It seems that Emilia Wickstead is not only running out of ideas, as her mood-board spills all the tea on her ‘inspired’ AW19 collection, but her also opting for a smaller venue raises eyebrows on how well her brand is truly doing.
“Oscar De La Renta also did a checked coat,” Emilia Wickstead comments nervously on Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia’s recent show. In an attempt to reassure her, her fashion director replies, “Yeah but it’s just Oscar De La Renta.”The Oscar who was schooled by Cristobal Balenciaga and Antonio del Castillo? The Oscar who was distinguished as one out of many other great 20th century couturiers who dressed Jacqueline Kennedy?We shall just blame it on the lack of self-confidence and the fact that the Kiwi designer’s eponymous label is not only significantly smaller in its audience, but business too as well as its revenue. With MiuMiu and Chloé as her neighbours and high competitors on Sloane Street, it is without a doubt that Emilia feels the pressure to remain relevant whatever the odds.
After graduating from Saint Martins in Fashion Design and Marketing, thanks to her boyfriend, the New Zealand-born designer was able to launch her own business with £5,000 at the age of 24. A regular on Vogue’s online show reports since 2011 for London Fashion Weeks, Emilia’s work has consistently been noted as ‘elegant,’ ‘graceful,’ and ‘timeless’ – hence why one of her prestigious clients is the Duchess of Cambridge.
Well-liked by the British elitists, Emilia sparked tension last May 2018, claiming that Meghan Markle’s Givenchy wedding dress designed by Clare Waight Keller was ‘identical.’ Whether it was a genuine allegation or an intentional PR stunt as a means to remain relevant not only during the seasons of fashion week, Emilia certainly succeeded in having her name reappear in the UK newspapers and fashion publications.
With the popular Instagram account Diet_Prada, known to name and shame, it has become the norm to hear about million-dollar fashion brands stealing ideas from smaller, emerging designers.
Although Emilia may not have pinched looks directly from an up-and-coming designer, lo and behold the infamous mood-board that certainly walked on a fine line between ‘inspiration’ and blatantly copying. It wouldn’t be the first time that her designs have raised a red flag and have been called out by the mysterious person behind the Instagram account. The same wedding dress she had criticised and later on backtracked, was linked back to Hubert De Givenchy’s 1967 silk dress.
As the ‘Speak softly, love’ song popularised by The Godfather was put on loop for the achingly 20th time during the fittings, out comes the model; OfWickstead. The dull, earthy coloured bell-sleeved gown matching the model’s almost lifeless facial expression confirmed the assumptions for the rest of the interns- Emilia’s search for more handmaids. Speculations rapidly flew around the room that her frocks, as well as the white-linen bonnet, mirrored Ane Crabtree’s costume designs for The Handmaid’s tale cast (a tv series based on the best-selling novel by author and activist Margaret Atwood.)
Taking a quick peek at the handmade crochet bonnet, I instantly swing my head back-and-forth; from the mood-board to the outfit and notice a replica of Vogue’s August 1944 college issue cover. It looks as though one is drastically running short on ideas of her own.
Having chosen to only invite 100 guests, the 35-year-old designer stated in her interview with Vogue that she desired a smaller venue for a more ‘intimate’ setting- a big contrast to her previous locations which held double the number of attendees. Yet, Emilia’s PA accidentally let it slide in front of the other interns that she “is a small designer and therefore doesn’t have a big budget.” Little did we know how tight the budget really was until the wicked Wickstead sent out her slaves on a hunt for bows at Marks & Spencer (a signature look of Emilia’s that has been dragged out and overly saturated in every collection) and white socks at Tesco.
And it doesn’t end there. After a torturous morning of heavy lifting and constant yelling hours prior to the show, we arrive backstage- or should I say in a piercing cold car park. Just above us was Le Caprice, where models were having their walk-through in a tight space and made their frustration known through constant tutting.
I had seen and heard enough to sum up my conclusion that Emilia’s small business is struggling, and is suffering from lack of creativity. After an unforgettable intern, to say the least, I wonder if the Kiwi’s innovation was ever really there to begin with.