Philippa is a first-year BA student and The Courtauldian's fashion columnist. From couture to costume, her weekly articles delve into all things worn. She is an advocate for sustainable fashion and can often be found scouring the web for preloved garments. Please feel free to send her any questions or queries via her Instagram @pippatms
GIAMBATISTA VALLI: BRINGING DRAMA TO THE HIGH STREET
2nd December 2019
H&M has a long track record of collaborations, having worked with nineteen haute couture designers since 2004. This lofty roll call includes the likes of Stella McCartney, Balenciaga and Erdem. The Swedish mega-brand’s latest collection, however, is perhaps the most ambitious to date.
Giambattista Valli is not the first person one would associate with the high street. Opulent embroidery, dramatic chiffon ruffles, and a particular preference for theatrics; the designer’s signature styles are certainly not conventionally everyday. The prices are not either, with ready-to-wear dresses starting at £2,000 and couture from £15,00. It is this very juxtaposition which makes the new line so thrilling.
Speaking to the press earlier this year, Valli commented that he “saw it as a challenge” to adapt his brand for the masses and that it was an “opportunity to do something unexpected.” This ‘something unexpected’ was first unveiled in May when supermodel Kendall Jenner wore one of the collection’s fabulously ostentatious gowns on the Cannes red carpet. It immediately sent the internet into a frenzy, as millions of fervent fashion followers tried to obtain the garment from a mini launch designed to get them salivating. This craze had still not subsided when the full line was finally launched on November 7th; hundreds of people eagerly queued outside Regent Street’s store in a determined attempt to make a purchase.
The wardrobes of those lucky few who managed to secure an item would have seen an instantaneous transformation. The sixty-one-piece collection boasts a range of extravagant tulle dresses that ensure the wearer is the centre of attention during the upcoming party season. One scarlet-red number, widely shared on social media, sports a high-low hem, deep V-neck, and outlandish tulle sleeves. It is simultaneously
Illustration by Himarni Brownsword
romantic and formidable, an outfit well-suited for a feminist reimagining of Mrs Claus. A more wearable piece is a simple black mini dress with embroidered detail and a ‘Peter Pan’ collar. Paired with the right fur coat, a pair of tights, and black boots, it is the perfect fit to walk through the neon-lit streets of London in the winter months.
Valli further rose to the challenge of creating his first menswear range when collaborating with H&M, although he is anxious not to label it as such. “In the collection, there is no man, no woman,” he states, “it is very fluid – anyone can wear it anyway they want to.” This sentiment is particularly convincing in regards to the sparkly sequin blazer placed under the ‘Valli Boys’ line; it would look equally dashing with a leather mini skirt as it would if it was worn by Harry Styles. The boxer shorts 3 pack, however, is arguably not as universal or fluid as the rest of the collection.
It is unsurprising that with such a successful transference of his iconic looks from his habitual haute couture to the high street, Giambattista Valli’s collaboration with H&M has reached both critical acclaim and cult status amongst the fashion crowd. Christmas certainly came early for those who managed to grab a piece.
dressing with dissent
23rd October 2019
The month of October has been one of protest. Dissatisfied with the English government’s response to climate change, swathes of people flooded Trafalgar Square for a fortnight of organised anarchy. A temporary camp was set up and banners bearing the now infamous extinction rebellion symbol flew high above the heads of Landseer’s lions. This logo was also to be found closer to the ground; patched onto the backs of jackets and screen-printed onto shirts, it quickly became the indispensable look of the demonstration. The war was being fought with a wardrobe - and not for the first time.
The use of clothing as a form of protest has a long history that arguably dates back to the start of fashion itself. In modern times, however, the most prolific example is perhaps that of the tri-colour regalia adorned by Suffragettes. Purple for loyalty, white for purity, and green for hope; Emmeline Pankhurst and her fellow nonconformists had a message to say and they told it with what they wore. This campaign was hugely successful; iconic brands such as Selfridges and Liberties were quick to produce striped ribbons that could be easily fashioned onto hats, belts, and rosettes. The colours unified the marchers and their cause was strengthened.
Almost 110 years later, the feminist cause is in its fourth wave and the clothing being worn remains pivotal. A response to the crude remarks made by Donald Trump about his treatment of women, the 'pussyhat' was conceived by avid knitters Krista Suh and Jayna Zweiman in 2016. It was pink, cat-eared, and iconic. The pattern to make the beanie was shared online and by the time of the 2017 Women’s March in America, it had been downloaded over 100,000 times. The following day, broadsheets were emblazoned with images of a knitted sea of pink.
The style of political dress changed again in early 2018 when female attendees of the Golden Globes came together to wear black as a mark of solidarity for the Time’s Up movement. This was in stark contrast to the usual fashion feast associated with awards season and brought about a somber tone to the red-carpet. Some public figures criticised the celebrities involved for what they saw as a ‘superficial’ response to a serious issue. Discussion about sexual harassment was encouraged in the media, however, highlighting the potential impact of dressing with dissent.
It is clear that fashion as a means of protest has contributed in the past to the success of many causes. Regardless of whether extinction rebels know it, they and their heavily logoed clothing are in fact partaking in a long and intriguing tradition of political dress.