It's fair to say that this season has borne witness to a few changes in fashion (ok, so maybe more than a few), but most of those changes have been COVID-related on and off appearances on fashion week schedules. The recent unveiling of Charlotte Knowles' new branding on the other hand? Not so much. A/W 21 is the season that one of London's brightest stars, and Instagram's designer of the moment, Charlotte Knowles, has decided to up her game. First that meant changing the brand logo and name to KNWLS - there's no mistaking this is a new era for the designer and her partner Alexandre Arsenault.
Pushing her label forwards to a future where she sees the brand as being 'a luxury house', the A/W 21 collection was unveiled on Friday at midday under the updated moniker KNWLS, a move the brand has said communicates the designers' 'maturity'. In a statement, the brand said, 'KNWLS speaks to the designers' matured, invigorated vision for the label'.
Since founding her namesake brand in 2017, Charlotte Knowles has made it her mission to focus on female empowerment and nothing but; she's aligned her label with a version of femininity that's been considered accessible and strong. The hype surrounding the clothes and their prominence on social media platforms has grown year after year. Knowles has a lot to be grateful for thanks to Bella Hadid, Rhianna and Grimes promoting some of the designer's most signature looks, and the KNWLS rebrand reflects a confidence in the designer knowing her target audience. A/W 20 and S/S 21 saw the brand begin to expand on their aesthetic of hyper femininity merged with a tough utilitarianism. Continuing with their core line of corsets and underwear-as-outwear and slinky dresses, we got handbags, t-shirts and coats. A whole wardrobe offering began to evolve. The evolution from Charlotte Knowles to KNWLS suggests that the brand plans to continue to move forward, keeping their old references whilst daring to adopt new ones too.
Regarding the future of the much-loved label, Knowles and Arsenault said in a statement, 'We felt it was the right moment to take Charlotte Knowles and shorten it to reflect the brand as more than just a singular effort but a larger studio practice. This brand identity update marks a new chapter for us, and reflects our vision of growing the label into a luxury house in the coming years.'
If you think that the label's name will also push the brand's DNA in a new direction, you can think again. Female empowerment is here to stay, and for as long as Knowles and Arsenault remain in fashion, they will continue to champion it. 'An empowered but disruptive vision of femininity, dangerous and sensual, remains at the heart of the KNWLS brand' reads a statement, not too dissimilar from Knowles' answer when asked by WMagazine in December 2020 how she'd describe her brand in three words, with the designer simply responding, 'Powerful, sexy and dangerous.'
In the past, the brand's structured corsets and overall take on female empowerment have always communicated with a hard and dangerous edge; some say sensual, others say powerful. We say both. This season, the overall mood remains the same, yet the connotations happen to be relayed through several other distinct references. There are still the much-loved and well-known corsets, but instead, the general feelings of 'sensuality and danger' that are alluded to in Knowles and Arsenault's KNWLS A/W 21 collection are overall made apparent through the designers choosing to 'channel a feline energy'. Animal prints are, quite simply, everywhere you look. The collection evokes a feral-like attitude with animal prints stamped onto leotards, bodysuits, and transparent mesh trousers, which all feature alongside sensual silhouettes made to skim the female figure effortlessly and boldly. Sharply tailored camel-coloured suede suits adopt a feeling of those classic 70s disco suits always seen on America's Soul Train while the designer's beloved 90s decade seeps into the styling through the low-waisted pencil skirts, peter pan-collared leather jackets and the high-leg leotards.
KNWLS is firmly rooted in a future that is looking increasingly bright for the London designer, and even brighter so for the future of fashion's relationship with femininity.