Season after season, accessory designer Sophia Webster invites us into a magical world, where the set design is as impressive as the collection itself. In stark contrast to the ice queens and snow globes we saw at her AW17 winter wonderland, for SS18, Webster immersed her audience in a whimsical and botanical woodland full of fairies and flowers.
The tinkling sounds of a harp could be heard when walking up the stairs of Somerset House to the Portico Rooms, where Webster held her latest presentation. With baroque furniture sprouting white hyacinths and purple pansies in the corners of the room, set designer Shona Heath had reimagined life-size Renaissance tableaux with models posing inside on tree branches among the blooms.
For SS18, Sophia was inspired by the Cottingley fairy phenomenon of 1917, when two young cousins, Elsie and Frances, staged five photographs that appeared to feature fairies. Sherlock Holmes author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle used the images to illustrate a piece he was writing for The Strand Magazine, which led to the general public believing in the existence of fairies. “They said they’d found fairies at the end of their garden and fooled everyone,” Sophia told Refinery29. “I was inspired and thought that, along with Shona and stylist Leith Clark, we could create an amazing woodland wonderland.”
Another inspiration of Webster’s is Cicely Mary Barker’s Flower Fairies: “It’s one of my favourite books.” Published in 1923, over 170 original drawings featured in the book, with a poem or verse accompanying each fairy and botanic illustration. You can find references to the Flower Fairies in everything from the set to the accessories themselves, with a muted and soft colour palette emulating Barker’s enchanting drawings.
The collection itself included clutches and top-handled bags with bright floral embroidery, and princess-esque bejewelled mules added an element of colour. Of Sophia’s signature tongue-in-cheek slogans, our favourites are bags with circular wooden handles reading, in intricate beading, “I’ll bring you flowers”, “Pretty to see, hard to catch” and “Roses are red”. As ever, Webster’s shoes are the real scene-stealers. A pair of satin platforms have rose petals encased in perspex mega-heels (a cute nod to that infamous American Beauty scene), while Sophia’s own stand-out piece is “the Woodstock-esque wooden clogs with laser-cut bronze straps and a tiny metal cut-out fairy encased in the heel – I love that shoe.” Alongside Sophia's designs is Alex Monroe's handmade jewellery, with wing-inspired gilt ear pieces and delicate dandelion leaf cuffs and rings further adding to the theme.
Despite the fanciful detailing, there’s certainly an aesthetic evolution since last season. “I think this collection is more delicate, feminine, and refined,” Sophia tells Refinery29. “We have a lot of success on the red carpet, so we wanted to include rich fabrics like satin, velvet, and crystal detailing”. So how can we wear this collection outside of the nymph and fairy-laden forest? “I’ve made sure there’s a flat and mid-heeled shoe in every grouping. I was wearing the ruched ribbon mules yesterday with my jeans and a white shirt. I think you can style my pieces however you like, whether it’s with a fabulous dress or jeans and a T-shirt.”
Away With The Fairies may be a mischievous and otherworldly walk through a Renaissance woodland, but these textured, detailed and colourful pieces will be firmly in our hands and on our feet in 2017.