Emilia Wickstead’s success story began with her assured balance of elegance and wearability. Those crinkle-free cloqué dresses and body-molding bouclés are surprisingly practical, actually, and brides queue up to buy her wedding gowns as much for their restrained sense of luxury as for their sheer comfort. So what’s set to define the next chapter? Wickstead’s shrewd knack for world-building. As Vogue’s Sarah Harris noted in her review of Wickstead’s fall 2023 collection, over the past few years, the designer has slowly but steadily begun developing a constellation of projects that go beyond the modern formalwear that first made her name, venturing into realms as varied as sleepwear, shoes, and, as of last December, her own homewares line.
So while it’s not the first time Wickstead has explored the world of swimwear—her collaboration with Emporio Sirenuse, the boutique belonging to the Positano grande dame hotel Le Sirenuse, marked her splashy first entry into that space—to see it placed firmly at the front isn’t as strange as it might initially sound. Shooting on the beaches of Puglia, the heel in Italy’s boot that is a firm favorite for British holidaymakers, Wickstead channeled her passion for historical photography via images that referenced the ease of pioneering fashion photographer Louise Dahl-Wolfe and the fresh-faced beauty of Peter Lindbergh. “They each cultivated their own unique style of elevated naturalism and freedom,” Wickstead said of her twin inspirations.
So, then, to the clothes, which made good on Wickstead’s promise of something resort-ready. “This is definitely the most ‘high summer’ collection we’ve ever done,” she said of her pre-fall offering, which featured her popular bralette and trouser sets alongside more unexpected separates, including slinky polos and turtlenecks paired with floral bikini bottoms. Models posed déshabillé against azure blue backdrops, crisp white cotton dresses peeling off them like modern Venuses on the half-shell, while the fabrics nodded to the collection’s beachy spirit. (An especially clever touch can be seen in pieces cut from a cream bouclé that, from a distance, looked a little like flannel; that the models are styled with them slung over one shoulder only highlights the trompe l’oeil toweling effect.)
Wickstead’s willingness to lean a little wonky with her choices of clashing prints—a deliberately disorderly painted checkerboard paired with an abstracted floral, say—also carried a distinctive charm; an air of “liberated beauty,” in Wickstead’s words. As always, though, this decision served a more useful purpose, too. As many of the prints have cropped up in previous collections, it allows her loyal clientele to mix and match their Wickstead capsule wardrobes from across the seasons. “I think that’s a clever way of creating newness for our customer without being wasteful,” she said. Her world may be growing, but Wickstead is very much in the driver’s seat.