Three days before his second runway show, Conner Ives was feeling impressively cool-headed. “The last show was a bit of a lesson in what a type A control freak I can be with my own work,” Ives said. “But I know that at some point in the process, I’ll have to accept that this is what we’re showing—and then a lot of those jitters and stress and feelings of impostor syndrome will go.” Ives’s self-possession is partly the result of his decision (made firmly before his inaugural show last year) to show only every second season. The impetus for doing so was partly financial, partly to allow him time to recharge his creative batteries. “It might sound a little crass, but if we’re going to throw all this cash at it, then let’s make it a show,” he added.
While last season’s eclectic ’90s extravaganza proved Ives can do more than just the spliced T-shirt dresses that earned him a following while still a student at Central Saint Martins, the 26-year-old designer explained that he wanted to mature things with this collection. (Just a little.) Titled “Magnolia” after Paul Thomas Anderson’s sprawling 1999 film charting the lives and loves of a disparate group of Angelenos, it contained all of the greatest hits of Ives’s collections thus far: slinky fringed skirts made from upcycled piano scarves; diaphanous Lilith Fair slip dresses with sheer ruffles; and yes, those vintage T-shirts, here transformed into a bias-cut camisole dress trimmed with black lace. To Ives’s point, there were a few more grown-up tricks in the mix too, including a handful of retro silk button-downs and tailored trousers, along with Ally McBeal-core minimalist tailoring in muted shades of green and gray. “I love the pieces that keep my lights on, but I wanted to show a little more of what I can do,” he said.
There was also fun to be had: not least in the dizzying soundtrack, which cycled relentlessly through everything from Lil Mama’s “Lip Gloss” to the opening theme of Psycho. And as with last season’s smorgasbord of winking references to everything from reality TV to film history, part of the thrill was engaging with Ives’s Guess Who? game of pop culture icons from across the decades. The second look was a Kate Moss-inspired “Glasto girl” trudging through the mud in a fur gilet and Hunter wellies, while other looks paid homage to the “shiny set” of New York society women who would descend on the Paris couture shows each season, such as C.Z. Guest and Nan Kempner. Most bonkers of all was the bridal look at the end: a tongue-in-cheek nod to a wedding dress from the Lindsay Lohan remake of The Parent Trap (as well as the highly questionable top hat-veil hybrid that remains seared onto the retinas of all who have seen it). “That was really something where I was like: This is so fucking ridiculous,” Ives added, with a grin.