Definitions are important at Charlotte Knowles, and so is the detail. It’s there in the obsessive composition of triangular cup shapes, moulding body parts in new and unseen ways. It’s there in the intimate layering of small, delicate pieces suspended on toggle ropes or ties. And it’s there in the manipulation of swimwear lycra and fine meshes, where underwear becomes outerwear. More than anywhere else though, it’s there in the brand’s intent. Taking the personal to the public isn’t light work, and while labels of feminism are quick to be stamped on anything that even hints at the yonic, the label – made up of Knowles and partner Alexandre Arsenault – is clear about who they are and what defines them.
An undeniably British brand that isn’t heritage, an exploration of female sensuality that isn’t sexual, and a ready-to-wear collection with the sentiments of underwear that is never just underwear. It’s this clear vision that shapes the designers’ research. Keeping one foot in the familiar, they mine their own archives first, re-inserting the woman at the centre of their vision in different environments to make her world evolve. Like this, layered fabrications, padded cups and unexpected cutouts quickly became part of the Charlotte Knowles DNA.
Ever personal, this collection came steeped in the stylings of Knowles’s childhood hometown of Salcombe – a seaside town in Devon. English checks, swimwear and windproof fabrications may have been inspired by the picturesque location, but the duo’s woman-of-the-future muse demanded something altogether more elusive, and more timeless too.
This perennial femininity became key in the brand’s collaboration with Ted Lovett, Harley Weir and Georgia Pendlebury, with the latter pair’s own experience of femininity helping to enmesh the romantic with the strong and everything in between. The result? An intimate, yet abstract snapshot of femininity where age, era or background become irrelevant. Like the garments themselves, each image comes imbued with the intimacy and details of lingerie, and as with the wearer, a new element is discovered and a new aspect is favoured based on the viewer themselves. The work might seem overtly political, but the brand is more fluid than that, working with and alongside the evolving nature of femininity rather than shouting over it.