One of the rising stars of London Fashion Week this season was undoubtedly Edward Finney who broke with catwalk tradition and presented a bleeding dress in the Somerset House Courtyard. 125's Vanessa Austen Locke met up with him recently to find out about the man who claims that “Women want to look good, not for men, but for other women”.
I met Edward Finney at Brighton Fashion Week 2011, where he was headlining the couture show. His collection really did stand out as quite exceptional in terms of concept and craftsmanship. His ‘bleeding dress’ at the end of the runway won him a standing ovation and so, when I heard on the grapevine that he was going to be presenting another version of the dress as a guerrilla instillation at Somerset House during LFW, I thought it would be a great opportunity to catch-up and find out about the new collection.
We met just around the corner from Vauxhall Fashion Scout where he was curating his new collection for the entire week and he explained how he got into fashion design. In fact, it was graphic design that first attracted him, but upon the discovery that he’d be studying graphics with 30 lads, he chose to switch to fashion, with 30 girls. Seems as good a reason as any.
Next stop Central St Martins, where he was 24 hours late to his interview. Standing in the entrance hall, the day after his appointed time, uttering various expletives, he managed to draw Willie Walters from her ivory tower. The rest is history, and a few years later he opened the internal show at the college before beginning training with Alexander McQueen (where he interned on the jaw-dropping S/S ’04 collection Deliverance), Eley Kishimoto and 19 Saville Row. He then spent four years as assistant designer to John Galliano, who, by the way, he cannot speak too highly of.
He bases each collection on one famous, infamous and/or great lady who captures his imagination. His new collection is an homage to Alice de Janzé; an heiress, socialite, murderess and staple in the Happy Valley crew, who has inspired the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald. An American, she married Comte de Janzé, but in a lover’s passion she attempted to shoot him, and herself at Gare du Nord in Paris. She was unsuccessful in both attempts and after a lengthy trial she was granted a suspended sentence on grounds of chronic melancholy. Divorce followed and she left for Kenya where she spent time with the Masai Tribe. More passion, drugs, sex, murder and eventually suicide ensued.
This tale has resulted in a collection wound up in the unlikely union of the roaring 20s of Europe, Scotland and Africa, all brought together through this woman. The Masai Tribe used to trade with Scotland and so their traditional dress incorporates a good deal of tartan, which Edward has used as the basis for this collection. There’s a 20s silhouette, but it’s not flapper, it’s more draped than that. The headgear too, takes its inspiration from tribal hairstyles.
The dark colours, so evident across the board for S/S ’12, and heavy fabrics conjure up the salty sweat, the dry, dusty madness-inducing Kenyan roads where this over-wrought heiress, ricocheting from one continent to another, shot her lover like a dog. Of course, feminine malady has been so heavily romanticised over the years that it can be a little hard to swallow at times. However, this collection hasn’t tried to pretty it up, or turn it into anything other than what it is; a dark, strong and deep female story of power and ruin. And she maintains her position of power, as we look through the collection. There’s nothing weak about this Lady Macbeth of the roaring 20s. Icon of tragedy? Perhaps. Pioneer in perceptions of madness and sexual freedom? Certainly.
And this is what strong design does… it makes a point, it stands up for someone and it channels a time, a place, a person… the essence of a story. With his combination of old school tailoring skills, fascination with female psychology, guerrilla tactics and a glittering CV, I’ll be surprised if we don’t see more from this young designer very soon.
Vanessa Austin Locke