November 12, 2022

Patrick McDowell SPRING 2023 READY-TO-WEAR

On Monday night crowds were queuing across London’s Hanover Square to enter a refurbished Georgian house just across from British Vogue’s headquarters. This was effectively the grand reveal of the recently-established Jimmy Choo Academy, the fashion school founded by Britain’s original luxury shoe meister, his legacy to training and offering start-up spaces for the next generations of aspiring designers. He was there, greeting a multigenerational audience charged with a huge welcome of champagne in a pristine building with sumptuously sweeping stairs and ice-cream colored moulded ceilings that look more like a set straight out of Bridgerton than an old-style English art school.

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On Monday night crowds were queuing across London’s Hanover Square to enter a refurbished Georgian house just across from British Vogue’s headquarters. This was effectively the grand reveal of the recently-established Jimmy Choo Academy, the fashion school founded by Britain’s original luxury shoe meister, his legacy to training and offering start-up spaces for the next generations of aspiring designers. He was there, greeting a multigenerational audience charged with a huge welcome of champagne in a pristine building with sumptuously sweeping stairs and ice-cream colored moulded ceilings that look more like a set straight out of Bridgerton than an old-style English art school.

But who could’ve convened such an over-the-top buzz for the occasion but Patrick McDowell, the joyfully radical multi-hypenate advocate for queer, system-changing sustainable fashion? A natural-born digital communicator equally passionate about the rights to self-expression and social inclusion, McDowell’s been designer-in-residence in an upper salon for the past year, where he’s been egging on the first JCA masters graduates to do their things for their final collections.

In the wake of McDowell’s extravagantly billowing wings and towering piled-up hair-roller hoodie-pompadours, five students took their turns to walk their takes on the future around the house.

But first, here was the entry of McDowell’s ‘Marie Antionette Goes to Liverpool,’ a convergence of flamboyance pointing up the similarities he imagined between the beauty and dressing-up cultures of his beloved northern English city background and Versailles.

The concept hit him, he said, on a more or less solitary walk through Marie Antionette’s palace and gardens during a window in the lockdown years. The experience took him back to the wonder of watching his mother putting on a full-length dress with a train for a Millennium-eve party at home in Liverpool. As a grown-up, the sources of all the working-class, Catholic influences of his childhood have been reaffirmed in McDowell’s non-binary collections “for a more beautiful version of the world than I know it to be now, (and) for love and acceptance.”

In practice, it was a smooshing together of padded parkas, track pants, corsetry, and stately gowns, superimposed with prints collaged from McDowell family albums. Eighteenth century powder blue vibed against Y2K flouro green and lavender. A series of extra-swaggering floor-length tailored evening coats, sans decoration, showed McDowell’s developing talent for cut.

But over and above the theme—which also co-opted the Catholic Pax symbol as a cheeky P for Patrick logo—a fundamental article of McDowell’s faith is his belief in cutting out waste. He uses sustainable materials: Tencel and deadstock. Moreover, loath to join the ready-to-wear wholesale cycle, his pieces are made to order.

And with all this being hosted thanks to the philanthropy of Jimmy Choo, there was a nice moment for footwear to shine: a pair of neon-green Nike soccer boots, chunkily bedazzled with deadstock Swarovski crystals. That was partly a McDowell salute to his soccer-mad city—and to the league-topping success of the English Lionesses women’s team. Even better, though, the boots turned out to be second-hand, beautifully refurbished and given their jazzed-up zing in a Patrick McDowell collaboration with the Restory, the London shoe and bag restoration experts. A service to give a second fashion life to broken shoes, with an extra spin from a designer? Now, that did feel like a fresh step forward.

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