The show opened with a dramatic display of religious imagery, as a performance artist in a golden crown encrusted with glittering jewels and blood-red roses shed layers of royal blue velvet down the catwalk to the resonant toll of a church bell. Underneath the gown the dancer revealed a pair of jewelled nipple pasties in the shape of a cross.
Woollams gave us couture creations with an emphasis on self-expression and empowerment, with strong silhouettes and sculptural shapes that exuded high-octane glamour. Rigidity with softness, volume, and a rich colour palette; Hellavagirl pushes boundaries within the fashion world. Since Woollams established her brand, she has maintained her vision rather than conforming to a more commercial aesthetic; every collection tells a story, with each one a continuation of the last.
AW19 was an elaborate and extravagant celebration of fashion, of avant-garde couture with a nod to bondage. Models of all genders strutted down the catwalk with faces caged in leather harnesses; hair was slicked back and severe, bound and tightly knotted. ‘Wolves in the Walls’ was a visually stunning performance, blurring the lines between fashion, theatre, and art. With sculpted and exaggerated proportions, the collection was inspired as a response to Woollams’ critics, with her characteristic nod to the dark fairytales of the Brothers Grimm. Hellavagirl gave us beading, ruffles, volume, and a show-stopping amount of tulle; we were Alice, and this was a fashion Wonderland.
The colour palette was dark, with jewel toned accents of pure royal blue, emerald green, ruby red, and liquid gold on textural manipulations of black in pleated, laser cut, and sculpted satins, leathers, taffetas, and tulles.
Silhouettes were exaggerated, with volume and structure a key feature, as is the brand’s signature. We saw rock star frills and flounces in crimped taffetas, silk, and velvets. A deep emerald green velvet evening gown over layers upon layers of tulle petticoats boasted 3-dimensional ruffles across the chest, whilst a jacket created entirely of seemingly infinite rows of frills sported a virtual garden of flowers bursting from the sleeve with a life of its own. Skirts were larger than life in frothy tulle; sleeves were puffed taffeta or laser cut leather worn like battle armour.
We saw opulent prints, from taffeta tartan to a gilded leopard brocade; Hellavagirl’s muse is strong and confident, and amongst collection after collection of brightly coloured sportswear this season, Woollams reminds us that at the core of fashion is the joy of the imagination. Avant-garde is where her heart is, and fashion for Hellavagirl is an art form.