When Edward Cuming was 14, he walked into an op shop in Sydney’s Surry Hills and bought a floor-length duffle coat. It was too big but that didn’t stop him from taking it everywhere for the next 15 years.
The coat was made from a synthetic blend that didn’t keep him warm and was so ill-fitting that once, in what he describes as a feverish moment, he chopped off the bottom. Eventually, he grew into it. The duffle coat, he says, inspires one of the key pieces in his Autumn/Winter ’22 collection, Have We Emerged Yet?
Cuming first studied fashion at the University of Technology Sydney before moving to Barcelona and finally to London, where he earned a master’s in fashion from Central Saint Martins college at the University of the Arts. He now works out of a studio in Madrid.
This is where he took the chopped-up duffle coat and re-created it in a luxurious wool blend. The coat caught the eye of one of the most influential stores in Paris and his brand is now stocked in 25 stores globally.
There are two versions of the coat in his AW22 range: a short one with raw edges and green toggles and a floor-length one with black details, large pockets and an oversized fit. This reinvention of pieces from his adolescence in refined cuts and materials underscores the entire collection, as does his preoccupation with unexpected, inverted details.
In the floor-length coat this has taken the form of long strips, added to the inside of the pockets, so they flow beside the body. The strips are the same material as the lining – a silky cupro. The coat has been styled over a bright, deep-blue classic knit with slouchy jeans.
The jeans are Cuming’s first foray into denim. They are like Levi’s classic 501 jeans but with a slightly wider cut, which makes the wearer’s legs look longer and their hips narrower. The denim is from Portugal and is tinted dark blue. The jeans have a slight fade through the knee and are worn with a matching blazer that is fitted through the shoulders but roomy through the body. It closes with a single button in the middle of the chest.
Every piece has exaggerated proportions. The knits are deliberately, refreshingly sloppy, as though they have been borrowed from an older brother or sister. The sleeves are too long, the body is both too wide and too cropped, but this excess is balanced by the tidy fit of the shoulders and neckline.
Cuming based the knits on a cardigan from when he was younger – another op shop find – that was made “from a crappy polyester acrylic”. In the cardigan’s reimagining, the material was important. He wanted the wearer to feel swaddled, comforted and protected, so he used a soft, 100 per cent wool.
The knits come in a rainbow of colours mirrored in his long-sleeved T-shirts: red, fuchsia, cobalt blue, lime green and soft brown. The palette is reminiscent of the early 2000s: strong, muted tones, juxtaposed with bright pops of colours that should clash but somehow complement instead. The T-shirts are of this era, too: long, narrow, double-layered sleeves, and even longer, tighter bodies.
The clothes are deliberately gender-neutral, despite Cuming’s training in menswear. He says women gravitated to the brand since the beginning because of the lack of structure in the cuts and the soft texture of the fabrics. Recognising this freed him from the restraints of gender norms and allowed him to play with fluidity and embrace how different the cuts looked on men’s and women’s bodies.
The wide wool pant is a good example of this. He says a man might wear them lower on their hips than a woman, but this doesn’t compromise the integrity of the style. They have been cut with a high curve in the back and extra fabric through the front, to give the appearance of them falling over the front of the shoe without hitting the floor at the heel.
His shirting is made from crisp, high-quality cotton, or silky-smooth acetate blends. The shape is of a classic men’s business shirt, with long sleeves and generous room through the body. In the centre of the chest Cuming has added a large graphic circle that spans from the chest to the hips and covers the stomach. A line of buttons runs down the middle, so each half circle of the shirt takes one side of the shirt front, as though the circle is a round window, peering out into the world.
Cuming describes his creative process as a desire to slash and hatch things together, to keep the shapes fresh and the edges raw. He turns things inside out, layers them up and adds coloured lining.
An example of this desire to subvert and surprise is a grey-green suit made from a light, Italian virgin wool. The cut is classic: a slim trouser and fitted, straight blazer. But the suit is lined in an electric blue viscose that peeks out along the edges of the jacket and along the contours of the pant. A thin blue line runs around the waist and straight down the middle of the trouser leg. Cuming says the wool “almost falls like silk” and the idea was to “take something luxe and treat it in our rough sort of way, to let it fray out and create contrast”.
Cuming describes the collection as made of “real pieces”. In this moment in fashion – when dresses are slashed through the midriff and busts are covered with the smallest scraps of silk georgette – it is refreshing to see clothes with body and weight, clothes that are designed to be worn again and again, with details intended to evolve over time.
The name of the collection was, of course, inspired by the rolling lockdowns of the past two years. The idea of emergence from the pandemic was a theme Cuming revisited over and over while he designed. But the title is also apt in terms of the place from which he drew inspiration: the clothes of his adolescence. That period of time when nothing really fits and you try on other people’s ways of being, searching for your own shape, waiting to discover your own sense of self, waiting to emerge.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on April 23, 2022 as "Second Cuming".
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