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Sadie Williams AW16 lookbook
Sadie Williams AW16 lookbookCourtesy of Sadie Williams

How family photos and vintage skiwear inspire Sadie Williams

As the designer reveals her AW16 lookbook, she tells us why this collection was her most personal one to date

It’s hardly rare for artists and designers to wax lyrical about the ‘personal’ nature of their work, but this season Sadie Williams took things a step further by digging into the photographic archives of her family holidays. She discovered a collection of photos of her parents as a young couple on a skiing holiday together – these images went on to define the aesthetic and presentation of her latest AW16 collection, entitled ‘Off-Piste’.

Debuted at London Fashion Week two weeks ago, the resulting garments bore many of Williams’ design signatures. There was textile innovation – a talent which saw Williams named as one of Selfridges’ Bright Young Things back in 2013; and there were heavy outdoor fabrics too, which were slashed, slimmed and re-appropriated into feminine A-line skirts. Traditional ski jumpsuits were revamped with an iridescent finish – or, in her own words, with “a bit of shimmer and sparkle”.

As the designer releases the collection’s accompanying lookbook – shot by Venetia Scott, art directed by Dazed’s own Jamie Andrew Reid and with art created by model Marland Backus – Williams unpacks the references behind her designs and shares her views on the most recent changes to hit the fashion industry.

How would you define your aesthetic?

Sadie Williams: Tactile, graphic, youthful and tomboyish, usually with a bit of shimmer and sparkle.

Can you tell us about this season’s inspiration?

Sadie Williams: I looked to old-school ski wear, I often like to reference the graphic simplicity of old sports clothing. I also came across these old photos of my parents as a young couple, before I was born, on a skiing holiday together. I loved that they looked so happy and free-spirited and mixed their own clothes with their ski wear. They were wearing lots of checks and tartan patterns too, so I mixed patched wool kilts into my looks, paired with ski jumpers and ski prints.

What are the key pieces from the collection?

Sadie Williams: Probably the t-shirts that have the arrangements of protective padding (referenced from vintage ski knits bought in Portobello Market) silk-screen printed onto the sleeves. The multi-wool patch kilt with a slick of silver across the hem. And also the padded skirts with graphic stitching, made using outdoor weatherproof fabrics.

How did you translate the feel of the collection into the lookbook?

Sadie Williams: Marland (Backus) had created the concrete, silicone, cable and rope lights in my studio during the same time the collection was coming together. So we translated my marble-y, abstract, arty mountain scene with Marland being both in it and such a part of it too!

How did the collaboration with Marland come about?

Sadie Williams: My friend Poppy Kain styled my collection, but I often work assisting her on shoots. I made a top for a shoot she did last summer. Marland wore it and said she liked it, so I gave her some badges I’d made which she later snuck into some photo shoots. We kept in touch on Instagram, and that’s where I first saw her work. I loved it! I was brainstorming ideas for AW16 so I messaged her my initial ideas. She was up for it, so it went from there really.

What do you like about Backus’s work?

Sadie Williams: I love that it’s quite rough, tough and raw yet also very sensitive and playful with textures and combinations of materials.

What’s next for you?

Sadie Williams: This business is so fast that you end up starting the next season in what feels like a split second, so I want to have a mini holiday with mates before gearing up for that! I’m hoping to design on some collaborative projects with brands and create some more animations with my brother Joe too.

How do you feel about the current changes being made to the fashion system?

Sadie Williams: I understand why it’s happening, and it does feel odd sometimes to be releasing and focusing so much attention on a collection that doesn't hit the stores until much later on. But for me now, and the position that I am in at the moment, I find it hard enough to handle production for small orders that adhere to the current system, so I think it would be a real struggle to deliver quality product so quickly after presenting a collection.