Back in 2020, Emilia Wickstead decided to introduce a little narrative flair to her pre-fall lookbooks by shooting the clothes on the community of creative women that surrounded her. (Initially, she was inspired by the portraits in the 1999 book Us and Them by Alice Springs, also known as the wife of Helmut Newton.) It’s an approach that evolved into a trilogy of lookbooks over the past three years, and became a clever showcase for how Wickstead’s customers wear her designs: from day to night, from the office to the school run, and always rooted in real life. “It felt like my own study of modern womanhood,” she says.
Where last year’s lookbook showcased the women in London she’s been following, her latest collection opens a new chapter—this time, by looking to Manhattan, where Wickstead interned in her student years with Proenza Schouler and Narciso Rodriguez. “I had an incredible year in New York, and I always dreamed I’d return there,” she says. Yet while Wickstead might have a sentimental reason for gravitating towards Gotham, there’s a more pragmatic explanation too: The United States is currently her biggest-growing market, and she has a new group of stockists on that side of the pond from this season onwards. “It felt like a very natural progression to head to New York,” she says. “And hopefully a statement that feels humble: I wanted it to be a love letter to the city.”
The cast of characters she assembled for the shoot—captured across three days this summer, zipping from the Upper East Side to the Staten Island Ferry—may be a love letter to the city, but it’s also a case study in the evolving appeal of her brand. There are the high society women you might expect to see in Wickstead’s milieu, but also the next generation of tastemakers in film, fashion, and contemporary art, photographed on the stoops of their Brooklyn brownstones or shuffling across sidewalks. As she was still working on the collection while doing the casting, the finishing touches were made with those women in mind. “I loved that every time we were dressing somebody and selecting options, they became part of the story,” says Wickstead.
It makes sense, then, that beyond the catnip for her loyal customers—blowsy floral prints, tweed and bouclé skirt suits, Klimt-inspired gold metallic jacquards—the more pared-back and playfully styled moments shone brightest. Vogue’s Naomi Elizée in a strapless hourglass dress covered in fluoro-green roses and peonies, for example, laid over a chunky ribbed knit, artfully unbuttoned to create a louche open neckline. Stylist Melissa Levy in a chunky fisherman’s knit sweater and a ’90s-inspired tube skirt, gussied up with shiny, hand-sewn beaded embellishments. The Cut’s fashion director Jessica Willis in a Prince of Wales check bustier and skirt with a matching printed coat. It was a masterclass in how to translate Wickstead’s very British sensibility into something bold and quintessentially New York.
There’s been a growing (and long overdue) conversation over the past few months around the disproportionate number of men designing womenswear at the upper echelons of the industry. Wickstead’s clothes are a subtle but steadfast example of why clothes made by women, for women have a unique magic—hence why an army of New York’s most stylish dressers jumped aboard the Emilia Wickstead train for this lookbook. But the real reason is just that Wickstead’s thoughtful, flattering designs make them look and feel really good. What more could you ask for than that?