Hannah Marshall

Queen of Darkness

For the last few years, London fashion has been all about extreme creativity and innovation—the crazier the better. And while this helped shape the style of the city, making it the young fashion capital of the world, it left contemporary fashion aficionados pining for a more sophisticated and refined option. Luckily, the British capital’s latest discovery is promising to balance her fellow designers’ over-the-top ideas with unprecedented sleekness. Single handedly reinventing the Little Black Dress (of Coco Chanel fame) in the space of a few seasons, Hannah Marshall has become the reference point for all things dark and sexy.

Considered by many to be London’s most promising young designer, Marshall climbed her way to fashion stardom in the space of a few collections, offering her interpretation of one of the oldest fashion statements in the world, and making it into a new desirable novelty. “Black is strong, powerful and undeniably chic,” she points out, explaining how monochrome is a necessity which allows her to play with the silhouette, taking risks with shapes and proportions. Body-conscious, futuristic, feminine; strong and sexy are some of the adjectives that come to mind when browsing through Hannah’s creations for the Fall season.

One might be surprised that the inspiration for the collection comes from natural fauna, beetles and other insect skeletons. These organic muses provide ideas for the body armor constituting the starting point for each look of the collection. They are executed with polished panelling, carefully built shoulders, and geometric constructions that accentuate a clever play on materials.

“Caviar-like stingray, luxurious stretch velvet, and taut elastic were added to my ritual butter soft leathers and lustrous stretch silks,” she says. It is a diversity of materials that conveys a nearly polychromatic result.

Graduating from Colchester School of Art and Design, Essex, in 2003, Marshall then moved on to Central Saint Martins as a tailor. Soon taken on board by the Topshop’s New Generation Support Program at London Fashion Week, she quickly became one of Britan’s most coveted labels.

Steering clear of clichés, she managed black in a way many seasoned tastemakers should learn from, which gained her a faithful following that included supermodel Erin O’Connor, who lent Marshall’s trapeze dress to designer Zandra Rhodes’ Textile Museum for the “Little Black Dress” exhibition. The British muse isn’t the only one falling for her exquisite avant-garde compositions: rock quartet Ipso Facto, an all-girl London-based band, has elected her as their official designer. “They are four strong females who all have the confidence to wear the pieces; my line synchronizes perfectly with their personalities and toxic stage presence,” she explains.

The melodious foursome was featured as part of her Fall-Winter 2009 presentation, and the artists have acted as brand ambassadors ever since. But this isn’t the only musical collaboration she has ventured into: Skunk Anansie’s Skin, Florence from Florence and the Machine, and fashion’s favorite starlet Beth Ditto are all due to be wrapped in Marshall. She thinks about this, takes a moment pause and says, “I love music collaborations—they help me bring my designs to life.

I am looking into some interesting collaborations, and want to develop my line into shoes and accessories,” she says. “Watch this space.”

– Rosa Maria Bertoli