Lambeth High Street, London UK. 17th February 2019. Fashion East show their Autumn Winter 2019 designs at his catwalk show. © Chris Yates

For Autumn/Winter 2019, Charlotte Knowles brings her woman into the ‘real world’, developing her ready-to-wear language into a more comprehensive wardrobe.

AW19 is the brand’s final collection shown with the support of Fashion East, and the collection brings a new mode of toughness to Knowles’ manifestation of femininity, moving away from SS19’s swimwear fantasies into a more brutal winter reality.

The Charlotte Knowles woman is in control of her sensuality, and therefore a threat to established order. As developments in social media continue to change the nature of intimacy and how we perceive one another, Knowles continues to explore her preoccupation with culturally constructed codes of femininity. For Knowles, female empowerment goes beyond women wearing suits: she is, instead, creating the wardrobe for a new world order, for what future femininity could be.

For the AW19 season, Knowles’ vision materialises through expanded ready-to-wear, and disturbs the boundaries between the vulnerable and the combative, the human and the natural, the intimate and the public, the strange and familiar. Checks appear across wools and technical fabrics, their graphic rigidity and formal restriction also conveying the weight of heritage and spirit of counter-culture. Patterns and textures become plasticised in look and feel: the floral print is a glitch in reality, giving the illusion of embossing and plastic coating but entirely digital, while fine Lycra is screen-printed with a 3D binder reminiscent of the anti-slip technical rubber on bras and undergarments.

Knowles reprises her critique of womenswear’s lack of functionality in her quest to unleash power. Coats incorporate exterior inseam pockets and concealed interior patch pockets for a woman’s tools. The Charlotte Knowles signature fanny pack hybrid garments - the “fanny skirt” and “fanny top” - return for AW19. Knowles takes a sideways look at the hyper-sexualised push-up bra and mini-skirt, recreating them with outerwear wadding à la puffer jackets. The vulnerable becomes the protector as underwear becomes armour.

The absurdity of feminine caricatures is pushed for visual tension via absurdly small cardigans, suggestive of harnesses, and minimally-boned corsetry that stretches as it restricts. A nostalgic MTV diva knit – complete with hand-tied shaggy collar and cuffs – becomes almost aggressive through its hybrid alpaca-Lycra mix. The tightness and density from the combination of natural and manmade fibres suggests the uncanny, the inexplicable nature of jamais vu. An aviator jacket’s long shearling adornments convey softness and savagery simultaneously.

AW19 sees Charlotte Knowles introduce her version of tailoring - form fitting, minimal, and fluid. Key tailoring points include: invisible zip pockets, raglan sleeves, while trousers come flared with the same fluid cut and a crotch gusset evocative of running trousers. Intricate ease continues through dresses that combine sharp function with comfort for a more accurate interpretation of utility that expands to include women’s own set of wants and needs.

For accessories, the Fang bag introduced for AW18 reappears in reinforced leather, and shoes are angular and latex-dipped. The jewellery is a collaboration between Florence Tétier and Freeka Tet. It is organic and forceful, it is partly a set of moveable and endlessly combinable magnetic pieces that can be clustered or connected as the wearer sees fit and melted combs and other recycled objects tangled into the hair and clothes.

The show music by Freeka Tet amplifies the AW19 theme of unsettling strength. Combining a death metal melody and bass line with trap influences. The soundtrack is provocative and stands as testament to the multifaceted defiance of the Charlotte Knowles woman.