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At London Fashion Week, emotions got the better of the designers—and that was a good thing. As a reaction and rebuttal to our trying times, designers mined their feelings to create poignant collections that discussed everything from sex to anxiety, consumerism to practicality.
Here, we recount the LFW vibes—including an appearance by HRH Queen Elizabeth II—we’ll be thinking about as Milan Fashion Week starts tomorrow.
Anxiety and Escapism at Ashley Williams
London cool girl Ashley Williams staged her collection on a set inspired by Stonehenge. It was a weird choice for someone so plugged into the London scene, but, as her show notes read, the collection was about “ditching technology and . . . exploring the U.K. and all its monolithic marvels.” Amid tie-dyed hoodies and fleece jackets, that techno-dependence was referenced in a pair of furry sandals with the word anxiety written across the top in crystals. The message? Sometimes escapist fantasies only serve to highlight what you’re missing on Instagram.
Sexuality at Christopher Kane
Since his first collection of subversive bandage dresses, Christopher Kane has had a thing for kink. His Fall line took that to the extreme, with illustrations from the original editions of The Joy of Sex and More Joy of Sex printed on feather-trimmed dresses. Only Kane could get away with such an overt display—and only Kane could pair such slinky things with some of the oddest shoes around. Meet the bejeweled Z-Coil, the current front-runner for Fall 2018’s ugliest and most covetable shoe.
Urges at Ashish
Where else could you find sequined slogan tees that read masturbate and American excess than at Ashish? The shine-loving designer has always used his collections to make a point; this season was about our desires for more, more, more! Self-pleasure comes in many forms. One of the most harmful to the world is the overconsumption of fast fashion. Ashish himself once worked in a fast fashion factory, and his night bazaar–inspired set touched on the high-low obsession in fashion right now. So, if you must splurge on one thing this season, consider Ashish’s All I Want Is Love shirt.
Pride at Burberry
Christopher Bailey went out with a bang at Burberry with an autobiographical collection that was inspired by—and will benefit—LGTBQ+ youth. Amid the rainbow plaids, grungy puffer jackets, and shearlings were democratic pieces that will bring Bailey’s message of inclusion to a broader audience, from the graphic tees to the faux shopping bags. It all came whirling to a close with Cara Delevingne, one of Bailey’s most ardent supporters, taking her first runway turn in two years as she closed the show.
Passion at Erdem
Loveliness has always been Erdem Moralioglu’s thing, and sometimes, in a world so unlovely, it can feel unrooted. His Fall collection got a bit of grounding via his unlikely muse, the American child star Adele Astaire. As he told Vogue’s Sarah Mower, “She was Fred’s elder sister and the much more talented one. She was completely independent and then married into this very formal, aristocratic family.” Ms. Astaire eventually wed the son of the Duke of Devonshire, but kept a bit of Hollywood flair in her Lismore Castle abode, going so far as to cartwheel down the hallways to meet the in-laws. Sometimes, loving what you do and doing what you love is the best antidote to the bad news stream of 2018.
Practicality at JW Anderson
As a designer who once sent out male models in ruffled pink skirts, a man in a pair of khakis is practically revelatory for Jonathan Anderson. And yet, in his first combined menswear and womenswear show, the designer changed direction, building a wardrobe of strangely cool clothing that has all the JW trademarks—lumpy knits, funny donut accents, scarf hems—but is exponentially more wearable. This sudden shift in direction might be business-minded, but it’s worth keeping an eye on. Where Anderson treads, others follow.
Care at the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange
“We’re not talking anymore; we’re doing,” said Livia Firth, the founder of Eco-Age. Along with Baroness Patricia Scotland, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Firth helped to set up a display of more than 30 sustainably produced dresses from designers throughout the British Commonwealth including Stella McCartney, Tanya Taylor, and Karen Walker. The Duchess of Cambridge was in attendance, too. Who knows? You might see her in one of these artisanal dresses soon.
It’s the Queen! at Richard Quinn
Listen, it’s not every day Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II attends a fashion show. At Richard Quinn’s runway show, the Queen arrived in a pale blue suit with black gloves, bag, and shoes, and sat beside Vogue’s Editor in Chief, Dame Anna Wintour. The occasion was an award the Queen herself would bestow on Quinn; after the show, Her Majesty presented Quinn with the inaugural Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design for his textile design studio in London that supports textile development and print design.
Creativity at Fashion East, Central Saint Martins, and Matty Bovan
Only at London Fashion Week could you see an inflatable pool walk down a runway or models sporting headpieces of helium balloons. But that’s what makes the city so special—it’s bevy of young talents coming out of fashion schools and making their own way in the fashion world. Don’t miss the highlights from Central Saint Martins’s show, Fashion East, or Matty Bovan’s first solo runway show.