Autumn/Winter 2015-16 Jonathan Saunders

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The pop architect Robert Venturi once said, “Less is a bore,” and Jonathan Saunders’s latest collection was a no-holds barred homage to living an amplified life in optimistic technicolor.

Saunders has recently secured investment in his brand, and although most of this collection must have been designed before the cash injection had landed, this was a case of art imitating life; if “life” is sweet and “art” is unfettered joy, that is.

His latest was a complete departure from his last collection. The spring/summer 2015 offering was introspective, conceptual even, and yes, Saunders could be critiqued for inconsistency from one season to the next, but he isn’t interested in repetition and his true talent lies within his ability to shape-shift. Saunders is a generous designer. His collections are offered up with an open vulnerability. If his designs had a catch phrase it would be, “Take me as you find me”, and as such this collection was unmistakably him.

There was that trademark, tense duality between the formalist and the fetishist; the dresses with bracelet sleeves and high-funnel necklines had a prim restraint which was twisted with lace-up, over-the-knee kinky boots. Colour wise this was an ode to outré. The op-art prints were varied and clashing, riffing on a modish Sixties swish. Saunders had been inspired by the artists which he referenced at the beginning of his career: the pop art of Allen Jones and Bridget Reily.

The sound track to the show was George Michael’s Careless Whisper. “I love that song, it makes me happy,” he said backstage. “I went back to thinking about why we do what we do, why I design, and look at my face,” he said, backstage. “I’m happy, that’s what this collection is about. Optimism.”

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Autumn/Winter 2015-16 Hugo Boss

Polished, industrial, sharp and serious – one can’t help but think that ever since Jason Wu took on the helm of Hugo Boss this time last year that the aesthetic has filtered out onto his own eponymous line. As we saw at the start of the week, his namesake label was less full of the flounce and frou that it once was. And Boss is about a certain precision, a heritage luxury brand. That said, among the silhouettes today there was a renewed softness – rounder shoulders, a play on proportion and panels for lithe dresses and leg-of-mutton sleeves.

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Caught on Fishnets

It’s a fishnet fall—but not necessarily the full, sexy, boom-boom kind of a season this time round. Somehow, the idea of large-scale mesh took over entire looks in the Spring shows—in collections as completely dissimilar as Simone Rocha’s and Balmain’s—not, I think we will agree, fashion at its most wearable. But these cues have a way of sinking in and popping up somewhere else. And now the useful form has arrived: May we suggest the fishnet sock? Yes, as tiny and inexpensive a purchase as they are, this is the moment when a pair of fishnet socks will sneak an inordinate amount of pleasure into a daily repertoire. As the days turn draftier, they’ve turned into a perfect styling flip: great as a New Wave–ish device for glamming up the gap between turned-up denims and spiky pumps; a neat surprise when flashed with trainers; or—if the eccentric-lady mood is upon you—worn as the fully visible knee-high version, with a skirt.

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To trace the thread of how this minor trick hit critical mass, we only need to glance at Proenza Schouler’s Fall show, where the web of intrigue began with the label’s large-scale, chunkily knitted tights and socks. By the Spring collections, fishnets were popping up at Maison Margiela and Ashley Williams. Just a footnote to fashion, of course—but one to have plenty of fun with right now.

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Autumn/Winter 2015-16 Whistles

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Whistles is a contemporary fashion brand, based in London.

Led by inspiring CEO Jane Shepherdson, Whistles encapsulates an intelligent sense of design with timeless and luxurious pieces. Collections are modern and laid back with an attention to detail and quality.

Chief Executive at Whistles, Jane Shepherdson is the figurehead of our brand. Originally from Bristol, she studied in London and worked as Brand Director at Topshop. With an uncanny ability to know what women want to wear, she has been working her magic at Whistles since 2008. Here, we find out a bit more about her world.

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Can you describe what you do at Whistles?
The most important part of my role is to establish the direction, the aesthetic, and what the brand stands for. The designers and buying teams create each collection, and I keep checking in with them to ensure that we are all still working towards the same vision. They’re totally involved in what they are doing, but I can be objective, and from that position, I can see the shape of it – the big picture, as it were. The role also involves making decisions on where and when to open new stores, both in the UK, and abroad, and how best to invest for the future.

What would you say the Whistles aesthetic is, then?
It’s an effortless way of dressing. It is unique, there’s an insouciance to it, a sort of ‘I just threw it together and it worked’. That’s what we try to encapsulate. It is easy and laid back, but also luxurious.

Is that quite a modern way of dressing?
I think it is. We try to create collections that tell a story through design, fabric and colour, but also where each piece stands up on its own, and can be worn in a myriad of different ways. It isn’t too formulaic. Each season we decide what will be the most covetable pieces that anyone would want to own.

They’re pieces women can slot into their wardrobe…
Yes, that’s important – but we also want to provide solutions. Often, if women are going to some kind of event, they panic and buy something totally out of character. What we try to provide is a dress that is special but interesting and contemporary as well. It might be a purple lace number but it will have pockets or a big thick zip down the back. They’ll be something about it that will look cool rather than overdressed.

Have you seen women wearing Whistles on the street?
I increasingly see women in Whistles. I love it – I always want to say ‘I know where you got that.’ I was at an event recently and happened to notice the woman in front of me. Right from the shoes up, every single thing was Whistles. I tapped her on her shoulder and said ‘you like Whistles, then?’

Is it inspiring when you see real women wearing it?
Oh yes, I love to see how different women style our clothes, as it is a brand that can be worn in so many different ways. I love that each summer, I notice Whistles dresses from two or three years ago coming out. That means they weren’t just one season, trend-driven items. They stand up on their own and have a timeless quality.

How else do you keep up with what women want out of their clothes?
I spend a lot of time out visiting the stores seeing what they look like and experiencing what customers experience. Because however much you look at numbers or a sample on a rail, there’s no substitute for being in the shop and seeing it as the customer does. I watch people, I butt in, I start serving.

So you could be in a Whistles store and be served by Jane Shepherdson?
Definitely. There’s nothing I like more than asking people what they think of things.

Is there anyone you have in mind when thinking about the Whistles woman?
We love Sofia Coppola. She’s creative, intelligent, stylish, very understated, confident. You have to admit she is pretty cool! We always think of women who are creative and intelligent as well as being stylish. That’s quite important – Whistles is an intelligent choice. We’ve been described as ‘the thinking woman’s fashion brand’, and we quite like that.

How do you feel about being a role model to younger women in fashion?
Young women in this industry need female role models, so although it feels a little odd, if I can help more women to realise that they can achieve their ambitions, then it is worth it. This industry employs over 80% women, and yet in the boardrooms, they make up less than 10%. It’s women’s fashion – it just doesn’t make sense to me. I am always keen to talk to students, both to offer them advice, but also to hear things from their point of view.

Did you always know you wanted to work in fashion?
Yes, but I knew I couldn’t design. I think when I was about 14, my mother, who was a Biochemist, said one of her students was a buyer and described what it was. It really clicked with me, I had no idea that jobs like that existed. I thought ‘yes! that’s what I want to do!’ I was 22 when I got my first job in fashion. I had really short hair, and my favourite outfit was pair of DMs, black tights with a pair of brown velvet hotpants and a vintage jacket.

While your style may have changed, you still love fashion. What keeps it exciting for you?
I think it’s the ever changing nature of it, the way that trends develop and grow, that nothing is certain. Fashion is the thing that gets us up in the morning – interpreting trends and creating something unique that will work for a Whistles customer. That’s really exciting and that’s what I think is really intelligent design. I love that.

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