times like these, belief is more relevant than ever before…” ~ Paul Costelloe
From the foyer of my hotel, directly across the street, my heart lurched when I spotted the queue of fashion folk snaking round the corner, from Simpson’s on The Strand, to The Savoy. Careering across 4 lanes of London traffic, like Carrie Bradshaw on 5th, I joined a gang of fashion friends to anticipate the Great Man’s Autumn/Winter show! Queuing during the morning coffee hour never felt so exciting!
And we were not to be disappointed! Vying for the best view in the jam-packed, yet beautifully intimate setting of Simpson’s upstairs rooms, we finally settled down, as the velvety strains of Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams” began. Arresting, haunting and perfectly atmospheric for the delights to come. As the show title, Battlefield to Ballroom, suggests, this was a collection heavily inspired by the exquisite, military precision of uniform tailoring, executed in pure Italian wool. But that was only half the story. Militaria morphed seamlessly into softer, tailored tweed pieces, from jackets and skirts to babydoll dresses, adorned with frills. Then came the escape to fantasy - ballgowns and full-length prom skirts in rich, autumnal tones, and florals in what appeared to be taffeta, velvet, silk and leather.
As a self-confessed leather-lover, the first set of looks were a joy indeed! Costelloe, the master-tailor, created military-inspired jackets, skirts, leggings and dresses in lustrous leather, often sexily paired with thigh-high boots.
Silhouettes exuded femininity and strength all at once: nipped-in waists combined with angular, almost 80s-inspired shoulders, hinted at a no-nonsense woman more akin to giving orders than subject to them. A decidedly welcome narrative, wholly in line with the zeitgeist rise of women, following years of “hashtag me too” subjugation.
While there’s no denying that sharp tailoring can improve posture, imbue a certain professionalism and even disguise unwanted lumps and bumps, there’s nothing like a chic, off-duty weekend look to top the style stakes. A heavy dogtooth tweed, full-length gilet was seen cinched with a belt-bag, and worn atop a soft knit and leather leggings, with the lustworthy, modernity of a street style star!
Opulent, mill-engineered velvets, in autumnal golds and rich rusts brought a lustre to dresses and jumpsuits, while 2 seafoam velvet looks stepped out beyond the dominant colour palette.
Amping up the 80s were rich, red blazers and coats with gold frogging and those enduring shoulders. Daytime scarlet militaria gave way to abstract burgundy and black patterns for evening, while rose-strewn ballgowns ushered in the romance.
To the lilting lament of “I can’t stop loving you” the brocade parade did glide! Rich gold and black, floral, brocade ballgowns were fit for a princess - a very modern princess! Many had corset tops, drop waists and full, gathered ballgown skirts that hinted at release from the austerity of war and a hopeful vision of a future full of fun and frivolity. Backs were adorned with bows or cutaways, while under-shorts were added (one assumes) to accommodate the crotch-high split in what was, of course, my favourite look of the collection - black leather vest teamed with split-front ballgown skirt. Exquisite!
All in all, hearts were captured - this was a victory for womanhood. Mr Costelloe, we salute you!
LIVIA TANG AW19 | TEA CEREMONY
Brotherhood of Tang: A Celebration of Sibling Love with a Cuppa on the Side London-based contemporary brand, Livia Tang, drew inspiration from historic images of twins in a celebration of the special bond between siblings. Opening the presentation, at Fashion Scout near the heart of Covent Garden, guests were offered a ceremonial blend of jasmine tea to enjoy during the show. Models, in beautifully-styled, Geisha-inspired makeup and hair, elegantly moved around the set, taking turns to participate in the Tea Ceremony set up on stage.
There’s an undeniable innocence and childlike charm to the collection, not least, as expressed in the socks and sandals worn by every boy and girl! Necklines are high and hemlines demure. Loose-fitting pieces, like slip dresses, midi skirts and rompers, defy gender-assignment, adding a modernity and another hint of childrenswear in places.
The brand subtly hints at the powerful relationship between twins using double-side fabrics in houndstooth check and ivory linen jacquard. Every element, from the floral tapestry to the patchwork to the traditional weaving technique employed in the top-stitching, is carefully designed in tribute to the longevity of sibling love.
Given the androgyny of much of the collection and styling, the colour palette is surprisingly traditional with sweet pinks and an especially strong blue in dominance. That said, the more muted tones of terracotta, peach, navy and black, ensures the collection does not present the “girls wear pink” social norm that most of us have been brainwashed into accepting.
Honouring the long-lasting attachment of brother-and sisterhood, the brand employs mainly sustainable, natural Japanese textiles like linen, tweed, wool and cotton blends, while all the beading and trimmings are made with natural materials and processes, such as jade, shell and cord.
In counterpoint to the soft, loose tailoring, models were made up in strong, Geisha-like makeup with accompanying gravity-defying hairstyles. Hot pink eyeshadow blended into cheekbones and applied in central stripes to lips created a pretty nod to traditional Japanese culture. Black-painted dimples for the girls added yet another hint at the innocence of childhood. Bows were in abundance on skirts, in hair and even on some of the sandals, echoing a trend which emerged at the SS19 shows.
The whole collection was beautifully presented while onlookers snapped happy and drank the sweet blend of tea offered on entry, models ‘played mother’ at the ceremonial tea table, blowing bubbles into the crowd and reenacting the traditional Way of the Tea. A wonderful collection by Livia Tang.
I-AM-CHEN AW19 | UNCLASSIFIABLE
i-am-chen Delivers a Colour-Lover’s Delight - It’s Knitwear, But Not As You Know It! For a 2-year-old brand, creating only its 5th season, i-am-chen’s Unclassifiable collection, unveiled at Fashion Scout during LFW, exhibited the level of polish and maturity of a well-established fashion house. Inspired, by twentieth century artist, Agnes Martin, expert knitwear designer, Chen, identifies with the intrinsic tension in their respective work and processes. Martin is widely considered to be a minimalist for the simple repetition of line and form, however, she herself identified as an abstract expressionist, due to the spiritualism most prevalent in her post-1967 work.
As a die-hard colour lover, I can’t help but classify collections by their dominant colour palettes. Bright, primary colours have returned to many a catwalk this season, possibly in response to the complex political and social environment we’re currently experiencing. Across the world - from Brexit to Trumpism - there’s little clarity in our immediate future. Primary colours, however, are the purest, simplest visual expression. They are the wellspring from which all other colours emanate. Often associated with children - their toys, paintboxes and drawings - perhaps they offer us a psychological reassurance that the world at large cannot. Or maybe they’re just eye-catchingly beautiful, especially when expressed, as above, in graffiti prints and sporty stripes!
There’s no denying that pastel colours can be a little insipid in the wrong hands! I’m a HUGE fan of pastels, but I prefer when they have significant saturation levels and not too much white, so that the resulting tints are more power, less powder puff, like these looks above. Mixed as they are with a deep blue, or an acidic green, they are every bit as powerful as the primaries.
Incidentally, the look I wore to the i-am-chen show was top-to-toe lilac (below). Technically a pastel, but I hope you’ll agree, I was anything but a shrinking violet!
What I Wore (Above)
The pastel theme carried through, mixed with strong brights, in these über-geo patterns. By layering checks over stripes, pitching diagonals against verticals and playing with proportion, Chen creates a modern, visual language [I first experienced at her SS19 show in September] that I very much adore!
Colour blocking was most prevalent in the two dresses above, where it was integral to the garment and clearly defined in building-blocks of colour. This motif played out through the collection, however, in both individual pieces (below far right and far left), where the ‘blocks’ were more like swathes of colour, and in the styling, where tops and skirts of different hues were teamed with scarves, socks and accessories in bold, clashing brights.
While Chen’s work may look as though it’s beautifully stitched together using traditional garment construction, in truth, she employs the latest, most innovative techniques, on state-of-the-art knitting machines, to create fabrics all in one go into a single piece. Working with world-class technicians, Chen pioneers nascent textures and fabrications to bold and beautiful effect. Incorporating her disarming brand logo into the fabrics adds a modernity and freshness to the collection. Every detail is considered, from sock cuff to scarf hem, or integral to a dress fabric itself.
There’s no doubt this multi-award winning designer is one to watch.
JUNNE AW19 | A DRAMA GIRL WITH A BEWITCHING HEART
Junne’s London Debut Fascinates the FROW with a Kahlo-Inspired Collection. Renowned Chinese knitwear brand, Junne, made its London debut at Fashion Scout with a sensational collection inspired by the work of Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo. This influence is perhaps most evident in the skeleton motifs which pervade much of Kahlo’s work.
Frida is said to have kept a skeleton above her bed as a humorous reminder of human mortality! There was, however, nothing macabre about these vibrant orange pieces, perhaps because life and death are intrinsically linked in Mexican culture - they’re simply considered equal elements in the cycle of life.
With the iridescence of fly wings, these metallic knits wafted down the runway, catching the light and mesmerising the gathered fashion swarm. Ribbed midi skirts styled with matching shoulder-revealing sweaters were just sexy enough, while high-necked, long-sleeved pieces were paired beautifully with palazzos or joggers for the ultimate in chic, modern comfort dressing. My favourite of these was the playfully-proportioned, balloon-sleeved, kimono dress, cinched at the waist with a monochrome belt, for that perfectly feminine silhouette.
Designer, Junne Lau, is an expert in the art of knitwear! She builds each piece by taking a single strand of yarn and weaving it into 2-D textiles, then constructing these into 3-D shapes. When the lilac and orange sweater and coat swept past me in the FROW I literally gasped out loud! It’s just SO beautiful! I love the unusual colour palette and the large, turquoise-coloured rivets that pierce these garments as if by an industrial-strength hole-punch! Sitting beside me, as I gaped open-mouthed, Brian James [@brianjamesstylist] uttered: “That’s so you, eh?'“ in his inimitable east-coast brogue! Brian - I concur!
It was back to bone-crushingly beautiful skeletal references for the show-stopping finale. Four brilliant white pieces, created from yarn shaped to form a bone-like texture, produced what I saw as the most achingly modern bridal looks. I’m imagining them combined - maxi cape over cocoon dress, or peplum top paired with a maxi skirt in matching knit - for a future-focused bride to be. I’m married already, but maybe for our 5-year vow renewal, Mr O?!
CASSEY GAN AW19 | PIXELATED
Colour and Print Collide in Kaleidoscopic Layers at Cassey Gan Inspired by UK-born artist, Tim Braden. Cassey Gan’s first foray into warmer winter wear features artful brushstrokes in bright primaries and original prints that evoke the post-impressionist aesthetic of the artist’s recent work. Indeed the collection’s name, Pixelated, seems itself to be a digital form of the painting technique known as pointillism, as mastered by the likes of George Seurat, Paul Signac and Camille Pissarro.
These cheerful, clashing prints and brilliant colours somewhat bely the designer’s comment on the relentless pace of the fashion industry in the digital age, where all too often the pressure to produce is at odds with the desire to create and perfect. These influences aside, the label delivers another cohesive, beautiful and utterly modern collection, where comfort and style are equally valued. Silhouettes and styling were essentially loose-fitting and midi-to-maxi in length with a couple of notable exceptions, where hemlines rose and waistlines were cinched with a bow or ruched with an integral belt.
Many looks were heavily layered in wool and padded fabrics. Stripes and checks (even tartan!) were paired with painterly prints and whimsical, cloud-like graphics to playful effect. These overlaid patterns clashed in a variety of textures, while the colour palette of rich autumnal hues retained the continuity of a well-thought-through collection.
Anyone who knows me will know that I’m a self-confessed jewellery junkie! These stunning pieces by Bremen Wong were like icy stalactites adding shimmer and a splintered-glass-like texture to each look. They provide the perfect foil to the loose fit and soft fabrication of the collection. Congratulations Cassey Gan on a killer collection.
Well, I hope you've enjoyed my highlights from LFW as much as I enjoyed curating them! For many more show reviews, and to check out my personal style, visit NikkiOjiWears.com and follow my Instagram.
Bye for now fashion fans!