Cushnie's Spring / Summer 2019 Soars Solo
NEW YORK, United States - It is safe to say there was some pressure for CEO and Creative Director Carly Cushnie, who took control of her 10-year old brand, now known as CUSHNIE, after separating ways with her co-founder Michelle Ochs eight months ago. Despite the unexpected change of course, Cushnie’s solo debut of her Spring / Summer 2019 collection at New York Fashion Week was serious sartorial cause for celebration. Here’s our break down of why.
This season, inspiration came from late 1970s and early 1980s Jamaica. Decades after its independence in 1962, Jamaica was shaped by significant political upheaval and the evolution of the inimitable reggae sound. Bob Marley had relocated to England and released his solo album Exodus in 1977. Immigration flows from Jamaica to the United Kingdom continued throughout the mid-twentieth century and as such, Cushnie was later born in London. Grace Wales Bonner is similarly a product of migration flows between the two islands as is Nigerian-Jamaican designer Duro Olowu, who is based in London. Cushnie sourced photographs from documentarian Beth Lesser, who captured dancehall culture in Kingston during the same time period. In remarks shared after the show, Cushnie likened “the vibrancy of the clothing to the lively, upbeat energy of the music.” Her SS19 collection channeled all the feels of island life, but conceived for a metropolitan gal. You couldn’t ask for a better ambassador of Caribbean-meet-world domination than Rihanna, who rocked one of the runway pieces this month during her FENTY Beauty tour in Singapore.
The casting further drove the storytelling, including our favorite supermodels from the African diaspora - Tanzanian Herieth Paul, British Aiden Curtiss, Angolan Maria Borges, Ugandan Aamito Lagum, and American Jordana Elizabeth Phillips, among others. Cushnie told E! Front Five, “in fashion right now, I’d really like to see more diversity represented. I think the industry has made huge strides already, but I still think there is a long way to go.”
The hashtag #ByWomenForWomen was spotted on every image posted on social media in the weeks following the show. A poignant statement in a time, particularly in the United States, where empowerment has progressed from solely external indicators of inclusion to internal decision-making power to alter the playing field. That Cushnie is at the helm as CEO and Creative Director is meaningful in the fight towards greater parity for women in the fashion industry.
BACK TO BASICS (with a dash of newness)
What has defined the label for the past ten years is its clean sculptural lines and razor-sharp tailoring perfected to accentuate the female form. One thing Cushnie has rightly admitted to is that she too has evolved with her customer over the past decade. Spring / Summer 2019 evoked modern vibrancy, bold sensuality, and pure power. Cushnie utilized highly saturated hues in immensely figure-flattering silhouettes strengthened through the use of carefully considered fabrications, including knitwear, embroidery, and the first-time inclusion of denim on the runway. The punchy color palette inspired by Jamaican roots added a dose of freshness. She even gave us a bathing suit on model Maria Borges with a leafy embroidered element that could easily sit pool side in Dumbo, Brooklyn as it could on the beaches of Oracabessa, Jamaica.
Somewhat catching fire in a bottle, CUSHNIE’s offering is one that every woman would want something of in her wardrobe, radiating confidence in every stitch. Even the styling mirrored this back to basics mentality with hair slicked back courtesy of hair stylist Ursula Stephen, a classic red lip, and large golden hoops by woman-owned jewelry brand Jenny Bird.
From a business standpoint, CUSHNIE has recently inked new partnerships, including a denim capsule with Lee Body Optix, a broader handbag offering, and the introduction of bridal. The category growth signals a need to diversify away from the stable of cocktail dressing that has sustained the brand for the past decade and meet a desire for how women shop today. For brands women believe in, they want to buy into the ecosystem in some way, even if that means buying a pair of denim jeans or a handbag first.
The denim capsule will be available starting this month, a few short weeks after it debuted on the runway in an example of “See Now, Buy Now.” The handbag expansion with seven new silhouettes means an opportunity to grow accessories into a proper proportion of the overall business. All produced in Italy, the styles include new textures, shapes, and finishes.
The move into bridal is less clear; albeit, the brand has a loyal following who already understands the contours of her gowns for cocktail dressing. Who wouldn’t want to extend that to their wedding day? Wedding dresses do entail much more handiwork and therefore are much more expensive to produce, so it is a consideration of whether the costs will outweigh the benefits.
With over 100 stockists, including Bergdorf Goodman, these new categories - denim, handbags, and bridal - will help in shaping the future of the brand. CUSHNIE is off to a great start, hopefully laying the groundwork to thrive in the decades to come.
Images courtesy of CUSHNIE / @cushnie.