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“To me clothes are not just clothes. They’re not just pieces of material sewn together. There’s information there and when you consider all the elements that go into it, it’s far more than just a garment.” To a global army of fashion believers, the statement made by Ava Nirui, Digital Editor at Helmut Lang in an interview with SSENSE, might read like words out of a scripture.

Indeed, when it comes to fashion, context is everything. As an example, what sets an Undercover x Valentino sweater apart from a Zara sweater, apart from the obvious quality and price, as well as the labour conditions behind the construction of the cardigan, is the creative and emotional labour that went into building a collection of garments. The references made in a collection such as the aforementioned often comes from a highly personal place, showcasing a designer’s soul, passion and position. As designers, storytelling lies at the heart of the practice, and this often involves making subtle personal, cultural and political statements through their collections. Whilst this season’s motives don’t differ significantly to motives in the preceding decades, their unique narratives certainly are.

Chinese-born, London-based Feng Chen Wang reflected on her lineage, incorporating watercolours of lotus flowers across select silhouettes, which served to symbolize her mother’s strength, as having three children in China when Wang was born was illegal, and her mother sometimes had to hide her pregnancies by dipping low into a local river in Fujian Province, where she was raised. As the lotus flower has its roots in the mud, but rises and grows into its sublime form, it represents the aspiration to rise above and move towards the light. At Charles Jeffrey, the designer sought to communicate a feeling of utopia, making strong allusions to Peter Pan and the Lost Boys —a fitting reference, if one considers Jeffrey’s role as somewhat of a ‘leader’ to the community around him. Whether he’s raising funds to advocate awareness for mental illnesses through his Facebook page or championing London’s queer community through a club night, Jeffrey’s politics of care is now channeled through the context and the ebullient set-up of his collections and presentations.

Christelle Kocher hosted her runway show for Koché in a stadium, inviting not only press, but all the fashion students in Paris to attend her show; presenting a parade of spliced football jerseys and a patchwork of world flags amidst codes of glamour and sportswear. Tied to the upcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup in France this June, the show reflects the spirit of togetherness and global solidarity that takes place during an event such as the World Cup. Like Kocher said to Vogue backstage: “It’s nice as a message, bringing geopolitics together.”

 

Discover the Menswear Autumn/Winter 2019 collections online and in-store at Club21 Forum and Four Seasons.

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