The long days of summer may have finally drawn to a close, but Emilia Wickstead still had the sun-soaked hedonism of a European vacation in mind. More specifically, she found herself looking to the French Riviera in the 1920s and ’30s, when the region became an artist’s playground and a locus for forward-thinking style, as the free-spirited creative women of that era—from Françoise Gilot to Lee Miller—began to borrow from the boys. “It felt like the first generation of women who were in charge of their own destiny,” said Wickstead, who was inspired by them to experiment with more masculine shirting and tailoring elements this season. “I wanted to capture the energy of those artists and channel it into something that felt fresh and exciting.”
The grand foyer of London’s Royal Academy of Arts served as a suitably elegant backdrop for a collection that saw Wickstead lean into her bolder instincts. “Actually, this season I looked predominantly at the color palettes before I turned to any other form of inspiration,” she said—and with the dazzling kaleidoscope that followed, you could tell. Most striking was a series of looks cut from embossed silks, an exuberant column gown made from tiered loops of fabric in a punchy shade of tangerine, and the slinky knit sailor suits and dresses in zingy shades of lemon and lime. “I wanted the colors to feel loud and flirtatious,” she said.
Especially flirtatious were the dresses made from shimmering bugle beads, emanating a satisfying rustle as they glided down the runway, as well as a series of thigh-skimming looks lavished with a more painterly riff on Wickstead’s signature chintzy florals, their dynamic brushstrokes reflecting the collection’s overall spirit of laid-back, deshabille glamour. But most impressive was Wickstead’s ability to seamlessly weave some more day-to-day pieces in among the showstopping eveningwear that is her signature, whether a crisp, boxy linen shirt-and-shorts set that you could easily imagine being worn from the seaside to the studio, or an open-neck denim tunic that nodded to her muses this season and their “sartorial prowess that paved the way for modern womenswear,” as Wickstead put it.
“I’ve really been thinking about an artist’s wardrobe,” she continued. “I’m a creative woman, and although I want to create a dream, I also create a modern wardrobe for a working woman as much as I do for a free thinker.” Wickstead may have allowed herself the room to indulge in a few flights of fancy, but as always the clothes were rooted in a deep practicality too—and you can be sure her loyal followers lining the front row were already beginning to mentally draw up their wish lists as the models took their final walk to a rousing soundtrack of cinematic strings. Next summer can’t come soon enough.
This article was originally published on Vogue Runway.