LFW AW10 Report - Co Operative Designs

27 February 2010

Cooperative Designs AW 2010 collection was called Stachen and Blocken. Why? ‘Oh it’s from a Jay Leno joke about Germans,’’ explained the (German) designer Dorothee Hagemann. ‘It’s a reference to how things can only be ordered and disciplined to a certain point and then it all breaks out,’ continues Annalisa Dunn, her partner in this knitwear design twosome. This talented couple are very new to London fashion week. This is their third season. After their second, they were snapped up by the Stefanel group to design a collection to celebrate the Italian knitwear giant’s 50th anniversary. Stefanel 50, as it is called, will be available in House Of  Fraser and all Stefanel stockists from March.

Hitting the big time with a project such as  this for a major Italian label while at the same time maintaining cult young designer status is a balancing act that has been made possible in no small way by Stefanel themselves. The girls’ third LFW outing is backed by the Italian giant.

Speaking from their venue in a chic gallery off The Strand, Mr Stefanel was as proud as a new dad. ‘I am so impressed by London,’ he said. ‘You really breathe in the creativity here. It’s everywhere, not just in fashion week, but on the streets, in the way people dress. In Italy there is more of a uniform. Here there is much more freedom.’

The audience at Cooperative Designs show was an eclectic mix of friends, family and fashion press, all crammed in to watch this tightly edited presentation of 15 looks. Precise geometry relented only to the occasional wayward detail like a knarled trim or asymmetric styling, which evidently was where anarchy was ‘breaking out’.

A knitted cocoon coat in big black and white window pane checks, a long black and white striped cardigan buttoned over grey and white striped harem pants, a black and white gingham check knit dresses and looks built out of layers upon asymmetric layers of black white and grey knit with a pop of unexpected red were the backbone of this concise collection.

Mr Stefanel was clearly pleased with his new found patron status. Smiling broadly he said afterwards, ‘in a company like ours it is important always to tap into new energy. When Annalisa and Dorothee came to do research in our archive they related to our product and our heritage in a way I never thought possible. A new approach and a different point of view makes us look fresh.’

After an absence of almost ten years, Stefanel is once more back in the British market with a 21st century take on the knitwear collection that was a staple of British wardrobes for most of the 80’s and 90’s. ‘Our sense of tradition is most powerful when it meets innovative thought. The consumer is seduced by new things but is also reassured by the quality that tradition promises. In terms of knitwear, it is as much in the British as in the Italian tradition. A collaboration like this one makes so much sense for us. ‘

The old guard and the new, the industrial giant and the artisans, the mass market merchant and the niche designer, the David and the Goliath: they sound like polar opposites but these two have become indispensible to each other and out of this alliance something magical has happened for both.

- Paula Reed


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