Keeping his promise to offer “more than just a catwalk” for his spring show, British menswear designer Steven Stokey-Daley laid out a garden set, enlisted actors to read the love letters strung between Vita Sackville-West and Violet Keppel, and drew bunny mustaches on the faces of models, some of whom also wore weathered pitchforks or wicker baskets of farm-fresh eggs.
The 2022 winner of the LVMH Prize for Young Designers could not have anticipated the death of Queen Elizabeth II about a week before his show, but it forced him to add a funeral segment at the start, his young mourners dressed in shirts whites with oversized collars and large black pants, each holding a lighted candle.
As the designer hinted at conflicting behind-the-scenes views on the monarchy – his upstart label sees Britain’s class system through an odd lens – he admitted ‘she means so much to people’.
The show’s narrative revolved around “this theme of forbidden love”, including the tradition of Sackville-West dressing as a man on their clandestine date with Keppel in France so they could pass for a couple.
Male and female models of varying sizes walked around in big, wide corduroy pants and crisp camp shirts, among clothing archetypes that work across gender.
And while Sackville-West and Keppel’s relationship sadly ended, Stokey-Daley turned out mostly cheerful, summery fare: balloon-sleeved blouses; linen suits edged with white stitching; front calico shirts with vintage seed packets and large trench coats trailing ribbons or printed with a rabbit.
The clothes weren’t always flattering, but had a unique charm and rich history. Stokey-Daley noted that he had increased his use of leftover materials, including vintage commemorative tea towels. An eagle-eyed editor spotted one from 1977, Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee. “My grandmother had one in her kitchen and she would cross out the calendar with a ballpoint pen,” he said.