The power of women designing for women - by Susie Lau | Oct 24 2018

The power of women designing for women - by Susie Lau | Oct 24 2018

October 25, 2018

In the decade that Philo was at Céline the female gaze in fashion has expanded and diversified, broadened in aesthetics beyond the singular and innovative vision she proposed back in 2009. What Philo did was fill a much-needed gap, and since then female creativity in fashion has flourished. The void she has left will still be felt far and wide, but in the wake of the loss of one female authored-vision, wearing clothes designed by women, for women somehow takes on a new significance. Those ruched, embroidered and emotive layers of Simone Rocha feel all the more precious. Molly Goddard’s dresses of excess tulle have taken on new, nuanced dimensions, so much so that even psycho killers like Villanelle, portrayed by Jodie Comer in Phoebe Waller Bridge’s hit series Killing Eve, can look deadly in a voluminous candy-pink number. For PR and champion of female designers, Daisy Hoppen, their primary appeal lies in their consistency, unwavering to seasonal trend cycles. “I love how they make me feel as well as how they fit my body,” says Hoppen. “Both designers have a real sensibility and identity from season to season that I find reassuring. I feel happy in their clothes -- it’s that simple! I don’t feel self-conscious even though there could be yards of tulle or cotton and it’s perhaps a strong look -- I just feel good!”

The notion that female designers create for “real” life may be a broad generalisation, but it isn’t an inaccurate one. Especially when you consider the number of independent labels created by women that have sprung up in the last decade, carving out their own niche and doing it with “real” life in tow, designing for practical needs as well as whimsical desires. “I own clothes and accessories also made by men, but I do enjoy the view-point that designers like Molly, Simone, Susie Cave (Vampire’s Wife), Hannah Weiland (Shrimps) and Rejina Pyo give,” Daisy says. “I also appreciate how much they are juggling in their lives -- from children to running a team, travelling and growing up in a changing fashion industry -- they are all things I can understand and relate to.”

Then there are the OG visionaries that have always gone their own way. Miuccia Prada stands in one corner, and Rei Kawakubo stands in the other. Their heft and contribution to fashion aren’t defined within a gendered parameter, but when I personally wear Prada, Miu Miu or Comme des Garçons I can’t help but think of the women who designed the clothes. Their physical images, whether it’s Kawakubo’s razor-sharp bob and perfecto leather jacket uniform, or Miuccia going all out in neon paillettes and her quotes about the significance of the skirt, are indelibly etched into your brain when you make that Prada or Comme purchase.

For hardcore CdG aficionado, editor and creative consultant Michelle Elie, Kawakubo’s mindset and thoughts play as big a part in her wardrobe choices as the physical aesthetics of the clothes. “I find a certain peace and freedom wearing the clothes,” Elie says. “I no longer need to play the part of being chic, classic, trendy, elegant, sexy... Rather, I’m being myself without any set of boundaries.” Wearing clothes created by women doesn’t necessarily negate the male gaze, but a Comme des Garçons jacket, say, from their recent spring/summer 19 collection, slashed at the stomach to reveal a gentle bulge, does its best to put feminist concerns in the spotlight. “She always made it clear that she designs for strong women who are not afraid to be different and do not dress to please a man,” says Elie. “I totally identify with this ideology. It has become part of my world in fashion.”