According to creative director Martin Cooper, the Belstaff business breaks down 70-30 in favor of men. The collection the label showed on Saturday was an earnest effort to shift the balance, revamping Belstaff's biker heritage to make it…well, a little more vampy. Not in a particularly sexy way, but more as a statement of female dominance. Cooper and Co. pictured their woman effortlessly mastering her hog.
But it wasn't so much the company's own 90-year history on wheels that infused the collection; it was more the spirit of another, more recent period. The late seventies in the British Midlands and North was a grim, postindustrial era that shaped the sound of wildly influential bands like Joy Division, and it was that dark, utilitarian, androgynous mood that prevailed here. Picture kids using post-punk DIY ingenuity to pull looks together from army surplus stores and second-hand shops: an MA-1 jacket, old leathers and oilskins, military coats, vintage plaid jackets, kilts, as punk holdovers.
Of course, that was just the initial mood, pliable, waiting to be shaped by Belstaff into a fashion ethos. Details were lifted from all those elements—the shaggy shearling collar and orange quilted lining of the MA-1, for instance—and collaged into a collection for "a woman who rides with an irreverent attitude," the press notes declared.
Perhaps it was a kind of irreverence that dictated the waxed cotton that is hallowed cloth at Belstaff should be sliced into melton wool for a new take on the classic Roadmaster oilskin. Elsewhere, the iconic biker jacket appeared with short sleeves, or quilted, or artfully elongated. The favored accompaniment was a kilt-ish wrap skirt in leather or charcoal flannel. A concession to femininity was a floral print taken from the traditional patterns of the famous china made in Staffordshire, England, the home of Belstaff. And there was something unambiguously womanly about the plainest look—a black turtleneck and leather skirt—that would have suited a biker librarian.