Sinéad O’Dwyer has long-channelled her own tribulations with body-dysmorphia into brilliant, body-baring declarations of self-acceptance, perpetually blowing open borders. Her Summer Intensive SS23 collection, which marked her debut as a Newgen recipient, was no different.
O’Dwyer’s design vocabulary is innately democratic, with a big focus on diversity of size, ability, gender and race; two wheelchair users rolled down the runway – a surprising first for London Fashion Week – and it was utterly uplifting. However, the tormented sound of Elgar’s “Cello Concerto” (ripped from a memory of her mother playing it) set the melodramatic mood of this, her darkest offering to date, touted as a “moody study of the emotional turmoils and sacrifices that are an unavoidable part of any artist’s life”.
Stealing inspiration from the garb O’Dwyer sported during the goth-rock era of her adolescence, she evoked the trash-culture aesthetic of noughties goths – hair was swept over one eye and paired with dark, sanguine makeup, while dildos and butt plugs dangled from sterling silver necklaces, earrings and waist-pieces.
O’Dwyer’s shibari-inspired playsuits have always been for those with a cheeky rope-kink, but this season they became somewhat graceful. Created by combining bands of picot-trimmed, shirred satin bands and stretchy strips of fine knit, this same sartorial technique works its way into shorts, garters, stirruped leggings and harnesses. But as effervescent as these sex-positive pieces were, they came counterposed by sharp, structured monochrome tailoring. Think, nightshade-satin wool peak-lapelled tuxedos, darted collared shirts and a floor-length coat with cargo pockets and strip details inspired by the voyeuristic photographs of Merry Alpern. Elsewhere, Swarovski-stoned T-shirts were printed with techy sketches of weeping musicians by Osvald Landmark alongside motifs lifted from hand-printed photographs by Ottilie Landmark. Blink and you might miss it, because Sinéad O’Dwyer is reshaping the future of fashion: one beautiful, body-hugging ensemble at a time.
Photography courtesy of Sinéad O’Dwyer.