halpern's latest act of socio-political-sequin resistance

The who, what, where and wow of Halpern autumn/winter 18.

by Steve Salter; photos by Anabel Navarro
18 February 2018, 1:49pm

Halpern provides FASHION with a capital everything. From the sequins to the flares and the dancefloor divas he daydreams about, the glamour of 70s New York is continually reimagined through the eyes of this young talent. In just three collections since graduating from the CSM MA, Halpern has honed his shimmering signatures and established himself as one of the industry’s brightest talents. It is precisely what we all need today, and why he walked away with the Womenswear Emerging Talent trophy at this year’s Fashion Awards. “If it feels like the world is going down, I try to go in the other direction,” Halpern explained backstage. “All this doom and gloom... I feel like a broken record talking about escapism after every season but it just gets worse out there.” After leaving New York for London five years ago, the socio-political landscape in the Big Apple has well beyond has changed. “When I was designing this collection, Trump’s move to ban transgender people in the military was coming out. I thought, 'holy shit!'”.

In its repetition, the meaning and impact of escapism intensifies, it’s becoming an act of resistance. For the latest instalment, he reacted by looking to the women who inspire him -- the women who his mother grew up around, such as legendary socialite Nan Kempner -- and women who were inappropriately dressed all the time. “I was drawn to this idea of inappropriate glamour because they were inappropriately fabulous. There are so many women now who live by that. They don't care about dress codes, what's appropriate for day or evening. It's about those constant juxtapositions. You don't have to abide by dress codes.”

“It’s questioning what is too much in fashion and what goes too far…” he explained. “What’s going on with women and politics right now has pushed me to want to make a statement with what I design.” The statement is 24/7 glamour. These are creations that look like couture but aren’t. Created entirely in custom-made fabrics, the silhouettes provide freeze-frames of fleeting moments of ease and inappropriate evening glamour worn throughout the day. "There's a line between what I do and fantasy costume but I like to blur the line,” Halpern explained, “If you don't move the line, it would become dull." As shoulders of jackets and dresses double up as mini-dresses, sleeves morph into ruffles, T-shirts bejewelled, metallic jacquards mimic plumes and super flares feature throughout, there’s never a dull moment with Halpern. "From the fantasy of partying with our woman on dancefloors to the fantasy of meeting them on the street at 11:30am, there are so many fantasies which are all equally exciting to me." Throughout, Halpern was both confirming and challenging perceptions that his is an eveningwear brand. Ultimately, this was glamour for a brave new world.

New York City served as a constant backdrop to the collection and a reminder of the broad-minded version of America this city has long represented. Rough, raw and clenched in pink plastic, the Shona Heath-designed set payed homage to the grit and glamour of the designer's hometown.

The mind-bending texture of the practically psychedelic, fuzzy fil coupé in pink and yellow lurex, organza and jacquard, was a real highlight. “It's an incredibly textured fabric -- it's almost a jacquard and you cut it all by hand,” Halpern explained. “With its huge organza patches, it's not very lasting but that's what makes it beautiful, it almost disintegrates." It was at its most present and powerful when teamed with the matching thigh-high boots which were created by Christian Louboutin for Halpern and rested sculpturally on “the drunken heel”.

London Fashion Week
a/w 18