“Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose,” are the words American writer Gertrude Stein wrote in her 1913 poem, “Sacred Emily.” Coined the title for Chopova Lowena’s latest collection, it’s a phrase which is supposed to mean “things are what they are” – but for the London-based fashion brand, and their penchant for theatricality and the absurd, are such things really how they appear?
For their first runway show, Emma Chopova and Laura Lowena-Irons harkened back to their Bulgarian roots by imagining the country’s Rose Valley festival. At the beginning of each summer, the young women in the village of Kazanlak dress up to select their Rose Queen – like Midsommar, just without the guts and the gore. “When you see a rose, you smell a rose,” says the creative designer duo. “And the ideas we use in the collection give the same kind of signal.”
To showcase Chopova’s desire for exemplified bombasity, the sweetly saccharine nature of this Bulgarian annual tradition is met with a lacrosse-inspired twist. Indeed, West London’s Porchester Hall became the playing field for their runway, the sounds of girls shouting at one another against thumping music a strong contrast to the grand hall’s velvety interiors.
Together, the 2017-founded label have created a collection that befits a duality of bizarre pageantry and the beauty of performance – two motifs that the fashion brand’s work has an affinity for. Such a notion of elevated dress-up permeates the entirety of the collection: the profusion of satin baby pink duster coats and skirts, corseted white dresses inked in blood-red floral prints, and deadstock lace dresses, are a testament to Chopova Lowena’s desire for pantomime and theatricality.
Traditional Bulgarian textiles were repurposed as skirts and vests, which were buttoned up over silken shirts and neckties, whilst doodle-printed swimsuits and chain-clad jeans and boots connoted the reckless boyishness of a confident school girl.
Granted, it takes a bold person to don looks such as these: whether it be chain-braided plaid skirts, or handmade macramé necklaces and matching bags knotted with healing crystals, which tinkle with each movement, or silver tinsel moonboots, there is a bombasity, buoyed by heady romance in this collection, that imbues each look with an individual vibrancy and playfulness.
Although a lacrosse-pitch may feel worlds apart to the serene landscapes belonging to Bulgaria’s Rose Valley, Chopova Lowena’s dreamscape unites the two, to celebrate the desire for victory and the triumphs of girlhood. It’s a collection which is attributed to the sacred bond of womanhood – so much so, that both Emma Chopova dedicated it to her grandmothers, the matriarchs.
Text by Grace Sowerby