Linking a literary classic with modern fashion was an unexpected twist out of London-based designer Hector Maclean. The up-and-coming creative was recently presenting Orlando in Opulence’, his new Spring/Summer ‘24 collection at London Fashion Week, in the beautiful venue of St Paul’s Church. The name of the collection takes inspiration from Virginia Woolf’s Orlando: A Biography.
Hector Maclean SS24 LFW Show
Backstage management Cat Bramley
Photography Lauren Cremer
Styling Rickardo (Rosé) Mattocks-Maxwell
Words by Rodrigo Melo
Virginia Woolf’s work of fiction, published in 1928, is timeless: the topics discussed in the book are debated even today. ‘Orlando’ dives into themes such as gender fluidity and identity, renewal and rejuvenation without limits, the path of the artist, as well as the artform. This bears a heavier meaning knowing that the book is set in Edwardian and Victorian times, which in turn exposes the wisdom of the author, just like the importance of the literature.
The tale takes us through Orlando’s upbringing and love life in Victorian and Edwardian England, where he joins the royal court and indulges in a bohemian dandyesque lifestyle. Only Orlando wakes up one morning to find he turned into a woman during his sleep. From this point onwards, the narrative debate regarding the difference in sexes, as well as its fluidity, commences. The tale serves as a beacon for feminine empowerment, especially regarding the time frame it’s set in.
Hector McLean´s collection ‘Orlando in opulence’ embodies its concept with a diverse range of elegant garments, colours, shapes and genderless ensembles. Each look´s strong historical silhouette is mirroring Orlando’s travels through time. The materials used for the garments are entirely upcycled deadstock – synthetic materials, polyester and blended fibres were disregarded to ensure that the collection is fully recyclable. Hector takes us on a journey through time with repurposed fabrics and empowered forms of hyper-feminine silhouettes that complement strong masculine tailored forms. Most of the fabrics were donated, some of them new, some of them decades old.
‘Orlando: A Biography’ spans over the period of 300 years (1588-1928) and details the story of Orlando, an aspiring poet and young noble from England. The story is inspired by the life of Vita Sackville-West, Woolf’s romantic interest and close friend. Vita was an acclaimed writer, crossdresser and openly bisexual, which marked her as one of the most significant feminist figures of the Victorian era leading into modern times.
Hector’s origins span of the Isle of Mull, Zimbabwe, France, and Poland, this diverse background significantly shaped his creative path. He designs in a manner that prioritizes ethics and sustainability, focusing on recyclable materials and thoughtful production methods. Hector’s work aims to empower people by embracing imperfections and highlighting both feminine and masculine qualities in a gender-neutral way. His fashion line embodies the intersection of tradition and innovation, striking a subtle balance between heritage and contemporary influences.
With this collection, I really wanted to play with this notion of metamorphosis, which we witness in Wolfe’s protagonist Orlando, who experiences a gender transformation. I’ve tried to transplant this idea of shifting ideals of beauty into the collection, showing how textile byproducts destined for waste, actually have an inherent beauty in them when viewed in a different way. Beauty doesn’t need to come from something perfect – its genesis can be quite broken. I want the show to be a celebration of fabrics reborn, as well as a celebration of the broad spectrum of gender and the many nuances of personal expression contained within,
American born, London based photographer Lauren Cremer, captured Hector´s show for ZOOT backstage and front in the impressive venue of St Paul’s church, an Anglican Christian church in the heart of London’s Covent Garden which was consecrated in 1638.
The show featured a collaboration with the Drawing Cabaret Couture – aka DCC studios – an East London-based collective that specialises in high fashion films & editorials. For the Hector Maclean show, fashion illustrators were present backstage depicting live illustrations of the event and the production process.
The puffy styling of the dresses and sleeves, combines modern-day elegance with the typical Victorian era look, while the upcycled pieces display a chaotic symmetry with diverse shapes and formats that balance an unfinished with a finished aesthetic. Hector was able to modernise the Victorian voluminous skirts, crinolines, slim waisted corsets, as well as petticoats, this way realistically recreating the eccentric ecclectic style of the era.
The collection’s colour palette exhibits a soft approach to tones and colours, with hints of extravaganza. This choice of palette was eloquently complemented by the makeup art, which combined flashy and serene tones that highlight the duality behind the concept of the show. Leading makup artist Jo Sugar and hairstylist Tim Furssedonn were taken inspiration from Orlando creating a romantic, soft and beautiful look, feminising the male and maskulinising the female models. “The hairstyles are a collision of Victorian and Edwardian, outlined with modern textures, to reflects the shapes and movement within the clothing, ” Tim explains.
The garments empower the inclusivity of the designs, as can be seen in the linear hyper-feminine silhouettes that are complemented by strong masculine tailored forms.
Hector Maclean’s genderless fashion showcases an organic, circular and fluid process of design, as well as an imperative to be bold, yet timeless. ‘Orlando in opulence’ can serve as inspiration for aspiring designers hoping to step out of the industry’s framework.
Edited by Michaela Doyle.
Check out more from fashion designer Hector Maclean in our “Infinity reflections” shoot.