Fight or Flight

Sophie Hulme takes the tough out of outerwear. By Ryan Haase
Walking down the sidewalks of today's increasingly crowded cities is like declaring war on all the lumbering, disoriented people that are invariably blocking the way. The first line of defense is a good coat—one that will protect while commanding respect. Thankfully, for citizens everywhere, English designer Sophie Hulme has crafted an arsenal with her eponymous new label, debuting this fall. Initially focusing on outerwear, hats, and bags, the line is for, as Hulme tells it, "concealed combat."
The collection isn't just a play on battle uniforms, though. "I think in general right now there's a gap in the market for tougher womenswear," says Hulme, who graduated last year from Kingston University's fashion design program. "I was looking for something that has a boyish edge but can still be worn in the evening. I wanted to take strong, hard military clothing and make it beautiful and luxurious."
The resulting gear is wrought not in steel, but instead employs suppler, more touchable materials. The exhaust-gray leather on the back of a bomber jacket is twisted and knotted into a whimsical blown-up bow. This same bow tugs at the back of a lean navy cotton trench, with a billowing train further undercutting the regimented epaulets and stern tall collar. In fact, the neck—perhaps the most vulnerable area of a warrior—rarely appears through Hulme's clothes. The leather hood on one parka latches thickly around the throat like a parachute, while the chunky ribbed cotton collar on another parka crawls up past the chin.
Hulme subverts these standoffish silhouettes with more of her feminine detailing. Shiny plastic fighter-jet-shaped charms fall over the cowl of the aforementioned parka like gleaming snowflakes. A second bomber jacket is dipped in blue sequins, its glittery surface rippling like water. Sequins also spill over the pockets of a compartment-happy backpack, and onto the panels of a hat with earflaps so exaggerated they would be more accurately called faceflaps. If all this coverage seems overwhelming, fear not—next spring, Hulme plans to expand with dresses, jewelry, and lightweight outerwear that's still tough on the inside.
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Sophie Hulme takes the tough out of outerwear.

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