Nights like this should not be reserved for sleep…
… Not when you have had a meeting of minds, hearts and souls on monumental scales…
…and all in the premium package of the eagerly-awaited launch of Katharine Hamnett London’s SS18 women’s and menswear collections…
It takes someone truly revered to draw a crowd such as congregated in the hallowed halls of Liberty London’s lower ground floor. Place “Katharine Hamnett” into a sentence with a bona fide, high-end retail treasure of this great capital, and, together, you have the cadence of perfect creative alchemy, epitomising Balance…. Harmony…
….which neatly summarises the most captivating capsule collections of dreams… (that is, if I were to succumb to sleep!)… However, as stated, tonight is not one for repose, of any kind!
Having arrived early, it is still a veritable hive of organised activity… From re-merchandising to maximise optimal exposure of every piece, to hoovering the most out-of-the-way corners, nothing is left to chance, in achieving the flawless, final look. To say that the hard work paid dividends, would be a vast understatement, for the mission was more than accomplished!
I am cordially-greeted by Janine Constantin-Russell, General Manager of Liberty, and immediately taken aback by her generosity of time taken out of overseeing the build-up, to talk all-things “Hamnett” with me! Even more delighted was I, to be conversing with this lit-from-within energy, herself as excited as I was about the need for such a grounded presence to be back, once again, so rightfully, front-and-centre. Sparkling with expressiveness, vis-à-vis collaborating with the prestige label on such an auspicious launch, Janine encourages my taking a tour, to see the gorgeous results for myself and so, I promptly set off on my voyage of discovery!
In an atmosphere replete with swirls of hiphop-jazz, my initial walk-through to get acquainted with the latest sartorial offerings from the living legend, synonymous with ubiquitous style, was like a fresh breeze through the beautifully-landscaped garden of menswear. From Lanvin to Loewe, Thom Browne to Burberry, Marni to Moncler, Hamnett’s re-entry into the design atmosphere is rife with delicate defiance, in the swish of one organic silk shirt.. or the sharp swoop of a billowing, full-length, draped dress.
Slogan Tees are refreshed, with hard-hitting, visual exclamations to address the “now”, such as “Protest And Survive” and “Women Against War”, bringing to an end the misconception that silence is easy… As Katharine so eruditely put it, “We have to up our game, as we aren’t achieving very much, considering the amount of man and woman-hours that have [already] gone into fighting.” In accordance, both collections are steeped in revolution and the messages carry as confronting a narrative, as the days in which 80’s pop phenomenon, “Wham” boldly proclaimed “Choose Life”, whilst gleefully waking up musical empires on both sides of the Atlantic!
That the collections should be so deeply-embedded in such a spirit of the indomitable, should come as no surprise. It is well-known that Katharine Hamnett has always been ahead-of-the very same game, socio-politically, economically and creatively. Her battle to imbue the fashion system with the plausibility of sustainability and fighting for the human rights of those within the supply chain of production… has been her clarion call… Her voice has continually chimed through the annals of design to a point, whereby, ethical practice is, now, beyond an intangible vision and is an actual, going concern.
Enthusiastically-steered through a fascinating life story, filled with industry anecdotes of both, the glamour and the grit, by British Vogue’s esteemed Chief Critic, Sarah Mower MBE, who was pristine in Celine, the fact that “it all came too easily” was a testament to the authenticity of truth which runs through Hamnett, like a rod of iron. So-much-so, that she could be the real ‘Woman of Steel’, what with her proverbial determination to change the world-at-large, by changing the world around her.
Recounting, at blistering pace, that her production process is “paraben-free, [with] no heavy metals”, is just the preface to an inventory which includes organic cotton, “certified by Diamond Processing” standards, silk, which is “about as clean a fibre as you can get”, “nickel-free zips, [because] nickel is poisonous” and an endless quest “to find more sustainable fabrics, as techniques develop”. Further insight into her supply chain being the “Made In Italy”, export route, affords her the opportunity to “stick [her] nose up to anyone who talks about trade”, in addition to promoting and benefitting from their artisanal passion, “know-how, legacy and technical expertise.”
The superior quality of craft on display in the exposition of her new season selection, is undeniable evidence of this specialist provenance. From the considered nature of precision-pleating, on the wide-legged khaki trouser, with double-buttoned front and notched-back waistband, with slim-leg, ankle-skimming lengths, the wondrous working of a tissue-fine silk shirt, with an, ever so gentle, high-low hemline, to the perfectly-tempered palette of lightning white, through super-jet black, energised by richest reds and texturised by stonewashed denim treatments, the Katharine Hamnett man is spoilt-for-sophisticated and understated choice!
This same exacting, yet, polished prowess is celebrated in a Katharine Hamnett woman, who is savvy, edgy and endlessly elegant. The slogan “Maggie” Tee, which was fabulously-styled and modelled as a T-shirt dress, will fast need replenishing upon the rails, as will the stunning gold jumpsuit and, my personal favourite, the floor-sweeping, fire-engine red, puff-of-a-gown, with deep, plunge-front and back neckline…as ready for the red-carpet, as for the beach-front after-party!
It is all as impressive as her unconditional covenant to create, in order to benefit the greater good and embolden others to, similarly, make their voices heard. In a time of “freefall manufacturing, cheap labour and bad labour”, the crusader for social justice entreats the amassed assemblage of admirers to put literal pen-to-paper and compose letters to those who are paid to represent us, as well as to those brands who could and should make vast improvements, with regard to recognising and lessening the negative effect of their ethical footprint upon, both, people and the environment. “They’re trying, but they should be trying harder and faster”, not only summons affirmatory nods, but also gives rise to further adoration.
Questions from the floor prompt reiteration of the Katharine Hamnett stance towards making sustainable fashion more affordable and accessible… that of “better prices, with bigger production… online [to avoid extra capital costs].” However, it is her vocal nod to the lengths to which award-winning proponents of the circular economy, “Rapanui Clothing”, will go, in order to manufacture and deliver her T-shirt lines, which seems to, most, touch those in the room. Describing the “adorable” enterprise as “a perfect prototype of a C21st company, based in the Isle of Wight” is high praise, heartfelt recognition and truly symbolic of someone who “collaborates with anything that’s exciting or touches [her] heart.”
It is also indicative of her humility.
She seems oblivious to the attention which revolves, tornado-like, around her.
Absorbing selfies with timely patience and grace, she is pure, radiant class, with the spirit of a lioness, within the physique of a prima ballerina. Effortlessly-chic in black-out shades, nothing looked cooler than sharing a camera-frame with her, nothing more inspiring than observing her, back in her artistic habitat…
…and whilst her name might end “CBE” (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire), when asked the final question of how she would like to be remembered, she pauses and, with what must, surely, be accompanied by a twinkle in her concealed eyes, she cheekily replies “Watch. This. Space.” I, for one, cannot wait to see what this visionary next devises but, in my heart, I believe that the acronym will signify the success of her unrelenting message and stand for ‘Choose Buying Ethically’!
©A_F_R_O_W2018-2019. All Rights Reserved.
Katharine Hamnett London ~ Katharine Hamnett (Facebook) ~ @katharinehamnett (Instagram) ~ @khamnettlondon (Twitter)
Liberty London ~ Liberty London (Facebook) ~ @libertylondon (Instagram) ~ @LibertyLondon (Twitter) ~ Liberty London (YouTube)
Rapanui ~ Rapanui (Facebook) ~ @Rapanuiclothing (Twitter) ~ Rapanui: Sustainable Fashion (Google+) ~ @rapanuiclothing (Instagram) ~ rapanuiclothing (Pinterest)
Sarah Mower MBE ~ @sarahmower_ (Instagram)
Wholehearted @A_F_R_O_W-Appreciation goes to Katharine Hamnett CBE, for her utterly impeccable collections, relentless inspiration and unswerving passion for contributing towards a better world…to her team at Katharine Hamnett London, who faithfully facilitate her creative and societal vision, to Janine Constantin-Russell and the absolutely fastidious Team Liberty, for extending such congenial hospitality and creating a truly unique and outstanding event, and to Sarah Mower MBE, whose lively repartee and unabated dedication to the quest for talent, catalyse that of my own, ongoing editorial development.