“If people do not notice you, you might as well not exist.” So went the opening quote on British-Turkish designer Bora Aksu’s Spring/Summer 2022 show notes, attributed to the Dutch socialite and fashion icon Mathilde Willink, who also served as the collection’s muse. It’s a quote that easily embodies the social media era, but Willink’s heyday was the 60s and 70s, where she was a key figure in the hedonistic revival of the Netherlands cultural scene, thanks, in part, to her marriage to the painter Carel Willink. Mathilde’s style MO was eclectic and eccentric: intergalactic hair and makeup mixed with Renaissance era gowns and corsetry—a bold mishmash that made her the ideal Bora Aksu woman.
For SS22, a collection showcased in a private garden off Pall Mall in central London, Aksu heralded the return of IRL runway shows at London Fashion Week with his signature romantic maximalism. Aksu has long blended the theatricality of volume and colour with tailoring that steeps his clothing in real life: and for SS22 that meant preppy checked shirt suits, flattering trench coats in a modern shade of dusty pink, and shrunken tailored jackets cinched with green plaid belts worn over flowing lace day dresses.
The show closed with a bevy of technicolour gowns—lemon, lavender, emerald, and strawberry—made with silk tulle and taffeta, and affixed with appliquè flowers and oversized silk bows. Eveningwear is, of course, what has made Aksu a beloved name both in his native UK and internationally, particularly in Asia, where the majority of his business lies. It was a touching tie-in that Mathilde Willink was an ambassador and muse for the Chinese-Dutch designer Fong Leng. Most of her most memorable ensembles were crafted by Leng, whose blend of Chinese influence with 70s-era bohemian styling and motifs taken from 18th century European aristocracy were seamlessly blended through Aksu’s SS22 offering. If Matildhe were alive today, she’d no doubt have eaten the new collection up.