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Chopova Lowena Autumn/Winter 2024
Chopova Lowena Autumn/Winter 2024Courtesy of Chopova Lowena

An Exclusive First Look at Chopova Lowena’s Romantic New Collection

In an exclusive preview, Emma Chopova and Laura Lowena-Irons discuss their Autumn/Winter 2024 collection, which merges the unlikely themes of sailing and wartime weddings

Lead ImageChopova Lowena Autumn/Winter 2024Courtesy of Chopova Lowena

Emma Chopova and Laura Lowena-Irons are calling in from their new studio in Deptford, where they are sitting side by side, dressed in vibrant knits and tees which they have designed, together. Though only down the road from their previous base, the pair seem energised by their bigger and better HQ, which they say has given them not only some extra legroom for their growing brand but also some space for mental expansion. “We have our own office for the first time,” Chopova says, with a quick smile at Lowena-Irons. “We feel much more creative and good here, like we can do whatever we want.”

With windows overlooking a boat launch on the grey-pebbled shores of the Thames, the big move has also sparked the idea behind their new collection. Watching boatmen rigging up and ebbing off into the river’s murky brown waters from said office, they started thinking about the waterfront as a sacred site for everyday rituals. This led to a collection that merges the unlikely themes of sailing and wartime weddings.

Unveiled with a series of riverside portraits shot by the designers themselves at the Deptford Sailing Club, this thematic clash is actually core to Chopova Lowena’s fearlessly weird winning formula. Since joining forces on their MA in 2017, they have always offset the whimsy of tales plucked from folklore – usually based in Chopova’s Bulgarian heritage – with the raw attitude of sports like ice hockey, rock climbing and lacrosse. It shouldn’t work but it just does, and the result is always something beautiful, brash and unmistakably Chopova Lowena.

Unearthed during their research process, this season their main reference was found in photographs of WW2 military couples. Landing in a sticky middle ground where the romance of wedding gowns meets the rigour of uniform, from there they created dreamy 1940s silhouettes offset by tough nautical influences, like mariner netting and hardware resembling the rivulets and bolts found on boats. Other discoveries, such as heart-shaped pin cushions which wives would sew as keepsakes for their husbands at war, formed the inspiration for cutesy love heart T-shirts. As always, the clothes are hewn from holistically sourced sustainable materials – this time though, organic Bulgarian cotton and deadstock fur found in London are new. Much like marriage and the sea, the resulting collection is a testament to the duo’s unpredictable and expansive world: a product of labour, love and total trust – even when waves get rocky.

Alongside an exclusive preview of the collection, here, the pair discuss romance, overcoming imposter syndrome and their symbiotic working relationship.

Orla Brennan: Your brand shows once a year and reveals a lookbook for every other collection. Why does this formula work for you?

Emma Chopova: Well, what we like about it is that we don’t have to pay for two shows a year, which is what we can’t afford to do! But other than that, I think time gives us the freedom to do everything we want.

Laura Lowena: It’s not necessary in any way to do two shows. We also really love to make images, so it’s fun to have time to be able to do that. We shot and styled the lookbook ourselves this time.

OB: Your collections are always inspired by two references: a folkloric one and a sports one. Being by the water in Deptford sparked the sailing idea, but how did you land on wartime weddings?

EC: I’ve been obsessed with the 1940s for a couple of seasons now and I keep trying to get it in there. We were also equally weirdly into military research, so that happened quite naturally where we gathered our references and were like, ‘OK, we definitely love this.’ We found this interesting middle ground of really beautiful pictures of military couples in amazing 1940s wedding dresses and military uniforms. We also started doing some camo research and we found an amazing book which Laura collaged and made our own. It is kind of a weird reference for us, as we usually go pretty traditional.

LLI: We wanted to explore the idea of uniform and our folkloric clothes always have a uniform kind of style to them anyway. It fit into our process.

OB: As designers, what about sportswear interests you?

EC: It started because we love traditional things and beautiful things, but we always didn’t want to lean too heavily into that. We found very early on that sports – the hardware of sports, the uniforms, the synthetic parts of sporty dress – help balance out beautiful things. We first did it with lace and lycra back when we were studying. We’ve kept it going as there’s a middle ground in there that we find interesting.

OB: What’s the thread between them this season? In my mind, wartime weddings and sailing both have such a romance to them.

EC: Yeah totally, I think that’s actually very true.

LLI: You’re a very romantic person, Emma.

“There’s just such a trust there. If one of us isn’t happy with something, there’s a reason why and we stop and we figure out what it is” – Laura Lowena-Irons

EC: I love the sea. Everything about it makes me feel good and relaxed. I think there is something very romantic in sailing and I love the whole aesthetic of it – the boats, the sales, the outfits. There’s so much amazing hardware and really cool ideas in it, little things that go together. All the things I love made it into the collection in some way.

LLI: I think I was more obsessed with the other side – the military, uniformed references. I liked how the different medallions and the shapes they were wearing as military uniforms looked so odd together with a wedding dress. I loved the clash between them.

OB: Whether you’re doing a show or a lookbook, your casting is always really original. What’s your philosophy there?

EC: Sarah Small does the casting. We send her the references and it’s usually quite a specific character. So this season, she did an amazing job finding cool, almost taken-out-of-1940s picture-looking girls. She just finds really special people. 

OB: As your brand continues to grow, how does your working relationship change? Do your ideas become more amorphous or do you challenge each other more? 

LLI: There’s just such a trust there. If one of us isn’t happy with something, there’s a reason why and we stop and we figure out what it is. If we have to take it apart, we have to take it apart. If it gets cancelled, it’s OK.

EC: I think the only thing that’s really changed is confidence. We’ve been doing this for a while and we feel a bit less impostery. We can be like, “Stop sewing this,” or “Laura, let’s go figure this out.” We’ll never take the easy way out. That’s all we know.