HTSI editor Jo Ellison
HTSI editor Jo Ellison © Marili Andre

Scanning the SS23 shows at the fashion capitals last autumn, I found my eye increasingly drawn to collections that looked “fresh”: those that offered an unmuddied palette, wearability and a clean line. Many may roll their eyes at what might sound a rather anti-fashion statement: to look for something so mundane as wearability at a fashion show? How boring.

On the contrary, the most interesting, intelligent offerings were those that gave an unexpected spin to the most quotidian of clothes. Take Matthieu Blazy’s collection for Bottega Veneta, one of the most talked about and arresting of the season. The first few looks seemed like your average wardrobe basics, until it was revealed the outfits were all made of leather – a trompe l’oeil most brilliantly effected by Kate Moss in faux-denim jeans and a flannel shirt. Likewise, at Louis Vuitton, Nicolas Ghesquière elevated staples with details such as supersized zippers and poppers. Sara Semic looks at “the age of hyperinflation” to find out why, when analysts predicted stealthy luxury in fashion, designers seem to have gone the other way.

Ena Poppe wears hyperinflated fashion
Ena Poppe wears hyperinflated fashion © Antoni Ciufo

It was Amber Valletta, walking for Stella McCartney in a simple black tuxedo, who embodied everything I’m craving at the moment. The look was a combination of insouciant glamour and classic pieces with an early ’90s flavour; mixed with Valletta’s own innate approachability, it made total sense in a season of disparate silhouettes and shapes. I’m delighted that she agreed to be on the cover of this spring fashion issue, offering a smart take on the most sophisticated styles. The edit offers an easy directive for how to navigate the fashions – “keep it simple” – as well as inspiration for how to rework pieces you likely already have.

Fanfan wears Nensi Dojaka silk dress, POA, and leather Camille shoes, £760, at the brand’s north London studio
Fanfan wears Nensi Dojaka silk dress, POA, and leather Camille shoes, £760, at the brand’s north London studio © Adama Jalloh
A salon at Christian Louboutin’s Vermelho hotel in Melides
A salon at Christian Louboutin’s Vermelho hotel in Melides © Stefan Giftthaler

I’m also happy to feature a host of other talents. Jessica Beresford talks to the fabulous Edgardo Osorio, who is expanding Aquazzura with a line of appropriately bedazzling handbags. Edgardo launched his footwear brand in 2011 and has since shoe’d women in ever higher places – quite literally, as his heels are among the most sky-scrapery on the market. His mission to make the brand a more rounded accessories proposition is ambitious, but I don’t doubt his plan to pull in €100mn by 2025. Meanwhile, the Albanian designer Nensi Dojaka has channelled her training in lingerie to create a cult brand of sheer, sexy and seductive evening dresses. The former LVMH Prize-winner’s gowns are now a regular of the red carpet, and her growth has been as uplifting as her structurally impressive yet exquisite corsetry. No surprise that Nensi, who only launched in 2019, is this year set to turn a profit. This month she debuts a line of wedding dresses, perfect for brides who have no interest in “blushing” and are more focused on letting the congregation know that their intended is one very lucky chap indeed.

Luella Bartley at home in London
Luella Bartley at home in London © Julian Broad

Lastly, two designers with long experience in the fashion trenches who have decided to spread their wings in different creative fields. Christian Louboutin offers us a first look at his new hotel Vermelho, in Melides, a Portuguese village south of the more popular Comporta, where he has kept a home for years. The 13-room haven is built in the style of the region’s classic architecture, albeit one with Luxor alabaster (reflecting Louboutin’s Egyptian heritage), Parisian paint details and loads of Portuguese tiles. Inevitably, there are also touches of the designer’s own bold signature, with ceramics and interior details to match his glossy carmine soles. With plans to incorporate further properties into the hotel project, Louboutin has ensured the sleepy village has become a red-hot place to stay.

By contrast, designer and brand founder Luella Bartley has spent recent years pursuing painting and ceramics, at a time when fashion has failed to hold her in its thrall. She was inspired to draw while caring for her son Kip, who was diagnosed with leukaemia as a teenager, and art has offered a focus for her feelings since his death in 2021. The work – sinuous, twisted and bestial – has a visceral power. As an act of self-expression, it’s emotionally vulnerable and raw. “Fashion was about creating a mask that I could hide behind,” she tells Victoria Woodcock about her new outlet. “Here, I was desperate to be honest about who we are.” 


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