Meet The Fashion East Designer Shaping The Future Of Sportswear
It’s been a big week for Johanna Parv. Just a day before the Estonian-born womenswear and accessories designer made her debut as part of the talent incubator Fashion East it was announced that she was among the handful of international talents that are finalists of the coveted LVMH Prize. Still fairly fresh to the London Fashion Week schedule, Parv only established her eponymous label in 2020. Since graduating from the Central Saint Martins MA Fashion course, the creative tour de force has become a cult favourite in the city thanks to her cycling-inspired sportswear. Of course, what really sets her apart is how she’s reinterpreting the functionality of technical gear from a woman’s point of view.
‘At the moment it’s men, designing. Men doing sport. Men are the ones interested in technical stories’, Parv tells me during a visit to her studio. Being an avid cyclist herself it's her love of movement that informs her design process and leads to innovations and improvements that suit her (and other women's) needs. For Parv's A/W 23 collection, this meant hooded technical tops with a hole for ponytails and purses with a plethora of straps allowing for different ways of wearing. Expertly merging the feminine and the functional, elegance has never been a compromise. ‘It's like [women] don't even know what they want yet because we haven't been given the chance to think in that way'.
Editorial assistant Joshua Graham caught up with the designer ahead of her Fashion East debut to break down her A/W 23 collection and why more women need to work in sportswear.
Joshua Graham: What was your starting point for this collection?
Johanna Parv: The main focus was to really let the pieces from previous collections evolve. Continue with the same story. It’s not a totally new concept, it’s the same story with new season colours and playing around with new details. It’s what we learned from the last [collection]. For instance, we realised that things could be improved. The shapes and styles from last season, we now have a chance to redo them. We’re bringing in more durable materials around the cuffs and the hemlines of the trousers. Ripstop Dyneema® fabrics that are so strong. It really makes the garment last longer.
JG: How did your research process begin?
JP: It starts with how I wear my clothes when I cycle, run or move in the city. I realised, that every day the things I was wearing, how could I make these DIY solutions really beautiful. How can I make them more beautiful or elevate them? This comes from everyday, practicality.
It’s all about women living in the city and what they wear. When I look around at what other people wear and I speak with women then I think about what needs to come together. I know I want cover jackets and cover trousers. There’s something about covering and protecting that is very important to me.
JG: How does cycling inspire you?
JP: It’s at the core of what I do because it's so inspiring how much freedom it gives people. How it makes people see the city differently. [Cyclists] are my muses. These unknown characters who are covered, protected who speed by. When I’m totally lost I just cycling around until I’m bursting with ideas.
JG: Why do you think functionality and femininity is still such a rare occurrence in fashion?
JP: It’s like sportswear is one thing and then there's fashion, but with my brand, I want to put these things together. In order to create functional womenswear you almost have to start from scratch because you have to start speaking with women. Letting women do the decisions of what’s going to be done rather than men because at the moment it’s men designing, men doing sport.