Let me introduce you to St. John again. Sure, it’s 25 years old, but pre-Fall 2023 marks a shift for the American brand. Since 1990, the brand has been experimental under the creative direction of Zoe Turner, who offers five-pocket tweed trousers, corsets and bodysuits that have always been sensual synonymous with. Turner left earlier this year, and the pre-fall collection is the first collection of executive vice president of design Enrico Chiaparin and brand creative consultant Karla Welch.
Welch’s appointment is an exciting development as the collection returns to utilitarian suiting and sophisticated eveningwear, which, as Chiarparin puts it, makes it popular with “a certain age group.” Women” welcome. Known for his collaborations with the likes of Justin Bieber and Tracee Ellis Ross, Welch is a contemporary eclectic looker. She describes her persona as “[Chiarparin] drives and I help,” adding that the label’s flamboyant ads featuring Kelly Gray are part of her original treasured fashion image. “St. John’s women are actually pretty wild and happy.”
The duo has made no secret of their goals for the brand. They don’t want to compete with runway designers all over the world. “It’s a collection for a woman of a certain age, with a certain taste—very specific. She’s not a victim of fashion,” Chiarparin said. “She’s a woman who knows what JW Anderson or Phoebe [Philo] are doing, but she’s not following trends. We’re not trying to scare her.”
While St. John’s most iconic Sexy pieces were tweed and jersey dresses, but that wasn’t the collection’s highlight. Instead, it’s tailoring. A key silhouette was the kick-flare Karla pants (named after Welch), which were especially alluring in gorgeous ice-pink satin paired with a matching tunic blazer. The riff on the tuxedo is also a standout. A cropped boxy jacket paired with a long slit maxi skirt looks modern, combining the two decades that inspired Chiarparin and Welch – 1990 and 1960 )s. The star, though, was undoubtedly the knee-length camel suede skirt with gold hardware at the waist (all buttons from the collection came from the archives), worn with a matching oversized jacket. It is rich.
These clothes aren’t meant to live on a screen or in two-dimensional space; they’re designed to fit in your closet. “I knew what was missing in the market,” Welch said. “We wanted to sell clothes. We saw room for St. John to have a good footprint in the business as well.”
Chiarparin seems to be primarily focused on improving products for older, mature customers, while It’s not trying to go after a younger demographic. Meanwhile, Welch is optimistic about intergenerational appeal. “I think you may be 80 years old in that pink suit, but also 25 years old, one of my customers, inside.”