When Emilia Wickstead began researching ideas on uniforms and the work of visual artist Man Ray, it didn’t take long to join the dots to the spirit and style of Lee Miller, a regular reference point on Wickstead’s mood boards. “She’s the consummate polymath: artist, muse, model, surrealist, journalist, Vogue photographer, and the first female war correspondent,” said Wickstead during a preview of her collection while in the midst of dressing mannequins at her new store on Sloane Street, the venue for this season’s video presentation.
As Wickstead explained, this collection touched on the many facets of Miller’s career but at the forefront of it all was her determined independence and freedom to move across those different worlds. At its most obvious, the idea of uniform was evident in oversized shirting with neat boyish collars and utilitarian flap pockets, rendered glamorously in sheerest organza, and beige wide-leg trousers in silk satin, not workaday cotton.
Miller’s sensuality and her love affair with Man Ray were explored via off-the-shoulder shapes, a glimpse of underpinnings, and a feeling of unraveling—of fabrics peeling away. One of the most interesting references was how Wickstead approached Miller’s pioneering photography techniques. Miller and Ray discovered solarization, a process that gives photographs a ghostly, glowing, and surreal quality. Wickstead took this as a way to experiment with prints. Her painterly florals on silk were blurred and became further distorted overlaid with printed organza; the effect, she noted, was as softly focused as a Vaseline-smeared lens. Pleats were also warped—either stitched back or falling in rebellious folds rather than rigid, linear formations.
This was a collection with all kinds of shapes and silhouettes, from rigorously fitted and immaculately tailored to easy and loose, from ultrashort to long and narrow gowns with trains. Others were full and floor skimming. Overall it was feminine and formal but with a spicy undercurrent of edge and modernity—even a bit racy at times. It’s this clever and precise balance that ensures Wickstead’s clothes don’t veer too far one way or the other.
And there was a great new bag too. Wickstead debuted her own luxe version of the plastic carrier bag, crafted in stiff sheer gauze with edges piped in silk satin. It comes in nude, black, and white, and her clients will surely want all three. “Whatever Miler turned her hand to, she just threw herself into it and did it so brilliantly,” she said. Much like Wickstead, in fact: She presided over the design of her impressive checkerboard-terra-cotta-marbled store, which opened this summer. Her product offering has expanded across multiple categories. Beyond ready-to-wear, bespoke, and bridal, there is sleepwear, shoes, swim, and holidaywear, and she’ll soon launch tabletop, comprising plates, cutlery, crystal glassware, and linens. It’s a world you really want to live in.