On Monday evening, Emilia Wickstead debuted her autumn/winter 2019 collection, inspired by The Godfather trilogy and influenced by Mary Corleone, a mobster’s daughter played by Sofia Coppola in the franchise’s third instalment, to 60 guests - a significantly smaller number than most other shows on the fashion month rotation, and prompting many an apologetic email to industry insiders who didn’t make the cut. Keeping with the cinematic theme, the show was held at intimate Italian-themed London restaurant, Le Caprice, with models walking to classical Italian music and donning Corleone’s signature beret, embellished headscarves and chandelier pearl earrings.
With her new collection, the London-based designer seemed to throw caution to the wind, focusing less on the inherently feminine silhouettes she’s come to be known for and instead, showcasing structured pantsuits, Matrix - or Godfather - inspired leather jackets and textured, mannish oversized coats, all of which would appeal to a younger and more daring audience than that of previous seasons, the Meghan, rather than the Kate, of the British royal women, if you will.
Of course, when Wickstead’s name comes to mind, so too do articles which insist the designer claimed the Duchess of Sussex’s wedding dress - created by Givenchy’s Clare Waight Keller - was directly copied from her bridal collection. While Wickstead released a statement to her official Instagram account saying she was “extremely saddened by commentary that [had] appeared in the press” in the days that followed Markle’s May 19th, 2018 wedding, it wasn’t until the Duchess of Cambridge, a long-time fan of Wickstead’s designs, recycled a lilac dress by the designer last October, before Markle herself wore a wool-crepe midi-dress in Sydney later that month, that the smoke finally cleared. Whether she made the comments or not, the royal family were back on side.
One can only speculate if the now-infamous royal wedding dress drama prompted Wickstead to try her hand at charming millennials and Gen Z, instead of focusing on the old guard, but the front row seemed to tell a similar story. Filled with the likes of British It girls, such as Pandora Sykes and Alexa Chung, the latter of which Wickstead dressed in a red and pink midi dress for a London Fashion Week party the night prior to the show, it was a different sort of crowd to those usually reserved a prime position.
The collection brought back memories of Wickstead’s show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia last April: a 17-piece capsule collection in collaboration with MatchesFashion.com, which was showcased at Wylie's Baths at Coogee Beach, complete with prawn cocktails, champagne, fries and models dressed in floral bathers with matching swimming caps. Despite the range being quintessentially Wickstead - the swimwear one would wear to a British high tea, should the invite happen to mention a poolside location - the partnership was a slight departure from Wickstead’s usual customer base, targeting Instagram influencers’ feeds which were once reserved to the likes of quirky, up-and-coming labels such as Ganni and RIXO London. While there, Wickstead even alluded to her new direction, saying it excited her to think she could be “influential” in Australia, a country far less interested in casual elegance than her UK home.
With some looks for autumn/winter 2019, Wickstead fused the old with the new: the makings of a traditional dress, with pleats, a cinched waist and balloon sleeves was balanced out with a non-traditional colour and more feminine pieces, such as a bridal look, were thrown off kilter with long, woollen gloves, cropped tops and models showing tattoos. Accessories included fluid capes, coloured gloves and giant bags carried under arm - a move sure to subconsciously speak to modern women everywhere. Amongst the new guard, Wickstead’s roots still flourished in the form of floral, wallpaper print dresses and billowing gowns, however, for once they were somewhat overshadowed by the Phoebe Philo-esque suiting walking off the runway and straight onto our wishlists. But unlike other designers who are trying to emulate Philo’s style, Wickstead has managed to give the subtlest of nods — and stay true to her own brand identity in the meantime. While Kate Middleton continues to rewear timeless Wickstead designs, come winter, influencers everywhere will be donning Wickstead’s oversized leopard print coat and perspex checkered scarf - likely together.
Was her autumn/winter 2019 collection the most exciting fashion show in the world? No. But that wasn’t Wickstead’s aim. Instead, she was focused on keeping her beloved and loyal customer base happy, while also targeting a completely new one. After all, when you’ve filled the wardrobes of two of the most influential royal women in the world, why not shift focus to every day women?