Georgie Charalambous and Natalie Bouloux are about as close as two friends can get. The pair met at school in London and started designing together by the pool, while on teenage vacations with their families.
Inconveniently, after high school, their paths diverged: after studying underwear and swimwear at the London College of Fashion, Bouloux took off to New York to intern with underwear brand VPL and Chromat, the structurally experimental American label with strong roots in corsetry; while Charalambous studied book arts and design at the London College of Communication.
As though they are telepathically linked, when they met up on one of Bouloux's brief returns to London, they presented each other with gifts: neoprene bags that they had made completely independent of one another. It was then that they realised they were on to something and the seeds of Neoss were sewn.
Countless Skype calls and myriad emails later, they had mapped out the concept for Neoss, which launched last year with a collection of neoprene bags, including a backpack, a bucket bag, wash bag and a circular clutch reminiscent of 1990s CD cases.
A ready-to-wear collection was next on the cards for the 25-year-olds, who are inspired by anything from the utilitarian trousers worn by Charalambous' father, to the curvature of line seen in Kelly Klein's book Pools. But it was a vista seen from the window of a plane that formed the basis of their debut A/W 2016 collection.
‘We were flying home from a vacation in Cannes. We just saw the way the land curved to meet the sea, and we both said, "that's it",’ says Charalambous. The rest of the collection was conceived in similar harmony, with the pair agreeing on line, silhouette and concept – not an easy feat for a small new offering, which was unveiled during London Fashion Week in February.
They boldly marry the clean modernity of neoprene with the fusty nostalgia of wide wale corduroy in shapes that echo the mod lines of the 1960s. Highlights include a neoprene bomber jacket, constructed with diagonal panels, and a cord pantsuit that riffs on traditional menswear staples by spinning a shirt on its side so that it buttons over the shoulder, and exaggerating the collar proportions.
For now, they make everything themselves in their North London studio; while there's room for improvement in their pattern cutting and quality, there's no doubting their ambition. Mark under 'ones to watch'.