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Victoria’s Secret Swim 2012 by Cyril Attias 

Olga Obumova via HawtCelebs


January 24, 2024

Billie Miró Breskin

Consider the best moments of the Spring 2024 fashion season, and you’ll undoubtedly have a wealth of favorites. Perhaps Sarah Burton’s final show for Alexander McQueen was a standout. Or maybe it was the whimsical textiles at Bottega Veneta that caught your eye. The debate for top billing could last forever, but personally, I’ve decided that the most important moment came from a decidedly low-key show and a very young brand. 


Stockholm-based designer Ellen Hodakova Larsson founded Hodakova in 2021 with a strong brand identity, employing “a high admiration for methods from the past” to tell stories “through portraits in time,” according to their mission statement. The brand’s focus on repurposed materials, examining the role of the conventional, and playing with classic tailoring has remained, with their most recent Paris Fashion Week offering exemplifying their ethos.


The collection featured beautifully tailored garments with palpable artistry (just look at their flowered suiting) along with more playful designs, like their sky-blue mini dress made out of bras. However, what made this collection truly special, was its commitment to re-imagining traditional office wear. Accessorized with notebooks, rectangular-framed glasses, and black leather pumps, models walked the runway under lights that evoked fluorescent office overheads. 


Several looks were dedicated to buttoned waistbands, divorcing them from their trousers to form jackets, crop tops, and dresses. In look 16, a classic blue button-down became a romper. Look closer at two of the dresses on display, and you’ll find that they are formed out of both suit jackets and their linings. In look 8, a model’s skirt is composed of several pairs of pants, affixed to her waist in a voluminous fringe. Black, white, grey, and navy dominated the collection, keeping the tone cool and professional. 


The theme was then moved to the extreme, with several looks constructed from standard ballpoint pens and others made from a chainmail of belt buckles. As a whole, the collection toyed with office wear, blending the potential of beautiful materials and fine tailoring with an exploration of the genre’s repetitious tendencies. The combination of these stark, subversive garments with the dresses and tops made from lingerie formed an interesting juxtaposition between the personal and the professional. No look exemplifies this balance better than look four, in which the extended pockets of a model's maxi-length grey skirt become her top.


In this duality, the collection reflects the abounding tensions in the workforce about remote work. One recent article in the New York Times cites a study revealing that office occupancy in the United States is roughly 50% of what it was pre-COVID. Employees are largely enjoying the benefits of working from home, which include increased productivity and proximity to loved ones (though the statistic that remote workers tend to clock in longer hours suggests a need for better boundaries). 


This development raises a question: With more and more workers making their home their office, what happens to office wear? For many, the answer is simply to forget it, to throw on a pair of sweatpants and never look at a skirt suit again. But, for others, the confidence, air of formality, and association with focused productivity that dressing for work can bring is hard to give up. To them, it’s important to dress smart to feel smart. 


To these workers, Hodakova’s collection offers a reinvention of office wear, materially similar, but creatively opposed in its inventive style. The matter of how to adapt to an increase in remote workers (both for workers and for companies) is a serious one, with large repercussions. The Hodakova Spring 2024 designs seem to consider the issue, looking, as the brand claims, to “methods of the past,” this time to create a new story. 


While I don’t expect to see workers—both in-person and remote—decked out in skirts made of pens anytime soon, Hodakova’s collection provides an alternative route, a middle ground between drawstring sweats and stiff suits. I often think about the ways we leave behind or bring our personalities into the professional sphere, and see Ellen Hodakova Larsson’s designs as a way to maintain personal creativity and integrity while working under a larger system with its own codes and norms. If I show up to my first day of work in a skirt made of trousers, you’ll know why. 

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