LONDON FASHION WEEK AW19 – an interview with Charlotte Knowles

AW19 marks the end of Charlotte Knowles’ era with Fashion East – and she definitely knows how to make a statement. Charlotte Knowles, a brand collaboration between the eponymous designer and her partner Alexandre Arsenault, was launched in 2017 after the designer duo had absolved their MA studies at Central Saint Martins. The designer made it their mission to explore what it means to be a woman in modern society. Moving on from their more playful SS19 collection, AW19 was all about the strong, tough woman who’s understood that expressing her femininity and confidence doesn’t automatically mean that her wardrobe has to be all business attire. Knowles presents us with an alternative “power suit”, one that includes asymmetric midi dresses with corset-like detailing, checked wool coats layered over printed, mint green undergarments and voluminous, cropped biker jackets with belted waist detailing and faux fur lining on arms and shoulders.

“I think it’s a very defining season for us – it feels as if we were able to show a more complete collection and present the ‘Charlotte Knowles’ woman just the way we have always imagined her”, the designer explained.

You’ve previously talked about the importance of juxtaposing unconventional textiles and weights while combining it with unique handwork. What does your design process look like in relation to that?

We’ve always liked to play with small nuances. You can create strong contrasts in a garment by playing around with specific fabrics. Seeing the way the fabrics move can be very inspiring to us and easily change people’s perception of the overall garment.

You’ve launched your eponymous brand in 2017. What are your thoughts on the modern luxury womenswear market?

We feel like nowadays, the word ‘luxury’ is just being thrown around a lot. Many womenswear designers position their label under the luxury umbrella when in reality, the quality and refinement of their work doesn’t live up to the expectations and connotations of luxury design. Personally, we always have and will aspire to create elevated products that warrant the high price tag.

How have your MA studies at Central Saint Martins informed your work as a designer?

MA studies just make you really analyse everything to an almost obsessive degree, but I think it’s really important to develop that skill. Another important milestone during my MA studies was that Alex and I met each other. I guess working together has really pushed our design onto a completely different level.

You’re known to incorporate sportswear-inspired silhouettes into your elegant collections. What direct link do you see between sports and modern femininity?

Generally speaking, sport imbues attributes such as strength, health and even power, all of which are terms we like to connote modern femininity, too. Sportswear, as a result, is very comfortable, flexible and functional – I’d even call it technological. I think those are all things that are very relevant in general and in line with the current zeitgeist.

Your partner Alexandre Arsenault previously mentioned how designers such as Rick Owens and Alexander McQueen were the reason he scrapped the idea of studying art and moved on to womenswear design instead. How do these designers and his passion for art inform your work?  

Growing up, I wasn’t really much exposed to fashion. I knew that I wanted to work in a creative profession and at the time, my only option seemed to be an art degree. I then discovered designers such as Rick Owens, Hedi Slimane and Alexander McQueen online and got really excited by the idea that there was a creative industry out there that still has such a strong business and marketing aspect to it. It just seemed like the most logical and safest pathway for me.

You’ve recently been part of the Void exhibition at 1Granary. What is it about presenting your work in this way that’s so appealing to you?

It’s always interesting to use different platforms to present the brand, as it really helps to build a more complete vision of the universe that surrounds the women we’re designing for. Being able to work with Harley (Weir) for the Void exhibition was incredible – she’s such a sweet person and the fact that she was able to grasp what our brand is about and still portray it in a whole new way was amazing.

You’re presenting as part of Fashion East this season. What can we expect from your AW19 collection?

Expect a wardrobe full of power, death metal and pointy bags! I think it’s a very defining season for us – it feels as if we’re able to show a more complete collection and present the ‘Charlotte Knowles’ woman just the way we have always imagined her.

What’s next for Charlotte Knowles?

We’ve got a couple of really exciting projects on the horizon. For now, we’re focusing on promoting the new collection. We’re also working on launching our website and online store, which should be up soon.

All clothes Charlotte Knowles AW19 (shown as part of Fashion East AW19). All photos © Jim Tobias