For her Paris debut, Anna October wanted to take everyone into the rewilded plot of land she calls her “pleasure garden” in her spring collection.
The set, in Eiffel Tower designer Gustave Eiffel’s old atelier, looked primed for a picnic, with a tent made of vintage laces and linens, a swing hanging from a beam and plenty of fresh flowers.
But this isn’t a romantic fantasy and today’s women are not delicate creatures. October has a 12-years-and-counting run at producing indulgent and spirited garments meant to help women look and feel good and be empowered by trampling underfoot clichés about sexuality.
And making sure these pieces feel as good as they look leaves no license to be basic or space to take shortcuts in design.
Exhibit A: a handsome pair of trompe-l’oeil trousers that looked like they were fastened with thin bra straps and had slipped down just so, exposing the waistband of silky unmentionables.
Cue a 30-strong collection of slinky floor-length dresses inspired by lingerie, nearly-demure separates and the odd dramatic cape, cut from luxury deadstock materials. Handcraft, especially crochet elements produced by a group the designer jokingly deemed the “babushka mafia” – a cooperative of older women keeping textile traditions alive and working for major European fashion houses – gave a poignant nostalgic mien to those pieces.
It was pitch perfect, and looking at her spring, you’d never guess that between her garden and this Paris presentation there’s a war raging in her homeland. Further proof that like the women she designs for, October is more steel magnolia than wallflower.