For those of us who pine for the glory days of a bygone era, when fashion was unashamedly devoted to the cause of celebrating and flattering the female figure, Lena Hoschek’s latest collection feels like a refreshingly nostalgic gem tossed into a vastly modern pool. She causes a stir – she demands a second look. Sending her models down the catwalk in the kind of fluid-but-structured tailoring that might have earned her a position as one of Christian Dior’s top ateliers during those legendary New Look years, Hoschek is daring to do what many of her contemporaries shy away from: manipulating the silhouettes of 1940s and 1950s sirens into a 21st century context, with a playful confidence that illuminates her gift – she knows that women want to turn heads, and she knows how to help them do it.
With so much emphasis on innovation these days, returning to form seems like a cop-out. A cliche. A surefire way to end up labelled as twee, before being promptly shelved with all the other palid imitators. She may indeed be returning to form, but what sets Hoschek apart from those other designers – the ones who simply rehash the crumpled patterns found at the bottom of the haberdashery sale box – is her individual mastery over the silhouette she advocates. Her attention to detail is second to none. No garment feels anachronistic or out of place; or, more importantly, that it isn’t entirely the product of its creator’s imagination. The eras and icons she pays tribute to never overwhelm the pieces, but only seem to nod their approval in a ghostly echo around the room, while the living purveyors “oooh” and “aaah” over an aptly-placed sweetheart neckline, or a swishing circle skirt dancing around long slender legs. The pared-down theatricality of this season’s Mercedes-Benz show coupled an easygoing jazz guitar soundtrack with a hazy black-and-white video montage playing unobtrusively against the backdrop, and set the scene for the stars to arrive.
The stars of any collection are, of course, the clothes themselves: all of Hoschek’s are variations on an exquisite theme – tributes to the romance of a lost silver screen era. A stock foundation of sleek pencil skirts, body-hugging dresses and generously-skirted swing frocks provide the canvas for Hoschek’s gloriously fresh imagination. Every piece simultaneously belongs to the best kind of memory, and yet feels extraordinarily unique, as though this is both the first and last time you’ll ever see an item you want so much. Looks are imbued with the teasing flicker of lingerie peeking out underneath translucent fine knits, tapping the current vogue for irreverently stylish underwear-as-outerwear in a deliciously nostalgic, boudoir-esque way; sheer polka dot organza froths out tantalisingly from a tidy nipped waist; a flared skirt drops to precisely the right length on the knee, the hemline intently designed for that bouncy nonchalance of an off-screen Hollywood starlet being whisked off to her next dinner date; the rustic charm of Autumn is captured in the muted tones infusing a hugging pencil skirt.
The phrase “classic LBD” is so overdone these days, it makes the more adventurous fashionista squirm; but an asymmetric neck and a masterfully fluted hem update Hoschek’s contribution to the genre and turn it into the most covetable of wardrobe staples. Meanwhile the standout pieces are the two ball-gowns – one brocade number that looks as though it might have danced straight out of an MGM musical, the other a delightfully slippery muted gold mermaid dress – and one flared cocktail dress that delights with its teasing juxtaposition of ladylike and vixenish, pairing a bodice that hints at bare skin with a demure skirt in pastel blue. Always offset with a pair of pointed heels and seamed stockings, and the occasional pair of elbow-length leather gloves, the collection’s overall motif seems to chime that old-school glamour can be easily harnessed to contemporary style sentiment, with sinfully exciting results.
Hoschek’s woman kisses Clark Gable in the rain, dances with Fred Astaire in the gardens of Versailles – and heads to the boardroom in the morning, iPhone in one hand and plans to change in the other. She is not of this era, or that. She is merely timeless – which is exactly why we don’t forget her.