Now here’s a label which, for the best part of 5 years, has caused me a clinical addiction and financial/moral bankruptcy. Thanks to Creative Director Philip Stephens, one of the leading fashion gurus of androgyny, Unconditional returns this Fall with a collection that will make my bank statement Unforgivable.
Stephens is a master of pitch-perfect balance: his hard-edged masculine attitude is always tempered with a daring yet delicate femininity; his formal tailoring humoured by exaggerated, emotional sportwear. Stephens doesn't discriminate: placing his philosophy on luxury basics, he disguises the 'fashion' of his garments, making the wearer feel accepted; understated yet stinking of seductive elegance.
For AW12, photographer Dimitris Theocharis shoots bold, electric looks against a pure white backdrop. Yes, for Autumn Winter. At first glance it's hard to imagine this isn't the lookbook for next summer - especially since the previous Spring collection defined itself by a sunburst of acid colour.
But Stephens has never been one to shy away from subverting the norm. It’s an unsually refreshing take on the catastrophic winter weather we've suffered all summer in the UK. Another traditionally dark and haunting Autumn Winter collection may have been too painful a reminder of our hellish climate. Stephens forecasts a brighter trend.
AW12 transitions seamlessly from an acid summer but is now lightly frosted over with an icier palette: pale greys, cool blues and harsh silvers punctuate this collection. It's as if Stephens retains the alienation of winter but with a mysteriously warm approachability. Not surprisingly, he pulls off the unlikely juxtaposition.
Next: the new outerwear. Unconditional has always prided itself on exquisite cuts but for me, this is where the label triumphs for AW12. Stephens appears to have written an Edwardian-inspired sub-plot, featuring coats with what appear to be concealed and layered lapels...I want to say 'triple-breasted' but unless I can get that trending I risk sounding like someone who shouldn't be blogging about fashion.
In one look [see first image] a cropped period-style jacket has been teamed with a pair of extreme drop-crotched harem trousers. I'm not usually a fan of hammer pants, but here the contrast between the sharp, angular dimensions of the top half and the slouched fit of the bottom strikes a magnetic discord in the silhouette, a typical illustration of Stephens' playful aesthetic. Cavalier Couture springs to mind.
Stephens has also taken the trend of animal print a step further this season with printed leopard cashmeres. He is clearly so passionate about the creatures which inspire him that he wishes to metamorphose his customers for the fall into fully fledged fashion Ocelots. There's a real sense of returning to nature here, solidifying Stephens’ concrete ethos of naturally and ethically produced fabrics.
There’s a purity - a cleanness about the rock’n’roll thread; last AW saw a grittier, more gothic narrative but here Stephens seeks to bridge the gap between the two seasons, as if to echo the ambiguous indistinction throughout the British weather. The organic aesthetic is mixed with more alchemic elements including Baroque-inspired floral prints and gold and silver panelling. Interesting.
Much of the outerwear and tailoring also features Ostrich appliques to the shoulders, looking particularly strong on the label's cutaway jacket which crops up in a handful of looks. The minimalist, effortlessly cool tailoring piece with notch lapels and a cut-out back has become a staple for the brand, deriving most of its swag from the fact that almost a third of it is missing despite a pretty sizeable price tag. Kill me for saying this, but it's worth it...
As ever, bondage pants, oversized hoods and funnel necks permeate the collection. Punk model of the moment Leebo Freeman returns without his peroxide bangs offering looks which tip between jesting devilishness and hard sophistication. One of my favourite looks of the collection has to be the double feather print - simply for its rebellious out-of-placeness.
Time to prepare for a personal recession.