Inside Escada’s Fall/Winter 2019 collection during Paris Fashion Week
For this season’s ESCADA collection, Global Design Director Niall Sloan has taken the notorious Hedy Lamarr as his muse: the legendary star of Hollywood’s Golden Age whose impact extends far beyond the silver screen. Once revered as “the most beautiful woman in the world” and infamous for simulating the first filmic orgasm in Gustav Machaty’s Ekstase, she occupies a profoundly significant role in contemporary culture.
Between takes and after hours, Hedy would spend her free time inventing new technologies: first, reconfiguring the design of Howard Hughes’ airplane wings, and later developing something known as “frequency hopping.” While her intellectual achievements were overlooked, often negated by her beauty, that technology is today considered to be the foundation for WIFI and Bluetooth. Both profoundly feminine and determinedly independent, she embodies the multi-faceted nature of the brand’s contemporary customer.
This collection adopts the glamorous language of Hedy’s on-screen aesthetics — the glittering sequins and languid elegance of 1930s silhouettes, the artwork of Ekstace and lightweight drapery — while also exploring the narrative of her personal life and private interests. Held captive by her first, tyrannical husband, who she married aged just 19, Hedy stitched her jewellery collection into the lining of her clothing before escaping to find freedom.
Here, those scattered treasures translate into graphic prints and embellished eveningwear; the mathematic equations that fascinated her now decorating pleated skirts and jersey dresses; ESCADA’s beloved, bold florals pixelated to near-abstraction. Both high-impact gowns and refined daywear are reconfigured with a newfound ease in form and fabrication: rather than replicating Hedy’s wardrobe, this is a modern evolution of its spirit.
By inverting gold-buttoned military tailoring to expose its colour-blocked lining, Sloan pays tribute to Hedy’s interior world: to her staunch patriotism, which transformed the naval technology of the forties as well as the world as we know it today. Within her lifetime, Hedy’s intellect was often undermined by her bewitching beauty but “What I love about Hedy is that, within one person, you find the epitome of glamour and also this incredible mind,” reflects Sloan. “Why should somebody who has an incredible intellect not be beautiful, not be glamorous? If we had given her the space to be herself, imagine what more she could she have done.”
This is a collection that pays tribute both to beauty and what lies beneath: a new vision of the bold ESCADA aesthetic, underscored by feminine strength.