Ilona Royce Smithkin's fluttering eyelashes. Spring 2017 is the culmination of a movie marathon marrying two unlikely classics, 'Dreamgirls' and Alfred Hitchcock's 'The Birds'. The result is nothing short of glamorous, with an extravagant set and equally boisterous models sitting perched in suspended birdcages or lounging in a large peacock chair.
Rather surprisingly, the themes conceived before the showing of her last collection, giving the designer time to create a pre-collection meshing the two together. Bridging the gap between Winona Ryder as Lydia Deetz in Beetlejuice with a crossover of Dreamgirls and The Birds is no minor feat, but Webster seems to take it all in her stride. It's the release of shoes and bags throughout the year, on top of her contributions to London Fashion Week that allow the designer to release up to eight collections a year. What Sophia Webster really excels at is shoe escapism and for centuries shoes have acted as ontological symbols for status.
To complement the shoes and bags, the accompanying garments were heavily textured and adorned in ruffles and marabou feathers. As one would expect, the clothes were a mixture of swinging shift dresses and bell sleeved nightgowns. Each look left me with a serious case of headgear envy. It's these details, as well as the intricate beading of the collars and bold vibrant feathers that really contributed to the success of the collection as a whole. However, it's the shoes and accessories which have set the tone for the art direction of the set. Given that the focus isn't on clothing, it's important that the decor lends itself to the motifs of the accessories, whilst also enhancing the experience for the viewer. What's wonderful about Sophia Webster, is that the audience can become part of the experience and watch the models preening their feathers. Unlike other designers to present at Fashion Week, the front row was not invited to explore the birdcage jungle for themselves after the show's presentation, but the explosion of neon colour and vivid eye makeup were enough to leave a lasting impression without so much as a backstage selfie.
Since releasing her Fall 2016 collection, Webster has also opened her first brick and mortar store on the prestigious Mount Street in London. I am guilty of frequently drooling over the carefully curated interiors, as well as amazing shoes and couches adorning the store via their Instagram account. Dangerous thinking when one lives on the other side of the world, and in a town of less than a thousand. Although describing the brand as a digital business appealing to a younger generation of online shoppers, Webster counts the direct feedback from customers instore as invaluable. Combined with winning the British Fashion Council in collaboration with Vogue Fashion Fund in March, Sophia Webster has well and truly set the standard for accessory designers, not just in England but internationally. It makes me somewhat relieved that I myself am not in the fashion industry when there's such stiff competition, particularly from a woman with a savvy business sense who's also bursting with ideas. There's a certain nostalgia about the themes which inspire Sophia Webster, but she instinctively knows how to transform those ideas and make them modern, shiny and new.
Standouts from the collection were that rainbow feather coat, as well as the amazing accompanying beauty looks. If I weren't mentally preparing for a summer heat wave almost-guaranteed to melt any makeup, I'd be spending my money on glossy lipstick and every colour of eye shadow. Three-dimensional florals were also a key staple of the collection, whether dotting the toe strap of a sandal or laser cut in leather and creating a Mary Jane ankle boot with a difference. The most outrageous pieces were the psychedelic pink and orange heels with interwoven chain ankle strap for added glamour. As usual, Webster has demonstrated a keen eye for detail with ultra feminine designs, including but not limited to stiletto heels, spacious drawstring bags and ballet flats for tiny toddlers. Her research into girl groups from the sixties and film informed the techniques and embellishment of the shoes. This includes sandals featuring musical notes woven into a birdcage motif, created using high frequency molding.
*Photos via NY Mag, The Impression and Vogue UK