London Fashion Week is waking up: As much as the city is dubbed the “creative one” out of the four fashion capitals, this season the designers who survived the pandemic put on their commercial caps, embraced sustainability and body diversity.
In this long fashion game, designers have come to realize the importance of creating collections that are democratic and involve everyone.
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Sophie Albou at Paul & Joe presented her collection in a grand ballroom at The Langham Hotel fit for her twee cottagecore collection of bright pastel shades and pretty floral prints. She was inspired by the children’s novel “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Albou’s light tweed pieces and handkerchief-checked dungarees would fit straight into an adaption of the film as it would into the wardrobes of young affluent women and their daughters.
Rixo cofounders Henrietta Rix and Orlagh McCloskey will have their spring 2023 collection available in and expanded U.K. size range of 6 to 24 — for a business like theirs that deals in midrange prices, it’s a key move, especially when Catherine, Princess of Wales is wearing your designs. The collection included more than 100 looks, which feels tiring to scroll through, but it’s exactly what their British customers want. The hit pieces were the Blake & Apple and Kamilla featuring bohemian prints reminiscent of vintage Biba patterns.
Phoebe English, who has kept a quiet profile in the industry, is busy making beautifully cut clothing on her own terms. She’s not answering to anyone but herself, and despite being dropped by some of her stockists, the slow road has led to well-fitted, no-fuss and sustainable separates for men and women. If English continues on this path, she could find herself being the next Margaret Howell, who in 2020 had a brand worth 150 million pounds.
For a new-gen designer, Feben Vemmenby of Feben managed to strike the right balance between wearability and creativity for her first physical runway show. Her collection took cues from spirituality with tarot card references printed onto figure-hugging dresses made in collaboration with artisans in Accra, Ghana. Vemmenby had the help of veteran stylist Karen Binns, who counts Bianca Saunders, Afrobeat artist Wizkid and Tori Amos as clients. Feben is stocked at retailers like Browns, Farfetch and Ssense, which is a testament to her promising future.
Alice Temperley of Temperley London has been jumping through hurdles, from moving studios from Notting Hill to the countryside; dealing with the pandemic and having to stop shipment to Russia, where a large sum of her sales came from.
“It was significant enough to be a problem, but we actually redirected that [Russia-bound] stock to other places where there was a demand,” she said. The appetite for her rich bohemian designs, however, has lasted and now she’s expanding it with more shimmering pieces inspired by Art Deco. Temperley’s glittery tuxedos and sparkling gowns are guaranteed to resonate with the brand’s English aristocrat and Tatler Toff customers.
House of Sunny founder Sunny Williams has been making noise with a Gen-Z audience for quite a while now. The brand, which presents off schedule during London Fashion Week, has built a community of psychedelic knit cardigans and dresses — and fans of the label include Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner.
Since starting the line in 2011, Williams had dedicated himself to creating two collections a year with small units, a sustainable practice that’s been intact for more than a decade now.
His spring 2023 collection was about moving slowly, too. He titled it “Take Your Time” based on the small pleasures of vacation: small fruits printed on bikinis and off-the-shoulder sweaters; pink sunsets on oversize shirts; green and blue gradient zip jackets to resemble the crystal clear sea, and large tote bags for the day and mini versions for the night.
For her first stand-alone presentation, the London-based Romanian footwear designer Ancuta Sarca, a finalist in this year’s Andam Fashion Awards, offered stylish and well-made shoes that stay true to the brand’s repurposing and upcycling ethos.
Models showcased backless pointy heels made with upcycled Nike sneakers, aqua shoes, thong sandals and clogs next to macho motorcycles while wearing special-made Skims bodysuits. Sarca also unveiled a pair of loafers, made with parts from Vans’ signature checkerboard slip-on and the Sk8-hi style, as part of a partnership with the VF Corp.-owned brand.
Paria Farzaneh took the fashion crowd to the Phoenix Garden in central London for her first runway show in two years. For her last show, she blew up a field in Amersham and presented military-inspired looks. This time, Farzaneh seemed to be in a calmer place as she looked to many nomadic tribes in Iran, where her parents are from.
She also utilized bold colors and patterns used by this group of people, who still refuse the mainstream version of modern society, to build a collection around diversity, inclusion and courage. Standouts included a red top with cutouts on the side, layered blue shorts and a round-neck lace shirt.
South Korean fashion designer Goom Heo, who was shortlisted for this year’s LVMH Prize for Young Designers, released her spring 2023 men’s collection in the form of a lookbook during London Fashion Week. The designer offered hyper-sexual acid-washed denim pieces as if they were made for the Spartans or Lil Nas X.
Heo was inspired by Swiss photographer Karlheinz Weinberger’s subversive works. The raw, rebellious attitude captured by Weinberger in the ’50s and ’60s did come through in the look book, where the homoerotic fantasy energy was off the charts.
Calypso, the Afro-Caribbean music that originated in Trinidad & Tobago during the early to mid-19th century, was the starting point for Nicholas Daley’s spring 2023 men’s collection. He looked at how these Calypso music artists dress and then put a personal and modern spin on it.
Key pieces this season were high-waisted pants, open-collar shirts and five-pocket waistcoats, and in paisley, floral and zigzag patterns. The color palette was inspired by Belafonte’s iconic sun-washed album artwork, while the lookbook paid tribute to Irving Penn’s ”Small Trades“ series.
While a handful of designers took to a commercial strategy for the biggest London Fashion Week schedule in a while, Turkish-British designer Dilara Findikoglu stuck to her guns for her comeback runway show after taking a hiatus. Her shows often have a whimsical way of entertaining, with music and theatrics, while simultaneously getting you engaged in the garments her characters are wearing.
This season there was only silence with the ringing sound of bells from the shoes and occasional screeching of fabrics being dragged across the old floorboards. After the show, Findikoglu said she wanted to reflect “that trapped feeling throughout the whole collection,” which in truth, after a pandemic with a global recession and cost of living crisis in play, the last thing anyone needs is to reflect on how grim reality can be.
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