16Arlington's playful pieces and its liberal use of sequins, feathers and embellishment have, at times, boxed the almost three-year-old, London-based brand into a very specific category of dress: party wear.
"We love the party element and we love the idea of being a brand that evokes that feel-good factor. And I think a lot of our more eye-catching pieces lend themselves to party or to red carpet," explains co-founder Marco Capaldo over the phone, a few weeks before he and Kikka Cavenati unveiled their Fall 2020 collection for the brand during London Fashion Week.
Its proclivity for sparkle, fluffy trims and that overall disco-ready aesthetic have made 16Arlington a favorite among the celebrity crowd — Alexa Chung, Rita Ora and plenty of others have worn it on the red carpet — as well as among industry insiders. (Lizzo famously wore on of its gowns for her British Vogue shoot.)
"Sometimes we get swayed into the party corner — which is great, we'll take that," says Capaldo. "But there are other dimensions to the brand."
That was something the design duo — who met at fashion school and are also a real-life couple — worked to convey this season, in particular. For Fall 2020, there's an increased focus on tailoring and fit, a more concise color palette. There were feathers and sequins, still, but the pieces feel a bit more restrained than the ones that have made 16Arlington famous on Instagram. Still, as Capaldo puts it: "Just because it's a party doesn't mean it has to be a sequined feathered mini dress — a really sharp tuxedo can be just as dramatic or as effective."
The collection debuted on the runway on Feb. 14 in London, with a cast of models of different body types and a guest appearance by Lena Dunham, who's worn the brand on the red carpet. That format "[allows] us to elevate and show [how] the brand is growing and evolving. There's something quite exciting about doing a runway, because you're building a story," Capaldo says.
"London is such a championing hub of emerging and very established talent, and we're honored to be part of that conversation," he adds. "At the end of the day, we're a London-based brand, we love London andLondon is a huge part of our inspiration. The energy here is really embedded within what we do."
Though 16Arlington represents their first official professional collaboration, Capaldo says he and Cavenati have been bouncing ideas off of each other since their university days, when they first recognized that "we had very different styles aesthetically, but Kikka's design style was very much my personal style, and vice versa." They'd wanted to work together on the customary final collection, but the school didn't allow it, he recalled — so, they served as unofficial advisors to each other through the process.
"It just kind of grew into this minimalistic-maximalistic cocktail of ideas, which I suppose, subconsciously, made the foundation for 16Arlington," he says.
Nowadays, Capaldo says, he and his co-founder are "very much on the same wavelength" when it comes to design: "90% of the time, or 85% of the time, one maybe triggers an idea and the other one takes it the full way, or vice versa.... There's never one single piece that only I've touched or only Kikka's touched."
Fall 2020 is about communicating an "evolution" for the brand, according to Capaldo: "You're going to see more pieces that can transition from day to night. You can wear them strictly during the day, depending on how they're styled, or you can quite easily transform them into a super-glamorous, super-fun evening outfit." Though, the designer maintained that "there's always that underlying energy of a party."
If there was one 16Arlington piece that represents what the brand is about — and what it's trying to achieve — Capaldo thinks to the high-necked, graphic mini dress Jorja Smith to the 2019 BRIT Awards. "It has some sculpture to it. It has volume. It was still somehow quite minimalistic in cut, but we played with texture, with a printed sequin," he explains. "And even though the shape wasn't skintight or figure-hugging, the sequin was sheer and [the dress] was unlined, so it was still extremely sexy. I remember Jorja had a lot of fun, and you could see she felt great in that piece."
That's ultimately what it comes down to, for the designers: having the clothing reflect the confidence, excitement and energy that their wearer already possesses — whether that's done through a fully covered, cream-colored leather suit or a feathered-shouldered mini dress.