Michael Whittaker and Bella Barber - photos: Oliver Rose
There are always plenty of different elements going on in a Zambesi collection. The menswear takes cues from the womenswear (and vice versa), the fabrics are mixed and mismatched and the themes are many and varied and not necessarily in accordance with one another.
In this case, two objects were the inspiration behind Zambesi's Summer 2011 collection; a hat, and a box of lace. "We started with a hat," Zambesi Man designer Dayne Johnston said after the show. "When you put on a hat it's like you put on a personality and a character." As for the box of lace, "We have all this stuff lying around in the workroom, and I just thought, 'I've gotta use that,'" said owner and womenswear designer Elisabeth Findlay.
And use it they did. Based around the theme 'Modern Rogue', Zambesi's models came out in the trappings of a mischievous traveller, a Jack Sparrow type figure, whose magpie-collected clothing acts as a layer against the world. The whole fabric box found its way in there. Entirely disparate cloths were mixed in pieces like a sweatshirt in cotton fleece with a lace front section; silk trousers had jersey ribbing; and men's shirts featured pleated panels in contrast tee shirting.
Accessories and fabrics from previous seasons were reintroduced - the Converse shoes from Summer 2010 and a wool gauze from Summer 2009 found their way in the mix. "Zambesi isn't a brand that's interested in throwaway fashion," said Johnston. "It's an enduring label. We encourage our customers to buy new season garments that will work with their old pieces."
A man's hat bore a similarity to the one found on the head of The Veils' frontman Finn Andrews, though in straw (Andrews only wears felt). Rumour has it a photograph of the singer was up on the Zambesi Man mood board while the collection was being designed. The hat also suggested an individuality that many men find impossible to achieve come summertime. When it's 30 degrees outside, who wants to think about fashion?
But that's what the collection was all about. Dressing down, but a considered dressing down. It worked in a cotton and silk netting short sleeved shirt, about as breathable a garment as you can get, but struggled in a tee shirt with dress shirt sleeves and cuffs (that mix of casual and class is always tough to pull off). Pieces like a knitted cotton long sleeved polo shirt in pink were perfect for looking good in the heat, and its women's counterpart - a flowing cardigan was the ideal layer on a summer's eve.
The show's finale was a crowd favourite; a young blonde girl sauntered out in a silk hood with a knapsack slung over her shoulders, bearing a similarity to a moody Riding Hood. And she didn't come a moment too soon - Zambesi showed over 60 looks and the show lasted upwards of 20 minutes. I don't care who you are - that's a long time to concentrate on clothes.
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