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Porter
Art of Style

Designer Emilia Wickstead and friends on celebrating the holiday season in style

Ahead of a holiday season like no other, fashion designer and arbiter of taste EMILIA WICKSTEAD is joined by a handful of her most stylish friends to debut her new capsule, created exclusively for NET-A-PORTER. Better yet, they also share their fail-safe holiday hosting and styling secrets…

Photography Edd Horder
Fashion

New Zealand-born, London-based designer Emilia Wickstead has always been fascinated by the art and ritual of getting dressed. “My designs are inspired by old-world glamour. Recently, I’ve been poring over photographs from Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball, which was the starting point for this capsule collection [modeled here by Wickstead’s friends], but I also love to add fresh, modern twists to create something utterly new. With this collection I wanted to evoke glamour, fantasy and excitement, but ultimately it had to be wearable, which is why, although the shapes are playful, they’re also extremely elegant. Simplicity is often the most difficult thing to achieve in design.

“The events of the past year have had a huge impact on my personal style. I actually contracted Covid-19 when London first went into lockdown, so I was lounging around in my pajamas a lot. However, at one point I realized I needed to start getting properly dressed again, and I rediscovered, first-hand, just how powerful clothing can be. Even though I was still working from home, wearing considered outfits made me feel like I could achieve anything. My designs aren’t just made to be worn at weddings or big occasions; I want to make women feel special, no matter the context. There’s a Dorothy Draper quote I love: ‘No room can be called perfect unless it has real comfort’ – I think that thought extends beyond interiors and entertaining and can also be applied to fashion, in that no piece can be considered truly perfect unless the woman wearing it feels comfortable.

“Personally, when it comes to holiday parties, I love to host. My secret to success is letting my husband take care of the cooking while I look after all things visual. Ultimately, I just want my guests to feel welcome and at ease, so the conversation flows – then you’re guaranteed to have a fun evening. Christmas is a real event in my house: my husband is Brazilian, so on the 24th we get all dressed up and have a beautiful dinner at home with family, plus my daughter’s birthday falls on Christmas Day, which is, of course, another cause for celebration. In terms of holiday style, I think it’s really important to invest in beautiful pieces that bring a sense of excitement and occasion to the season – not just this year, but every year. Never underestimate the power of getting dressed. Simplicity, comfort and confidence – and an Emilia Wickstead dress, of course.”

Mouchette Bell, model and stylist

“Recently, I’ve started making an effort to dress up every day. Even if I’m just wearing jeans, I’ll make sure to add a special piece. This year has taught us that every moment counts. What I love about Emilia Wickstead’s designs is that they have a romantic, painterly quality, but at the same time they are utterly wearable. They suit all ages and a diverse range of women. The dress I wore for this photo shoot transported me to one of my favorite films of all time: In the Mood for Love by Wong Kar-wai; the heroine, Su Li-zhen, looks like perfection itself. This dress is the kind of impeccably cut piece that will never let you down. Celebrating the holidays will be challenging this year – I think the trick is to take the party outside!”

What I love most about Emilia’s work is that it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen, yet also utterly timeless
Sonam Kapoor

Sonam Kapoor, actor

“I got dressed up every day throughout lockdown. My clothes are like my armor – they lift my mood and bring me joy. Getting dressed up doesn’t necessarily mean wearing uncomfortable clothes; if a piece is beautifully fitted and made from fine fabrics, like Emilia’s always are, then you can wear them every day of the week. What I love most about her work is that it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen, yet also utterly timeless. Playing host is one of my favorite things. My secret is to have great wine, great food, great music and, of course, great company. I’ve always been a fan of more intimate gatherings, because there’s nothing I love more than fabulous conversation and just chilling with my friends.”

This year, more than any other, I will make an effort to dress for Christmas lunch and New Year’s Eve – even if it’s just myself, my husband and our kids. Slipping into a beautiful dress will transport me to a less troubled time
India Hicks

India Hicks, writer and interior designer

“Each Christmas Day, I host a large lunch on the small island in the Bahamas that we live on. I tend to invite friends, old and new, and a few waifs and strays. This year, I expect it will be a much smaller group, but we will be sure to give thanks that we can be together and reflect on what a crazy year it has been. Some key ingredients for a successful party are flowers, candles, ribaldry, music and lots of wine. When hosting dinners, I like to have a seating plan – without one, sparking conversation between guests can sometimes be more challenging than getting the soufflé to rise. This year, more than any other, I will make an effort to dress for Christmas lunch, New Year’s Eve and any small festive gatherings – even if it’s just myself, my husband and our kids. We can’t let a pandemic rob us of everything; slipping into a beautiful dress will transport me to a less troubled time.”

I’ll be as dressed up as if I were hosting Christmas cocktails for 50 guests – it’s all about creating your own magic. Dressing up isn’t for others, it’s for yourself and allows your confidence to shine
Narmina Marandi

Narmina Marandi, patron and board member of the BFC Fashion Trust and co-head of the Cultural and Social Committee of the Serpentine Galleries

“My family and I normally celebrate Christmas in St Moritz, and while it’s hard to beat sleigh rides and fire-side cocktails, I can’t wait for a more intimate affair this year, at home in London. I’m looking forward to creating new memories for the family. I’ll be as dressed up as if I were hosting Christmas cocktails for 50 guests – it’s all about creating your own magic. Dressing up isn’t for others, it’s for yourself and allows your confidence to shine. I’ve always found that outfits are the best conversation starters. With less opportunity to go out to celebrate this year, it gives us all the chance to make more of an effort with our families. Dress up with your loved ones, enjoy spending this time at home and make it all the more memorable. Emilia’s designs are the essence of femininity and romance, but shown through a modern lens. I can’t wait for my daughters to fall in love with her exquisite clothes… when the time comes…”

The beauty of Emilia’s dresses is that they are a wonderful canvas for a woman to wear in her own way; they look equally exquisite worn dressed up or down
Charlotte Olympia

Charlotte Olympia, footwear designer

“The beauty of Emilia’s dresses is that they are a wonderful canvas for a woman to wear in her own way; they look equally exquisite worn dressed up or down. I particularly love the dress I wore for the shoot as, in all its simplicity, it still makes an impact and I love to wear something that looks and feels special. It helps that it was in my favorite color; nothing beats wearing a red dress, and I usually go all the way, teaming it with red lips, nails and shoes. I have always enjoyed dressing up and do it for myself, first and foremost. I’ll be making the holiday season as festive as possible this year, with plenty of cooking, cocktails, games and dressing up. I have already gotten into the festive spirit by adorning the staircases and fireplaces throughout my house with floral garlands, and can’t wait to switch over to Christmas decorations. Given we are spending so much time at home at the moment, I seem to be celebrating all the seasons!”

Emilia knows how to design in a way that accentuates every woman’s figure, hugging you in all the right places
Laura de Gunzburg

Laura de Gunzburg, partner at The Cultivist, founder and chair of the Dia Art Foundation’s Contemporary Associates, contributing editor at Cultured Magazine and founder of The Artichoke London

“What I love about Emilia’s designs is how timeless they are – I really realized that when I was looking for something to wear for my civil wedding. I wanted an outfit I could look back at and love forever, not feel like it was simply ‘of the moment’. Emilia knows how to design in a way that accentuates every woman’s figure, hugging you in all the right places. Sadly, I don’t think there will be much opportunity for festive parties this year, but dressing up and celebrating with just a few of your favorite people is often more memorable anyway.”

Emilia makes such elegant pieces that she’s a fail-safe choice when it comes to faultless party style
Rebecca Corbin-Murray

Rebecca Corbin-Murray, celebrity stylist

“Getting all dressed up is about elevating your mood and feeling fabulous, so I will be bringing my A-game, regardless of the fact that the celebrations will be scaled back this year. Emilia makes such elegant pieces that she’s a fail-safe choice when it comes to faultless party style. I love Christmas parties; under normal circumstances, I’m a regular host and attendee. When it comes to throwing an especially fun soirée, my secret weapon is mistletoe. Of course, the key to mastering after-dark dressing this holiday season is accessories – and lots of them. This year, there will be lots of FaceTime parties and I’ll be dressing accordingly. Styling yourself from the waist up is essential: focus on choosing tops and dresses with interesting necklines or design details and finish with beautiful jewelry.”

Every time I wear a piece by Emilia, I feel like the best-dressed woman in the room. Her effortless designs strike the perfect note during a time when we need our clothes to elevate us, without being too opulent or fussy
Whitney Bromberg Hawkings

Whitney Bromberg Hawkings, founder and CEO of Flowerbx

“These challenging times have made me refocus on the things and people that are most important to me: my family and closest friends. I love hosting holiday parties; few things make me as happy as bringing friends, old and new, together around my table. My mom was a chef and I was raised to believe that cooking is a way of showing love to others. Even if that’s not an option this year, I plan on filling the house with flowers, cooking, and, of course, getting all dressed up. I’m so excited by the prospect of putting on a gorgeous dress, flawless makeup and just feeling like the best version of myself. Every time I wear a piece by Emilia, I feel like the best-dressed woman in the room. Her effortless designs strike the perfect note during a time when we need our clothes to elevate us, without being too opulent or fussy. Her pieces are celebratory, feminine, powerful and positive – all qualities that we need to channel in abundance right now.”

With this collection I wanted to evoke glamour, fantasy and excitement, but ultimately it had to be wearable, which is why, although the shapes are playful, they’re also extremely elegant. Simplicity is often the most difficult thing to achieve in design
Emilia Wickstead

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