I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free––Nina Simone’s soul song played through at the end of the Marques’Almeida show that effectively closed London Fashion Week.
Models with afro hair walked the runway at the Old Truman Brewery on London’s multi-cultural Brick Lane and the mannish, forceful freedom of the geometrically patterned clothes all suggested the current, modern layers of this ancient city.
While not perfect as a show, it was an exceptional presentation expressing the raw spirit of the area and its designers––even if Marta Marques and Paulo Almeida are Portuguese in origin. That offered another wry reflection on Brexit, their adopted country’s voted departure from the EU and the uncertain future for fledgling designers, like this pair, to attend British fashion schools.
The winners of the first LVMH Young Fashion Designer Prize in 2015 have moved on from the shredded denim that seemed to be their fashion calling card. Although Paulo explained backstage that denim still featured “a little bit, ribbed and brush stroked.”
But mainly the story was of geometric checks and stripes, made in big shapes and worn with confident bluster. With the opening outfit a red and black striped oversize jacket––with a suggestion of hot brand Vetements––worn over slim black and white striped trousers, the designers made a strong statement. And that continued with giant sleeves and with a zippered sweater, its striped top opening to bare the shoulders.
Black and white stripes and checks were followed by large polka dots, always giving the impression that everything was designed with a compass or a set square.
“The whole thing with graphics is mainly from Malick Sidibé photographs,” said Marta, referring to the Mali-born photographer whose black and white pictures from the Sixties and Seventies are being shown at London’s Somerset House. They were also the inspiration of Antonio Mara’s show in Milan in September 2016.
For Paulo, the lure was the color blocking and graphic effects, but for Marta there was a further story. “I think it is a time to speak about diversity––it makes sense,” she said.
“Sidibé’s photography was all about youth in the Sixties, celebrating in their best clothes and best earrings. It made sense for us to do it now with all those different girls in our casting.”
The duo admitted to a sense of mixed references between the photographs, Nina Simone and the song By Ourselves from artist Blood Orange, which features lyrics paying tribute to hip hop star Missy Elliott as an inspiration to black women.
This is why fashion people from across the world come to London. And the fact that Marques’Almeida have moved forward, producing tailoring and bold mixes of checks and frills, shows how fruitful it was for them to win the LVMH award that will have another voting panel at work this month in Paris to unearth more burgeoning talent.