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Photography by Morgan RobertStyling by Eve BaileyText by Augustine Hammond

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Lola wears a bodysuit by Katya Zelentsova, skirt by Nicklas Skovgaard , vintage belt by Christian Lacroix and vintage earrings by Yves Saint Laurent, both from 4Element.

Opposite, Lola wears a dress by Alvaro Mars, vintage earrings by Valentino from 4Element and the stylist’s own tights.

Fashion’s vanguard of new designers are building their own fantasy lands where old meets new. 19th-century leg of mutton sleeves – named for their shape, which tapers from a voluminous gathering of fabric at the upper arm down to the wrist – are now almost commonplace in the collections of the next generation of makers. Frilly bustles, bloomers and gathered bubble skirts, ruched and tucked to form irregular peaks and puffs, featured heavily on last season’s runway. A remedy to the tumultuous times, romance and all the sensorial pleasure and lightness it brings is back in fashion.

Of course, fashion trends are nearly always an evolution of what came before, with design often a mishmash, magpie approach where details from bygone eras are made “new” through the unexpected ways they are combined. It is this careful curation that results in clothes that feel incidental and exciting. 

“Doing something new feels almost impossible, but looking back renews my way of thinking,” says Danish designer Nicklas Skovgaard. Rendered in sequins, taffeta and lace, extending wide at the shoulders and styled with chunky patent belts, his designs marry tropes of the 1980s with cascading gathered drapes and bulbous full skirts that borrow from courtly dress to create points of friction. 

Similarly, London-based designer Katya Zelentsova references the 1890s for good sleeves, the 1910s for great textiles and the 1980s for the sense that something bigger and better is just around the corner. “It’s always been important for me not to get too lost in nostalgia,” she says, “so I always reference historical dress through the prism of current times”.

Describing his work as “everyday couture”, Central Saint Martins MA 2024 graduate Álvaro Martínez takes elements from the past and gives them new meaning in contemporary fabrics: his pouffed panniers are made from cotton shirts and his panelled bodices are cut from grey sweatshirt jersey. As he says, “When you change the context of something, suddenly you are capable of rewriting history.” Romance informs every cut and drape of the hyper-feminine creations of his brand Alvaro Mars, which are lifted by period-style crinolines and bustles.

Azerbaijani designer Fidan Novruzova, who was raised in Moldova, believes that the global state of uncertainty guides the collective yearning for authenticity and a renewed respect for traditional craft. “With so much precarity, historical dress serves as a bridge between past and present, a vessel for memory, emotion, and hopefulness.” She cites the 1920s as her main inspiration, visible in the Art Deco shapes she carves from velvet.

Paula Canovas del Vas agrees that this historical trend responds to a more creatively sterile era. “The craving for abundance is a way to counterbalance dryness and austerity,” explains the Spanish-born designer, who fans duck-egg-blue taffeta around the shoulders and lets it drop into a cloud-like puff below the hips. 

These designers’ commitment to romanticising the past with sumptuous fabrics, volume and unabashed excess, is sharpened by being framed through an altogether darker present. These new romantics aren't lost in nostalgia but lifted by it, reinventing the codes of the past and re-illustrating their importance. In the doing, they infuse the present with flair – and let us spend a moment lost in feeling. ◉ 


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Lola wears a dress by Alvaro Mars and vintage earrings by Givenchy from 4Element. 

Opposite, Lola wears a dress and shoes by Fidan Novruzova and vintage earrings by Givenchyfrom 4Element.


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Opposite, Lola wears a dress by Paula Canovas del Vas and vintage earrings by Oscar de la Renta from 4Element. 



Lola wears a dress by Nicklas Skovgaard, shoes by Kalda, bracelets by Dinosaur Designs and vintage earrings by Givenchy from 4Element.


Set design: Georgia Currell / Hair: Kenta Uchinokura / Make-up: Aimée Twist using Saie / Production: Joanna Holtom / Casting: George Raymond Stead / Photography assistant: Jamie Appleby / Styling assistants: Cordie Watson and Lucy Taunton / Set-design assistant: Fei Yang / Model: Lola Bebe at Premier Model Management