You don’t have to spend much time in the company of Lena Lumelsky’s clothes to be unsurprised to learn that she studied at Belgium’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. Her pieces clearly show the signs of that most intellectual school of design – the inspiration of alumni Ann Demeulemeester, Martin Margiela and Dirk Bikkembergs is there for all to see. For like the work of these designers, Lumelsky’s creations are slightly challenging. They are not necessarily for ladies who lunch, and you perhaps wouldn’t wear them to Ascot – but they are undoubtedly stylishly original pieces to be worn with confidence and panache.
So who is Lena Lumelsky? She’s a Crimea-born designer who launched her label in 2009 and two years later was taken up by Dover Street Market, which fell in love with her fine fabrics (double-sided wool, cashmere and treated cottons, washed deerskin and extra-fine lambskin), the garments’ versatility and their strong aesthetic. These iconic sculptural pieces are nothing to do with transient fashion fads but are timeless pieces that can be brought out time after time. Handmade at small ateliers in Belgium or Latvia, they have an artisanal quality and – here’s the crux – are transformable, allowing wearers to make them their own.
Lumelsky’s winter collection, in a palette of white, black, grey and baby blue, was inspired by traditional Highland dress, especially the huge plaids men throw over their shoulders. Many pieces have extra swathes of fabric and can be worn in different ways. The Cameron coat (£1,845), for instance, has a large panel – with a blue and white striped trim – that can be left hanging loose, worn tossed over one shoulder or wrapped around both like a shawl. Beautifully cut jackets like the Jamison (£1,020) have swirling panels that work in the same way or can be used to cinch in the waist.
There are skirts and dresses too, ideal day-to-night pieces that can be styled differently for a touch of evening oomph. The beguiling Sloana skirt (£520) has pleats and folds that can be tied front or back; the purple Dafyolola dress (£630) is striking yet easy and undemanding; and the go-anywhere-chic Davonna Black (£1,105) has burgundy silk panels on the shoulder and pretty cuffs for added interest. Perhaps my favourite, though, is the elegant grey cashmere/wool Doire (£955), which is softened by a multitasking teal and claret-trimmed sweep of fabric on one side.
Lumelsky’s enterprising designs won’t be for everybody, but those who love them will love them forever.