19th September 2022

Halpern SS23 – London Fashion Week

Martina Isolde Cerutti looks at how
Michael Halpern brought his childhood memories to the catwalk

With the sad passing of the Queen, this season’s London Fashion Week turned out to be one of the toughest ever.  And, there’s been competition recently.  Showing a collection on the penultimate day of royal mourning had to have been a difficult task.  Thankfully, Michael Halpern was up to the sensitivities of the challenge and was able to spark some joy and wonder by bringing his colourful, exuberant childhood memories to his SS23 show.

But, before the playfulness could start, the London-based American-born designer began by honouring Her Majesty.  A massive floor-trailing sky-blue silk taffeta cape, paired with a mint scarf and gown, debuted on the catwalk in complete silence, in a tribute from Halpern himself to a reign of creativity, openness and support that would lead him to now call Britain his home.  Only once the last inch of fabric left the crystallized stillness of the London’s Royal Exchange building could the bold glamour could kick off.

Halpern’s new collection could easily be divided into chapters, with each one referring to precise periods in the designer’s core memories.  His main source of influence was his mother, Cheryl, and her opulent Seventies wardrobe.  In the show notes, he recalls how “Cheryl – banker by day, disco girl by night – would host dazzling house parties dressed in the plunging velvet leopard-print gowns of her louche disco days.”

These echoes from the past informed a present in which that leopard print was draped around models’ frames and paired with enormous sculptural sleeves.  This formed a chapter that has been dubbed the “dripping leopard section.”  Thanks to laborious craftsmanship, the motif had been transformed “with a swirling rainbow-hued aquarelle effect in screen-printed tulle subsequently hand painted and flocked in glitter.”  An explosion of evening-ready colour and shimmer second only to Cheryl’s own from her days at the infamous Studio 54.  Another chapter tells the story of deep space black velvet dresses hand-embroidered with starburst motifs.  Another resolves it with midnight blue velvet dresses adorned with gold-flocked celestial constellations.  Suddenly, we were back in Halpern’s childhood bedroom as he stared up at the glow-in-the-dark stickers on his bedroom ceiling.

Perhaps the most consequential chapter came in a special collaboration with Mattel for the 60th anniversary of the Barbie Dreamhouse.  Here, Halpern’s own personal inspirations were revealed through his favourite Barbie Eighties fashion features: the chevron pattern, polka dots and the sunset palette.  The colourful party looks were styled with equally vibrant ‘big hair’ wigs that immediately recalled era icons like Farrah Fawcett.  And just to give everything the correct doll-size proportions, the accessories were luckily just as oversized as some of the colours on display.

With his new collection, Michael Halpern skilfully hit on the Barbie-core trend without slipping cliché, and rounded out the overall narrative with his own personality, deep emotional connections and well-known creative touch.


For more information on Halpern, click here

Click here to read the Edward Crutchley SS23 London Fashion Week review

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