Often when we’re examining at a collection, what we’re looking for is a story. We want a cohesive a narrative, real, logically behaving characters, solid structure, and themes we can take home. We look for fantasies, realism, biography and references. If we can find the story, we can begin to dissect what it means to us, to fashion, in this time and place, and then we get to retell it, as do you, right down to the fashionista who actually buys and wears the piece–then it becomes their job to tell the story anew.
Now if we were to move this metaphor to the realm of contemporary fiction, it should not be Johnathan Franzen’s face on the cover of Time, it should be Jeremy Laing’s.
I’ve followed Laing’s work for four years, and this is at once his most sophisticated collection to date, and his most wearable. It is also beautiful, sometimes astonishingly so.
In a single piece, Laing has tied together contrasting materials and knits with a deftness that bespeaks the thoughtfulness and engagement of an artist, not just a designer. Like the tank dress made of hand-knit leather strips, a lengthened version of a sailors tank with not two but three versions of the knitted material in the same garment. If we go back to our story, this is sentence structure at the level of Fitzgerald.
Sometimes, it’s a look, and not a dress that’s Laing uses to toy with our perceptions, like the orange satin flag dress with a trapping skirt made of whitewhashed linen. This is a dress with which to make an entrance, a statement, a scene, and yet it’s lighter than smoke, and trails off with similar grace.
And sometimes it’s a single piece in a single knit that leaves us with that delicious agony of wanting to find out what happens, but not wanting the story to end. The mesh knit hitched dress in cotton cashmere is such an example (look for the model with the doo-rag), as is the immaculate black swoop gown, made of viscose jersey, which exists at the meeting place of sex and elegance.
And then there’s the single print of the collection (previously, Laing has collaborated with printmaker Calla Haynes)—a rose taken from Laing’s grandmother’s coffin and then scanned—hauntingly and yet defiantly gracing a silk jersey tee shirt dress.
With the entire collection, Laing is looking at the bigger picture, revealing a designer who cares desperately about the woman wearing his clothes, and not just the pieces themselves. There are attainable truths hidden in his cuts, in the dresses’ movements, their silhouettes. And therein lies the real triumph of this collection: without losing his ambition, Laing is moving further away from imagining what we can be, and like Franzen, he’s telling us who we are.