Laura and Deanna Fanning Create Their Own ‘People Watching’ Experience with Kiko Kostadinov Woman AW21

The brand’s womenswear designers are crafting their own fashion world with idiosyncratic references combined with deft technique and functional elegance.

Six seasons into their womenswear line at Kiko Kostadinov (now officially labeled as Kiko Kostadinov Woman), Laura and Deanna Fanning’s distinctive vision of fashion is taking shape. “I love when designers have their own world,” Deanna says. “You know when something’s Prada, you know when something’s Comme [des Garcons], there’s actually not that many brands like that so, I hope it can be like that.” With their latest AW21 collection, the world of the Fanning’s is becoming clearer, and their indefinable womenswear is becoming ever more compelling.

While the duo operates independently from the menswear side of the label, using their own references and aesthetic direction, both sisters and Kiko himself all share a proclivity to utilitarianism, retro-futurism, and the sensibility to create ‘differently constructed garments’ in the vein of the Japanese designers who have had a strong influence. “They’re two worlds in the same universe,” Deanna says of the two sides of the label, “they’re orbiting.”  Working in a shared space helps the Fannings recognize what elements are lacking in womenswear, while also providing them with a different perspective. “The plus of working in a menswear studio just because we’re so small is you have access and exposure to those things,” Laura says.

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The sisters have managed to extrapolate the unique features of menswear (“Men’s does interesting trousers, in womenswear, it’s a category that’s completely overlooked”) but merge it with their own ideas of modernity and femininity that perfectly sit with expressive, fashion-oriented women. That attitude has persisted in their designs since the first collection, but it’s never been as clear as in their AW21 show, which debuted in a unique gallery-style video display on their website. “Certain garments…it forms part of our language,” Deanna begins. “We’re very much into collaging different aspects together, we really appreciate the idea of a hybrid aesthetic. And I think that’s really interesting in womenswear because really contemporary womenswear hasn’t been around for that long where we’ve been able to wear a two-piece.” Laura continues, “I feel like the dress is still, such a big thing in womenswear. The dress and bag…can we just wear a cool jacket and pants?”

That aesthetic reveals itself in the hybrid garments created for AW21. A bias-cut skirt has a piece that wraps around the body and is hooked but can also be worn as a halter neck dress. Tops have extra cut-outs, leaving the wearer to decide which openings they want to put their arms through. A scarf has belt loops so you can alter its shape. It all serves a modern fashion audience that tends to wear things in new and unexpected ways, often deviating from the designer’s intent. “We wanted the wearer to have the option to have fun with it,” Laura emphasizes, “…and play with it, and wear it in a way where they wear the garment, the garment doesn’t wear them.”

While their collections always can be traced to multiple references—a collage, as they say—AW21 is a more explicit representation of that. Inspired by Lauren Elkin’s 2016 book Flâneuse, the designers thought about a woman who observes city life and were largely inspired by people watching—or rather their reminiscence of it. “We really missed seeing people in the street and people watching,” Laura says. “London, Paris, and New York, it’s so good for people watching.” “It’s one of the reasons why we moved to London,” Deanna adds. “We thought about street style, looking at the Japanese magazine STREET, there were lots of ’90s ref images there, Portobello Market in London, or Fashion Week in Paris.”

“I like that people have scaled back,” Deanna opines on the current state of fashion,  “…and you’re not seeing 60 look collections anymore, you’re seeing 30 look collections. Part of me wonders is that because of necessity, or will they be doing that post-pandemic?” It’s a valid question, but the answer seems unlikely to affect this duo. Kiko Kostadinov Woman collections have always been idiosyncratic, crafting collections that make the most of each look. They’re intent on building out their world, and with each collection, and it’s apparent that their designs will find a home with the kind of people who are making fashion exciting right now. “I think people are going to want to experiment with their clothes, and play with their identity,” Laura says. “People are going to want to be looked at after this.”

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