Within the space of a month, three designers I’ve spoken with have manifested their fears through their collections. One of them is Beate Karlsson, who built on the idea she introduced at her made-to-be-memed spring show. Last season, said the designer, the focus was on “the failure of the individual, of the models being embarrassed and falling on the runway, and this time it’s more like the embarrassment of us as a fashion house. Like, what’s the most embarrassing thing that can happen to us? And then I thought that things breaking is perhaps one of the most embarrassing things.” And so, as models walked the catwalk, heels (deliberately) broke and pieces of clothing were peeled away. At the end, the wall also fell down. “It was magical-looking,” said Karlsson, a provocateur with a keen sense of theater and humor, not to mention her finger on the pulse. She did mermaidcore before it was a thing, and Avavav’s finger boots are Rick Owens approved. (He was spotted wearing a pair not long ago.)
Days prior to a show in Milan, the brand page featured a video of a creative director (Karlsson) wearing a “Cash Cow” hoodie with a disguised voice announcing a new chapter for the brand. This 2020 Parsons grad is now, with a partner, the coowner of the female-owned brand, which will have headquarters in the designer’s native Sweden and show elsewhere. It’s a big step for Karlsson, whose transition from artwear (while in school the designer, with artists Ida Jonsson and Simon Saarinen, created The Bum, a wearable silicone replica of Kim Kardashian’s backside that was meant as a commentary on celebrity culture) to ready-to-wear is ongoing. Fall found the designer still fixated on the topic of celebs, showing separates that read “Hot,” “Rich,” and “Famous”—which is basically the dream that Instagram enables.
Still, Karlsson is now focused on customers as well as commentary, with an emphasis on what she calls the “luxury streetwear” that makes up most of her wardrobe. One of the most dramatic looks, an oversized bedazzled hoodie worn with the brand’s distinctive Moonster boots, had an engaging manga-inspired silhouette: fun, but not unexpected. A pinstripe coat minidress with an extended collar and asymmetric closure was a nice addition to the designer’s repertoire. A cute printed mesh top and mini seemed sure to appeal to a Gen Z consumer and had the added appeal of being made with deadstock fabrics. Karlsson described herself as feeling part of Gen Z but also being able to see it from the outside. She’s observed a tendency among creatives “trying to be different for the sake of it” but said that’s not a road she wants to take. It’s clear that the designer can deliver Instagram moments, but they come with creative commentary and, increasingly, covetable clothes. Watch this space.