Six months after fleeing to Paris in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, designer Anna October was back in Kyiv, putting the final touches to the spring 2023 collection she will show on Friday.
To sum up her state of mind, October conjured the words of British poet Vita Sackville-West: “Small pleasures must correct great tragedies, therefore of gardens in the midst of war I bold tell.”
In that spirit, she described the collection as “Anna’s pleasure garden,” in a nod to a wild plot of land that she had planned to turn into a garden shortly before the conflict broke out.
Flowers and plants were translated into breezy, flirty layers and hand-knit elements inspired by antique window dressings she discovered in the archives of the Ivan Honchar Museum of folk culture in Kyiv.
“I like the fact that it’s original [and] has these roots, a touch of my culture and identity,” said October, who hails from the southeastern Ukrainian town of Zaporizhzhia, where she studied tailoring and pattern cutting before moving to Odesa to enroll in its prestigious Grekov Art School.
October said her wider focus is cementing her 12-year-old label’s reputation as a “date-ready brand,” although she admitted it was “hard to speak about femininity without clichés.” She’s been approaching this challenge by “offering a story to live in” and seeing clothes as “ways to please yourself with how you look.”
Having made the shortlist of the 2014 LVMH Prize for Young Designers, the brand is now carried by more than 30 retailers worldwide, including Ssense, Moda Operandi, Galeries Lafayette and 24S, which stock October’s designs at prices ranging from 250 euros for a top up to 800 euros for her more elaborate dresses.
Going forward, she wants to continue to split her time between Kyiv and Paris, where she had planned to move to further her brand’s international development.
A newly loved-up couple might discuss living arrangements or getting a pet. For French designer Constance Boutet and Spanish photographer José-Maria Solanes, the conversation quickly turned to starting a fashion label together.
“I was a bit frustrated at not having [my own] brand. We had a very good connection in our aesthetics and it made sense,” said Boutet, a graduate of Esmod and Institut Français de la Mode who goes by the name “Coco” to distinguish herself from an earlier eponymous label that focused on printed silk shirting and dresses, launched in 2011 and shuttered in 2015.
“Nothing is more thrilling than adding another mind to the mix,” she added.
Cue Boutet Solanes, which takes a genderless approach, as they are both interested in “dressing a person, rather than defining what femininity means” for a customer they imagine as “a bit geeky, single-minded in what she is doing and always interested in something.”
Boutet said the brand’s aesthetics were inspired by muses like Mia Farrow in “Alice,” Sigourney Weaver in “Gorillas in the Mist” and Tilda Swinton. “[They] come with a sense of freedom, independence and are self-sufficient,” she said. “They enjoy their time on their own, they are connected with themselves. They’re strong that way.”
The fourth collection will focus on stones and shapes, peppered with mineral-inspired details, from shine nodding to mica inclusions to pockets big enough to “store your special finds,” in a nod to Boutet’s own proclivity for collecting stones and minerals when she is out and about.
For their spring 2023 presentation on Thursday, the pair imagined a set-up inspired by archeological sites to “present what they dug up” for the season with the help of live models and a projection of the collection’s film.
Florentina Leitner will be “bringing Austria to Paris” when she makes her debut physical presentation at cultural and creative hub 3537 on Oct. 2.
Trained at Vienna’s Fashion Institute Hetzendorf, where she specialized in knitwear, and Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts, she was settling into her first job at the Dries Van Noten studio when her surreal graduate collection started to get traction.
“After, like, four months, I got more and more attention from press and stores asking if they could buy [it],” she told WWD. “So the question was whether I should give it a try or stay in this safer environment with a cool design job.”
She took the jump in February 2021 and hasn’t looked back since.
Celebrities such as Kylie Jenner, Lady Gaga, Charli XCX and Sita Abellan flocked to her floral catsuits and fluffy gorilla knit coat with an Op-Art swirl, or the pointy molten-looking sunglasses made in collaboration with Belgian eyewear brand Komono — a must for Leitner, who “always liked the ‘full look’ approach in Antwerp.”
Leitner was invited to show her work digitally on the platforms of the New York and London Fashion Weeks, and open the spring 2021 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Berlin. Next up is Paris, where she will show her fourth effort, titled “Oh, Dear!”
A deer print that will appear in the collection was made in collaboration with Dutch artist and graphic designer Rop van Mierlo, and Leitner will also reintroduce knitwear, one of her fortes but a field that she’d moved away from during her training at the Royal Academy.
Retail prices for the label range from 260 euros for sunglasses to 500 euros for silk slipdresses and up to 1,000 euros for a furry coat with a 3D flower made from stuffed toy specialist Steiff’s famous “teddy bear” mohair.
Paula Canovas del Vas
For 2022 LVMH Prize semifinalist Paula Canovas del Vas, presenting her collection on the official Paris Fashion Week schedule on Thursday is testament to life’s mysterious ways.
“It’s funny because everything kind of started in Paris,” said the Spanish-born, London-based Central Saint Martins graduate, whose résumé includes stints at Maison Margiela and Gucci.
After her 2018 graduation, she “was very broke” when the head of her master’s program introduced her to Palais de Tokyo director Vittoria Matarrese. The resulting exhibition caught the eye of Kanye West and led to a three-year consulting stint that saw Canovas del Vas work on Yeezy, Sunday Service and even West’s short film directed by Spike Jonze.
Describing herself as “very product focused,” she puts the accent on comfort, even for her most striking designs, such as a buzzy horned shoe. Her label has 35 stockists, including Ssense, London’s Browns and Maxfield in Los Angeles.
For her Paris debut, she will invite guests at her presentation in the Instituto Cervantes cultural center to “eat the collection” in an installation nodding to Peter Greenaway’s 1989 film “The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover” and artist Sophie Calle’s monochromatic diet.
Expect many of her signatures as Canovas del Vas “is learning that repetition is also key,” including a sandal version of her Diablo shoe. Her clothes will focus on helping “women to feel just comfortable [and] good about themselves” thanks to strategically placed rip-cords that shape proportions and volumes.
She hopes people will feel light after experiencing her universe, but “at the end of the day, we’re an industry that creates products and experiences. Whatever journeys those shoes take people on, or whatever experiences they have, is up to fate,” she concluded.
Chinese designer Ruohan Nie says “design is the only thing I’m good at,” but it still took a twist of fate to arrive at her Wednesday debut presentation at Paris Fashion Week.
A 2020 graduate of the Parsons School of Design, she was working at upscale multibrand retailer La Garçonne in TriBeCa when she took part in the China Institute Fashion Design Competition, which led to a meeting with Tasha Liu, founder of fashion retailer and emerging talents support program Labelhood, and Coco Wang, director of marketing and communications at Lane Crawford.
“[If they] hadn’t pushed me, I wouldn’t have my own brand,” said Nie, who came up with a mini collection for fall 2021, which sold to eight retailers in China.
The designer then returned to Shanghai to work on her spring 2022 collection and signed with Paris-based Boon showroom for international representation.
The brand counts some 23 domestic points of sale and six international ones, which carry a range priced from 300 euros for a top up to 1,200 euros for models in craft-intensive or laser-cut textiles.
Ruohan’s “effortlessly chic contemporary minimalism” also caught the eye of entrepreneur Wendy Yu and the Yu Prize jury, netting Nie the 2022 Creative Impact Award, along with an introduction to the French fashion federation.
For her spring 2023 collection, Nie was inspired by “wax as a media” and candles. “The first image that came to me is Renaissance painters using candles to paint because they are [working] in caves or in churches, with very dim lights,” she said, explaining how she translated fresco painting techniques into textile versions.
Accessories, first introduced for spring 2022, will also be included, although Nie is cautious about expanding her categories too fast. She has also developed a range of candles with a China-based lifestyle brand.
“It’s important to have the lifestyle with clothing, especially in the social media era [because] everyone wants to know where or what occasion that outfit could fit into,” she said.
“I can’t help it, I have to create,” French designer Vincent Garnier Pressiat told WWD after his 2021 debut. He had launched Pressiat, named after his mother’s maiden name, when France’s first lockdown left him out of work.
His spring 2023 collection, to be unveiled at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, marks his first on-schedule slot at Paris Fashion Week. The spirit is “Marilyn Monroe [meeting] Iggy Pop in the 1950s,” he said.
“I love Old Hollywood glamor,” he explained. “Those were flourishing years for women creatively, but they were also very repressive.” He is similarly attracted to the Victorian era, a time of “perfect elegance, an in-between of letting go and being buttoned up.”
Those influences are distilled in various ways, including corsetry or the way he uses fragile filmy tights as a symbol of change. “It feels like society right now, where everything is going so wrong that you need to grow a new skin all the time,” he explained.
Pressiat’s designs are craft-intensive, reflected in the pricing of the range. Knits and jersey dresses start around 600 euros at retail, but a double-collared leather jacket with detachable sleeves sells for 1,500 euros — or more if they want additional sleeves.
His bespoke designs start at 12,000 euros, for those who want to go beyond what is stocked at H.Lorenzo and edgy Paris-based fashion platform La Collection Particulière.
Famous faces who have tapped Garnier Pressiat for red carpet looks include American model Alton Mason, who appeared at the Cannes Film Festival wearing a strong-shouldered tailored jumpsuit, and Charlotte Rampling, who donned a cocoon-shaped opera coat.
The latest to join the Pressiat clan is Megan Thee Stallion. A clip of her strutting in a black-and-white gothic couture gown in her “Ungrateful” video drew rave comments.