The "prescribed good taste" that Ed Meadham spoke of in an interview with Elle last year has been a constant ring in my ears. The question I find myself increasingly asking, whenever I receive a look book is whether the designer is defaulting to the current traits of a "prescribed good taste.". Phoebe Philo at Celine has been injecting leather in pieces beyond the jacketed norm. Ergo a hundred other designers and the high street echo that. You can't really go wrong with a detachable collar (see Miu Miu and Carven) and a primly buttoned up shirt and so we see a million versions reverberating around.
There isn't necessarily anything wrong with sticking to what the populist survey dictates. The "anti-sexy", preppy meets girly aesthetic, made prevalent and popular by the likes of Alexa Chung, has created a market big enough to warrant all the leather accents, Peter Pan collars, and perfectly formed blazers – in other words, a perfectly nice, perfectly formed neatly feminine wardrobe. Therefore, with wide open arms, we welcome the likes of Co-te and Licia Florio into the fold.
It's interesting that both labels are based in Milan, home to the likes of Versace, Pucci and Dolce Gabbana, a trio that do the "more is more" and the "so bad it's good" thing really well. Perhaps it's a homegrown reaction to that and in any case, in a city where young designers are still scarce on the ground, anything pumping up at grassroots level is more than welcome.
My only niggling though of caution is that it might become difficult to differentiate between what these labels do and what the high street have latched on to – seeing as we are witnessing a mass sea of prim n' proper collars, blouses and high-waisted trousers. Judging from Licia Florio's prices on their webstore, they sit at a middling level that isn more than reasonable but will the average customer be able to pick up on the differences in quality and design detailing? Not having touched the clothes, is it possible discern that they exist?
If this seems like veiled criticism at the two young upstarts, don't get me wrong – I'm sitting here writing this post wearing brogues and a buttoned up shirt (albeit Simone Rocha red pony skin ones and a loud vintage Moschino print). No doubt, there'll always be women, who don't want to be decked out in traffic light trends but hanker after a well cut t-shirt, the perfectly formed chambray artist's shirt and brogues. Co-te and Licia Florio will serve them well. I'm just off on a thought tangent, wondering how this prescription of good taste will change and whether it is in fact healthy for a designer to feel like he/she fulfil a ticksheet of must-haves in order to start their own label. As always, thoughts below…
I stand by talking these two up though. Two Milanese new labels is a veritable score on a slow Sunday (wrote this yesterday).
Co-te's slick S/S 12 lookbook doesn't quite correlate with the strange little stick figure animation on the homepage of their website. Perhaps there is a more 'random' side to the duo Tomaso Anfossi and Francesco Ferrari, that lies beneath the streamlined separates, perfectly judged colour palette and appropriate injection of leather. In a weird turn of events, COS, the high street store has become the weird benchmark point of comparison. Those who have access to COS are indeed spoilt for choice when it comes to strong design that smacks of quality. Some of this stuff will seem a little COS-ish to those people but in general you can't have too many gripes about the designs. Dinky collars, some with a splay of feathers, envelope clutches and well-positioned belts are nice accompaniments. Ooops, I think I broke my general rule of thumb of using the word "nice" in a post. Still, "nice" at its most accomplished level is better than nothing.
Licio Florio may well be a young label but her mini empire now consists of a clothing and a shoe line, both sitting on a proper e-commerce site. Florio's blog is telling of the sort of vibes she digs – feminine, dreamy and escapist, but with feet touching the ground when it comes to the clothes. Her S/S 12 collection Seawolf takes the nautical world with a tiny pinch of salt and so we have rope trimmed collars (again detachable), sailor blue chambray and loose-ish artist smocks and trousers. Florio takes a more playful approach than Co-te but again, there's nothing overtly whimsical or unnecessary here. Good or bad thing? You decide.
Florio has come up with an innovative take on the brogue with her line of LF Unisex shoes. Removing the need for laces and the tongue of the shoe makes this a no-strings attached brogue with an opportunity to show off whatever crazily patterned socks you happen to be wearing. As the name suggests, they're for both guys and girls and are fairly affordable and it looks like their upcoming colour combos for both S/S12 and A/W12-3 are going to prove quite tempting for flat aficionados like myself.