Ashley Williams S/S 17
Ashley Williams Spring/Summer 2017. Photo credit: Gio Staiano

We typically don’t see a lot of heavy set construction in London. Those showing in the Fashion Council’s space don’t have much time to set up before and clear out after, so it really isn’t practical. Those showing elsewhere have the elegance of the space working in their favor and need no additional decoration. Ashley Williams, however, decided that her collection is different enough to warrant trucking in a full set resembling a teenage girl’s bedroom. Bookshelves, stuffed animals, computers, television, and all the other normal parts just short of a bed. Pretty impressive by British standards.

Then, Ms. Williams did something even more impressive: she filled both the set and her runway with real teenagers. Granted, technically, most runways are full of teens anyway, to the point it is sometimes a problem. However, these were not the typical size 0 models. This cast looked more like Ms. Williams had simply gone to the nearest high school and hired the first 30 16- and 17-year-olds she came across. As a result, her runway was diverse both in terms of race, size, and lifestyle. I doubt we’re likely to see another show in London that speaks as honestly and directly to its core audience as did this one.

Right from the start, Ms. Williams sets a rebellious tone with a fringed bra worn over an oversize photo tee. There were plenty of shirt dresses throughout the collection and sometimes the bras were over the top of the shirt (always fringed) and sometimes the cup pattern was sewn onto  the shirt. For all the various styles and themes explored, this was the element to which she returned the most often.

There were plenty of other things that teens want in their clothes. Graphic prints on over-sized shirts were a big deal. Denim jumpers were present in a couple of different styles. Bright yellow suits for those days when one really needs to stand out, then a pajama-styled ensemble for those days when one wants to let everyone know they didn’t really want to get out of bed. There were large cashmere sweaters and a “First Born” bomber jacket and even dresses with really, really poofy sleeves. The collection as a whole looks very much like a teenager’s mood board come to life.

Nope, there’s nothing here to attract the older folks. No leather. No lace. Just a whole bunch of cotton and polyester. Nothing overtly sexy. Nothing encouraging a girl to be anything other than the teenager she is. For all the times fashion is rightfully accused of sexually objectifying young women, Ashley Williams really sends a strong message of acceptance and self-love. Be yourself. Don’t grow up too fast. Enjoy where your life is now.

Too bad young women don’t get more messages like this.

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