Marchi-grrrls: Laura & Deanna Fanning
Issue 1 / November 11, 2020
Forever Fangirling the Fannings
Marchioness contributor Zofia Zwieglinska meets the powerhouse duo behind Kiko Kostadinov womxnswear to talk CROSS-CONTINENTAL DESIGNING, VICTORIAN HOUSE-DRESS and WOMXN DESIGNING FOR WOMXN.
Interview by Zofia Zwieglinska
Foreword by Jessica Ann Richardson
Edited by Izzy Yon
Baby Bourgeois, my time truly fangirling over a fashion brand has long passed since the rise and fall of Meadham Kirchhoff (RIP darlings). It’s no secret that the pair shut down in a quagmire of debt, with their absence leaving a trail of teen fashion bloggers sobbing into their laced archives. With my 27th birthday fast approaching, it's time to leave frolicking ruffles and Victorian gussets at the door in exchange for something a little more demure. I’m looking for investment pieces I can wear into my thirties and beyond. To quote Britney, “I’m not a girl, not yet a womxn” — and I’m looking for the wardrobe to match. Perhaps I wrote this piece for the shameless acquisition of freebies or a much-coveted ticket to their show (front row please). Whatever my motives, when it comes to Laura and Deanna, I will be FOREVER FANGIRLING THE FANNINGS. If you weren’t an aspirational 'Kiko-girl' before, you will be after their collection, SS21.
The Fannings are fashion's hottest commodities of late. At the fresh young age of 30, twins Laura and Deanna are the brains and beauty behind the Kiko Kostadinov Womxnswear line. With several stand-out London Fashion Week presentations under their belts, not forgetting a string of successful collaborations — notably Camper, ASICS, Rosie Grace Ward and the Medea Sisters — there’s no doubt they’re having a moment. When it comes to cool, powerful womxnswear with a hint of audacity, this is where the party’s at. Teasing out the avant-garde edges from the rest of the Kiko label, they hone in on softer, more wearable and feminine qualities.
The Aussie twins, who resemble a pair of dark Renaissance Rapunzel's, blend equal parts wearability with desirability in their designs. We can attest to this, having passed many hours filling online shopping baskets with their creations — surely a Kiko Red Artisia Kimono top trumps rent, right?
Since collaborating on their Master’s graduate collection back in 2018, the twins have gone from strength to strength, building their following whilst honing the 'Kiko-girl' aesthetic. The 'Kiko-girl' is assertive, hard to pin down and above all, dresses with uncompromising confidence and ease regardless of age.
SS21 saw the designers look to Victoriana for inspiration in the form of ‘house-dressing.’ The Victorian Ladies Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness, published in 1872, provided a point of reference: "It is in as bad taste to receive your morning calls in an elaborate evening dress as it would be to attend a ball in your morning wrapper." Reflective of the time we find ourselves in, 'house-dress' is bang on trend for 2020. With 19th century soirées swapped for Zoom calls, womxn require comfortable wraparound pieces minus the constraints of button-up waistbands.
Zofia: What inspiration kickstarted SS21?
Deanna: The collection began when Laura and I were in different cities during lockdown — I was back in Melbourne and Laura in London. We started thinking about womxn, domesticity and clothes worn inside the home, all of which reflected our state of mind at the time. As our research evolved, we focused on Victorian house-dress, discovering that womxn of this time wore elaborate, sheer, pin-tucked undergarments beneath their clothes. From there, we found the graphic element of the star, which later became very important, being repeated several times throughout the collection.
Zofia: Talk us through your design process for this collection
Deanna: Laura and I always begin with lots of research — I don't think we are dissimilar to a lot of designers in that way. It varies depending on the season. In the past, it's usually been books or films. This season we started with a dossier of museum-like research, perhaps due to us being stuck inside for so long. It's very much about collating lots of images, collaging ideas together and exploring those ideas in 3D. We need to be in the studio for that. The extension of the research is then physical samples, toiling and fittings where the work comes alive.
Laura: Our process is quite communicative, like an open discussion at the same time. There is a lot of conversation, perhaps because there are two of us.
Deanna: Yeah, I think that is because we share the design responsibility. There is always a decision-making process that happens and a dialogue that surrounds that. It is not like, 'Oh, I have this idea, I am going to do this because this is what I like.' We are very much questioning each other throughout. And you know, sometimes we both like the same idea and will say 'Well, why do you like it? or "I like it because of this aspect…" challenging ourselves and each other in that way.
Zofia: How does the research process influence your final designs?
Laura: We like to utilise the research to build a narrative — it can be clothes, but it can also be objects.
Zofia: Did you face any difficulties during the pandemic?
Deanna: I think the obvious one is that we're in two different continents and completely different time zones — there's an 11-hour time difference between London and Melbourne. Being in two different states of mind whilst talking about a collection and the physical limitations of being apart and not in the studio did make things challenging. We're very much a studio-based design team. When the initial lockdown happened, not being able to access machines and use pattern-cutting tables was an obvious loss for us.
Laura: We also couldn't have fittings until so late in the season. We had all these ideas and lots of work, but until it's on a body, it's really hard to push forward so that was probably the biggest challenge.
Zofia: What does designing for womxn mean to you?
Deanna: I think because we are womxn designing for womxn it means we are designing for ourselves, designing for our friends, or designing for someone who you perhaps aspire to be. I think there's a very natural extension of being a womxn and designing for womxn.
Laura: Absolutely — it’s about empowering the person rather than putting them up on a pedestal. I don’t want to be a designer who designs clothing you can't engage in. I want to feel like I can engage with that womxn. I think that's important. I think there's quite a big difference between a lot of men designing for womxn versus womxn designing for womxn. Maybe not all the time, but some of the time.
Zofia: What is your experience of working alongside the Kiko menswear team?
Deanna: The thing is, we don't work alongside them either idea wise or in a practical sense. We just share the same studio space. It's Kiko's brand, he is the founder. He helps us hugely with the practical administrative duties for the brand and towards the end of each collection.
Laura: All of the channels and everything we launch goes through his brand name, like the website. Although we are both working on Kiko, it's two separate teams. Besides sharing a production manager and some fabric suppliers, we don't have too much to do with the menswear team.
Zofia: Do you think there are different standards for male and female designers?
Deanna: The pay gap still exists in the fashion industry — it'd be great to see a lot more womxn at the top. I think there's a small, small handful of womxn who are heading up those really large, corporate commercial brands. It'd be nice to know that you can be a womxn and maybe have a family if you want to and also hold onto those major roles. For me, that's a really obvious difference between men and womxn in fashion.
Laura: I agree – I think historically, the clothing is also very different. The handful of people that are my fashion heroes are female designers. If we can keep building into that conversation, there may be more than a handful that could be my ultimate favourites. As of the last century, gender roles are still changing. So there is still a gap to bridge.
Zofia: What do we wear when designing?
Deanna: I wear about 70% Kiko womxnswear. Most of this studio wear Asics because it's comfortable and we like the work that we do with Asics footwear. In the studio, we always wear something from Kiko womxn's and that's because we design clothes that we like to wear and work in.
Laura: Yeah, I think we do wear a lot of the clothes that we design because they’re quite comfortable. I also love vintage — finding things on Depop that are unique or from past collections.
Zofia: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Deanna: Hopefully we are still creating and making things. It would be nice to expand the vision, extending towards furniture, or even beauty and perfume.
Laura: I see us building out the idea. We would've kept working together, expanding our world and bringing more people on board to build the idea as well.
Zofia: Has your viewpoint about fashion changed after COVID?
Deanna: I think you realize that perhaps we don't need as much as what's been put out in the past. That volume is just really crazy. You only grasp that when everything slows down. I do think it has also made me realize that I love fashion. It excites me, especially during this slow time where there's not so much to see. It's quite sad.
Laura: Yeah, there is a lot that's unnecessary that's out there. We're so lucky to be able to see new things all the time. I guess the whole point is, how can we maintain this balance of making new and exciting things, but not contributing to superfluous volume and waste? That’s the real question.
Zofia: What are your plans for the future?
Deanna: Now that we've just debuted the show today, we'll wrap this season up and go straight to work on the next season. In a way, the soft launch was a bit of an anti-climax, because you don't feel like you've finished anything — you don't get much feedback from it, but we'll still be working on the next collection. I hope that resonates with the stores, and that we can keep working with the stores we've worked with in the past who have been great in supporting us. I think it's been really exciting, seeing the customer grow and seeing girls wear it. Our immediate plans for the next 12 months are to keep going with what we're doing and try and expand the collection while staying true to our ideals and the language that we've created so far.
Laura: With this current climate, it's just about building a stronger work world and maintaining the clients that we have so that they can grow with us when things strengthen up enough again.
Deanna: Kiko also just launched his website with the shopping functions in a truly new format and that's exciting. I think our media plans would be to support that growth and encourage the digital shift with our customers.
Marchi-grrrl: Deanna Fanning
Issue 1 / August 24, 2020
Deanna Fanning Quickfire Q&A
Marchioness EIC Jessica Ann Richardson subjects Kiko Kostadinov Womxnswear designer Deanna
Fanning to a sassy quickfire Q&A inspired by 2000s trashy mag interviews
Interview by Jessica Ann Richardson
Jessica: What's your most treasured item of clothing?
Deanna: I love clothes but I tend to love them and leave them. I'll wear something I'm obsessed with for months at a time. I have a few pairs of shoes that I keep more like treasured objects. Gold cracked Rick boots, Red patent Y project stilettos with the toe cut out, y2k Miu Miu CowBoy boots and Junya studded biker boots from the early 2000s. Even our Camper collab knee high boots from ss19 I've added to this realm.
What item in your closet do you wear the most?
I've been wearing the Kiko Womens Viera trousers, I love them so much so I should calm down before I wear them out.
Who’s your style icon?
Tilda Swinton as Orlando, Trinity from the Matrix, Veruschka in her later years, Grace Jones.
In a few words, how would you describe your style?
What is the most gratifying moment of the design process for you?
Seeing that someone has bought a piece from the collection and is wearing it.
What’s your typical outfit for a day in the studio?
Anything from the Kiko collections
Is there a particular woman you design for?
They are willing to take a risk and can appreciate the work/ideas behind our design.
What's the most exciting part of being a designer in the industry? Has anything surprised you?
Being able to work on new ideas and meet/communicate with people other creatives from all across the world. The cliché's that still exist in the industry.
What do you think needs changing in the industry?
The hierarchies across all facets of the industry.
What advice would you give fashion graduates?
There's only one of you, present that the best way you can.
What's the biggest challenge?
What most inspires you?
Travel because it gives you context on your own perceptions, understanding and ever-evolving realities and interpretations.
What do you do if you feel uninspired?
We chat to each other often becoming nostalgic about our favourite collections/films/femininities.
How do you define glamorous?
To be glamoured in a witchy sense - like the true Scottish etymology
Is sexy important?
If sexy means confidence then it's important.
What are key and recognisable features of the clothes you design?
What does it mean to design for women in 2020?
It's all very Baudrillard isn't it?
What’s the secret to your Rapunzel-Esque locks?
Don't go to a hairdresser.
Do you take your coffee black or are you a latte lover?
Which celebrity would you like to have lunch with, dead or alive?
What would you wear on your wedding day?
I would love to track down a pair of the chandelier Prada shoes from SS10!
What is the best advice you've been given?
Fuck the haters
What music do you listen to when working?
I just got into Waves in the Ether....
What's your favourite cocktail?
Not into it but I would love an amaro
What's your morning routine?
Black coffee and a run.
Professional manicure or at home DIY?
I would love a manicure