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London Fashion Week S/S 2016: Marques’Almeida Keeping it Real, Raw, and Personal

This season the ubiquitous garment of the spring 2016 fashion week season is absolutely positively the frayed-edge denim shirt from SPACE designers Marques’Almeida. Everyone has one on. I would link to it, but we’ve sold through ours. Instead, I’ll link to the still-in-stock pink Marques’Almeida frayed denim dress that is often worn as a shirt, because plenty of fashion week people are wearing that, too.

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This award-winning duo is totally having a moment, and when we got inside the raw warehouse space out in Islington, we found out what the next moment is going to be about.

The words on a printed one-sheets waiting for us on our chairs revealed the initial musical inspiration behind the collection (hint: a piano, an album title that was a poem, and almost always a spaghetti-strap slip dress) and related a shared urge between co-designers Marta Marques and Paulo Almeida to stay connected to their roots.

What would you do if you felt compelled to ground yourself to home but you were, at the same time, totally committed to moving forward? You might call on your friends. Here’s what happened when they did that, and what happened on the runway after that.

Marques and Almeida turn to music and to their community often.

When I spoke to them in July about the sculptural denim and brocade in their fall collection, they mentioned singer and songwriter Fiona Apple, but almost as an aside. I didn’t even include the reference in the interview. But actually, the singer’s contralto ’90s alt rock had been inspiring those feelings of staying raw, personal, and real during the fever-pitch buzz surrounding their LVMH award and the increased exposure it yielded.

Around the same time, they returned to some images they had received from a friend who is also their fit model and photographer. Alice (no last name is given) shared some pictures she had taken of her friend, Jaz (also just one name) just as Jaz was preparing to leave England to go to America. The pictures said a lot to the pair about “youth, excitement, spontaneity, and a multitude of possibilities;” they represented a crucible. The designers used one of them as their invitation; it’s pictured here as it arrived at my hotel.

FullSizeRender-18Marques Almeida spring 2016 postcard invitation

Together those elements—the music, the muses, the images—became chiffon, lace, slubby linen, florals, hot pink, brown, silk and yes, denim.

After six seasons of showing within the British Fashion Council’s New Gen set-up, which is designed to make it easier (and possible) for promising new designers to present, Marques’Almeida chose their own venue and produced their show this time around. The gritty white and largely undone, industrial setting had a way of making the very Fiona-like models seem abstracted. Not exactly dreamy, but not necessarily earthly either.

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Instead of representing the end result of the need to connect, they represent the struggle—or maybe the journey. Because that’s actually what’s real and raw.

The printed statement we received ended by saying this season could not be any more honest, nor any more indicative of Marques and Almeida’s beginnings.

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These clothes are about who the designers are in their heart of hearts. They are ruffled and precious, and they are ripped and rough. They reminded me often of the pair’s connection to Spain. Some are sheer, others are sturdy. There were new items in the mix too: trench coats and moto jackets. Boxy shoulder bags to cart around and small strappy ones to disappear with. And shoes—sandals, mostly; thick soled and utilitarian but somehow spare, too. 

These clothes are for wandering and direct routes. They’re for whenever you need to go back to who you always were.

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Shop: current season Marques’Almeida at SPACE

—Laura Cassidy