Named the new creative director of Irvine-Calif.-based St. John back in October, British designer Zoe Turner has just now relocated Stateside, with pandemic travel restrictions eased.
“Finally, I’m over here, so I’m really happy,” she said over Zoom, explaining how quarantine has reinvigorated her desire to work with the kind of knitwear dressing that has been at the heart of St. John’s brand of Southern California luxury ease for nearly 60 years.
But make no mistake, this is not your mother or grandmother’s St. John.
While the suit is still a focus for the brand (and judging from the political stage during the recent Democratic National Convention, more relevant than ever), Turner has taken the seriousness out of it, tucking an off-shoulder pink knit blazer into lavender wide-leg trousers for one look, and pairing an emerald green knitted jacket with matching raw hem Bermuda shorts for another. There’s also a sandy-neutral tweed suit with a soft knitted jacket and joggers for those who aren’t willing to give up on quarantine ath-leisure yet, and a cool pair of white leather jeans with an asymmetrical draped cream rib sweater on top for those who are over it.
Turner’s handcrafted, “mark of the maker” inspiration is woven through the navy blue-and-cream handprinted brushstroke print on a dropped shoulder caftan; sculptural new “SJ” gold buttons that turn up in unexpected places, like mid-sleeve on a cream tweed split-sleeve jacket, and on black crochet “wow” pieces — palazzo pants and a cap-sleeve top that took more than 100 hours to make in the St. John atelier.
“There’s more of an ease to form, and a new emphasis on craft, new yarns and finishings,” said Turner of the Made in California, slouchy sophisticated collection — a strong second outing that should keep St. John in the fashion conversation. “For a designer to have all these facilities around them is a luxury itself and it’s really inspiring. I love being around the artisans and technicians and I learn from them every day.”