Bethany Williams: Menswear AW20
Debunking the complex ideas Bethany Williams presents in her shows is an almost impossible task. There are layers upon layers of socially responsible partnerships and decisions that benefit society as a whole rather than Williams as an individual, all presented in the form of a fashion collection. “It’s the ability of fashion to amplify these important things,” the designer said backstage after her first “real” catwalk show, produced from the very start to her final bow, which she took with her mum Karen Kewley who hand-knits some of the pieces.
It all started with a poem by Eno Mfon and a projection of an animated video, revealing the theme of childhood that enveloped the whole spectacle. “Motherhood, sisterhood, and the family we choose too,” said Williams. Working with The Magpie Project, an initiative making sure that temporary accommodation doesn’t permanently damage children who experience it, the British designer celebrated the beauty of a childlike mindset. The research process took her to the V&A Museum of Childhood where Williams borrowed design elements from objects of the past such as 1700s iterations of tracksuits and kids’ yokes. But while the starting point was youth, the collection itself presented Williams’ most complex output yet. Some of the looks carried couture-like sensibilities, with patchwork knits and elaborate silhouettes, building upon the design signatures most already recognise. As for the custom Adidas kicks, they were created in partnership with fellow pioneer Helen Kirkum
2019 was a big year for Bethany Williams: in the eyes of most in the industry, she went from an obscure young girl with radical ideas of positive change to a powerful leader of a new wave of trailblazers. She won the second-ever Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design, a Fashion Award for emerging menswear talent, and was in the finals for the LVMH Prize. You’d think she’s done something new and totally different, but no – she’s been doing her own thing for years. The fashion world just happens to finally be catching up with Bethany Williams.
Photographs by Jason Lloyd-Evans.