With collaborative zines, seasonal lookbooks and conceptual short films, these womenswear brands don't need runways to make their mark
With shows and presentations coming with their own hefty price tags, fashion month can be as exclusive for the labels wanting to show their collections as it is for the hordes of fashion fans wanting to get their hands on a ticket. As fashion evolves, digital grows, and show schedules get shaken up, many designers are choosing to eschew fashion week all together in favour of collaborative zines, slick lookbooks or short films that recreate the world of the collection in an alternative way to the traditional runway.
These labels are proving that taking a collection away from the catwalk has no bearing on a brand’s relevance – and in many ways, the creative work that emerges in their stead makes them stand out for forging their own paths. Here are six of our favourites.
Designer duo Sofia Prantera and graphic artist Fergus Purcell joined together for this label, whose name, and accompanying rally-cry “Aries Arise” is a playful riff on the star sign’s creative connotations and the hippy kitsch of astrology. Drawing inspiration from an 80s mindset where the line between streetwear and fashion are blurred, they define their aesthetic as a blend of trash culture and anti-fashion youth movements. This season, they’re choosing to showcase their new collection via a short film, details of which have not yet been revealed.
“MadeMe is for the girl who wears clothes for boys or Supreme.” Having spent ten years at Supreme, designer Erin Magee has been channelling her credentials into the riot grrrl-inspired label MadeMe. Through her creations, she’s resurrecting the sensibilities of Kim Gordon’s X-Girl, directing her punk attitude into collections that have so far drawn on bondage, 70s glam rock and female rock icons such as Courtney Love. For previous seasons, she’s showcased her collections with lookbooks, collaborated with Petra Collins on a zine and teamed up with Me and You for a collection that Sam Guest turned into a short film.
Pulling inspiration from his Californian upbringing, worldwide subculture, and his past life providing creative direction for Kanye West and Lady Gaga, designer Matthew Williams’ describes his label as having “a strong identity, beautiful shapes and silhouettes, extremely well-researched use of fabrics and materials with attention to every single detail.” Having already worked with Nick Knight and created a 360 fashion film, not showing at fashion week hasn’t impacted the label’s popularity – collections are stocked globally.
Based in Scotland, knitwear label Hades takes a collaborative approach to its designs. Produced entirely in the UK, alongside their online shop they chose to distribute a limited run of their current collection of slogan lambswool jumpers, with the current season entitled “Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others”. Patti Smith, Sonic Youth, The Smiths and The Slits are among artists whose names star on the pieces.
Japanese duo Ambush produce unisex designs that have spanned bent metal nail motifs, eyeball necklaces and heavy sterling silver chains. Having collaborated with Louis Vuitton and Sacai, they’ve evolved organically since they began back in 2008. In their own words: “(At first) our style was more bold and loud – kind of like who can scream the loudest to be heard. Over time, we started to see that sometimes it’s not about the volume but getting hold of the right keynote to cut through the noise.” They ditch the crowded womenswear season to instead host a small event during menswear.
Founded in 1959, and having invented the iconic MA-1 jackets that keep actual IRL soldiers warm, bomber jacket geniuses Alpha Industries are a low-key mainstay on runways – despite not taking their collections to Fashion Week. They’ve had their famous design copied countless times, but have themselves collaborated with Opening Ceremony, Stüssy and, most recently, Vetements, providing the slouchy bombers for their show during couture. While you might have to fight for one of Demna Gvasalia’s reinterpretations, their original designs are available online.