It will be hard, at first viewing, to move past the cat hats in KNWLS fall 2022 collection—especially when Charlotte Knowles and Alexandre Arsenault join a video call wearing their own cute knitted styles. The result of many years of perfecting, the hats nod to Harajuku and raver aesthetics, pulled right from the pages of Fruits magazine and the pair’s own club kid lifestyle. (Though they admit they spend a lot more time in the studio nowadays, as LVMH Prize finalists, and a lot less time going out.)
Once you get past the immediate and delicious pang of the foxy little toppers, you’ll find an expanded KNWLS multiverse. As a brand beloved by Dua Lipa, Emma Corrin, Julia Fox, and no less than Beyoncé, KNWLS has become synonymous with stringy sexy corsets and attenuated shoes and bags. Knowles and Arsenault can deliver that in spades—see their well-engineered ice blue bodysuit and platform shoes this season—but rather than just do what they do, they want to do more. Lots more. “It’s not about carrying over,” says Arsenault, “we wanted to create something new and precious to us.”
Newness abounds in textural, chunky knits, with clubby fringe fraying off and cropped space-dyed wrap cardigans. Leg warmers are belted just below the knee and flare out in shearlings and knits. The proportion play is almost cartoonish—like a video game vixen, the KNWLS silhouette knows exactly where to exaggerate and where to cinch, contrasting gigantic fluff-coats with slender flared leggings, and maniacally slender waxed leather corsets with the lowest of low-rise pants . Each piece is tailored precisely—these aren’t just fun sexy clothes without craft—adding to the sharpness and the spunk of the look.
The real story, though, is about movement. Flutter hems would seem like anathema to the KNWLS look, but here, Knowles and Arsenault have built a minidress with dozens of inset panels so the fabric dances around the model’s legs in a video by Jordan Hemingway. It’s sexy and innocent in an almost terrifying way. But that’s the KNWLS look—as per their press release, this season, it’s equal parts Suspiria and Nine Inch Nails, riffing on that tension of beautiful, scary, corporeal horror. Don’t get the impression wrong, though. Knowles and Arsenault are lovers, not fighters. “We just wanted to make things that are precious to us,” she says. The beauty in danger is their sweet spot—and the cat hats just top it all off nicely.