fashion month | standouts from the aw21 season

Another fashion month in lockdown is behind us. By now, we have adjusted to the move from physical to digital shows, from seats on the frow to watching from home. This season, designers have absorbed what the world has experienced over the past twelve months and translated it into collections with authenticity at their core. Tackling 2021 head on, the designers did not shy away from the turmoil society is currently facing, using garments to illustrate a wide range of emotions from despair to hope. Here are the designers whose collections stood out, offering thought-provoking visions for the future of fashion and beyond.

Dynamic, personal, powerful — three words that sum up Louis Vuitton’s Men’s AW/21 ‘Ebonics’ collection. It was not a fashion show, but a performance, with models dancing, skating and even flying across the runway. With each piece, Abloh encourages us to look a little closer and allow ourselves to bear witness to the birth of “neo-types” — a generation of individuals who transcend expectations and embrace originality. The aesthetic archetypes of the travelling salesman, the architect and the businessman are deconstructed and redefined. An ode to his African heritage and his career in Europe, Abloh brings business suits to life with Ghanaian Kente cloths which he mixes with Scottish tartan.

Blurring the lines between fashion and architecture, Abloh explores the idea of wearable art. Models wore cityscapes and held bags shaped as planes prepared to take flight. Given the designer’s degree in civil engineering and architecture, Abloh is in a perfect position to celebrate the intersection between structure and style.

This remarkable creativity does not stop at the clothes but is used as a tool to tackle the inherent prejudice faced by minorities. Powerful words by James Baldwin, Kai Isiah Jamal and Saul Williams propel the models forward with the stand-out statement: “as Black people, as trans people, as marginalised people, the world is here for our taking, for it takes so much from us”. ‘Ebonics’ is an unapologetically expressive blend of voices, art forms and is above all an affirmation of strength.

With each ART SCHOOL collection comes a daring step towards a better, brighter future for fashion. More than a brand, ART SCHOOL is a family. Founder and Designer of ART SCHOOL Eden Loweth is committed to promoting diversity and inclusion through their work which aims to break barriers and amplify marginalised voices. Aptly entitled ‘Ascension, ART SCHOOL’s AW/21 collection smashes the glass ceiling.

Emerging from the fog came the bold footsteps of ART SCHOOL’s most diverse cast yet; amongst the models were members of London Trans+ Pride, non-binary stars from RuPaul’s Drag Race UK Bimini Bon Boulash and A’Whora, and Loweth’s close friends.

The looks are simultaneously apocalyptic and revolutionary. Whilst staying loyal to the designer’s signature style with slashed fabrics and cinched waists, this collection uses colours to illustrate a marked difference. Moving from jet-black to vivid scarlet and eventually to the purest of white, ART SCHOOL reveals a journey from darkness through to light. What was explored in ART SCHOOL’s SS/21 ‘Therapy collection has been absorbed, provoking a rebirth: a new chapter. 

“’Ascension’ is designed to act as more than a collection of clothes,” Eden explains. “It is a message of hope. No matter how hard the challenges our community may face, we will emerge from the darkness. Together we will rise.” ‘Ascension is both a tribute to the ART SCHOOL community and an affirmation of the power of using one’s voice. Eden’s work to pave the way for a more representative industry is unrelenting. The future of fashion is here, and ART SCHOOL is at the forefront of this movement.

PH5’s collection is a breath of fresh air. Entitled ‘Sinking into our surroundings’, Zoe Champion and Wei Lin’s latest artistic venture is an exploration of lockdown life. The collection is inspired by the idea of life indoors, with fabrics crinkling like duvets and prints that crawl across the body imitating the undulating wavelengths of our screens. Asymmetric, wavy hems give the pieces an almost liquidus movement. Bright colours collide effortlessly, interlock and play.

The notion of an intrinsic relationship between fashion and technology reaches far beyond aesthetic. This season PH5 has an exciting new addition to the team: AMA, an AI model. AMA not only wears the clothes but acts as a driving force behind their creation as a virtual “chief decision scientist”. AMA is a digital embodiment of the PH5 brand and its values. Unafraid to question the fashion industry and its role in climate change, AMA’s job is to guide PH5 towards a more sustainable future. Sourcing 91% of the collection’s yarns ethically, this collection reveals the brand to be on a promising trajectory.

MM6 Maison Margiela’s AW/21 collection begins with a glittery “fin” banner retreating down the runway. Confetti-covered models move rhythmically as if entranced by the intoxicatingly jolting piano score. MM6 presents us with a world in reverse that reflects a fragmented, topsy-turvy self-portrait of life in 2021.

The pieces are simultaneously old and new — signature trenches are worn backwards, the MM6 label made visible and exposed seams become eye-catching features in their own right.  Calling into question how pieces transform themselves when flipped inside-out or turned back-to-front, the collection presents a refreshing new perspective on the MM6 aesthetic. The result is a remarkably liberated, fluid collection that continually subverts expectations in favour of exploring new avenues for innovation and design. With the reversal of a garment is the revelation of its creation process which shatters the illusion of perfection and reinterprets how clothing “should” look. The raw-edged, drooping shoulder pads of a fuchsia satin blouse illuminate the idea that it is precisely what “should” be wrong that feels so right.

Within this rejection of order, MM6 captures the beauty found within chaos, the extraordinary within the ordinary. Set in a Parisian cabaret, the collection evokes the smoky club culture of les années folles through a present-day lens.

words. Cordelia Speed

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