This season’s London Fashion Week was a triumph of ideas, creativity and quietly confident catwalk moments.
From Ashish’s joyous return to Simone Rocha’s balletic dress rehearsal and Burberry’s assured show of might, here’s everything you need to know…
A seductive azure blue has emerged with all the markings pointing to it being the colour of next spring, with its most effective employ in head-to-toe looks. The rich hue appeared in myriad shows including Roksanda in a heavenly silk gown, Tolu Coker’s striking shirt and trouser look, Ahluwalia’s hazy printed tracksuits, Labrum’s woven waistcoat and pencil skirt, and Burberry’s chiffon military jacket.
The liquid dress
The gown has had a sensual makeover and, rendered in rich silks and jersey fabrications, look as if they have been poured over the body. Roksanda offered her luxe satins in pretty lilac, and seductive metallics; Tove had a drenching silver asymmetric version - worn with a simple white ballet flat. Fashion East rising star Standing Ground once again elevated jersey into high status, with elegant drape detail in a rich popping azure blue (more blue!); JW Anderson bandaged his flowing jersey around the body, while Di Petsa had dripping molten gold.
The white shirt’s resurgence to key-piece relevance shows no sign of abating for spring, so feel free to stock up now. At 16Arlington, crisp iterations were half-tucked into delicious embellished red skirts, Phoebe English had origami folds and crumpled versions (life is too short to iron). Equally, head-to-toe white looks remain: Richard Quinn heightened the drama with his pristine, intricate dresses; alternatively, Chopova Lowena’s folklore, punkish mash-up took the look to grungy rather than one-percent-ish.
Saturday night’s hot ticket came courtesy of Skepta, unveiling the second coming of his Mains collection (it had been on hiatus for four years). Such was his pull, that Naomi Campbell was not only on time, but sat patiently waiting for the show to begin. Other front row-ers included Louis Theroux, deep in conversation with Lil Simz, Stormzy rivetingly nodding his head to the Enya classic Sail Away (the soundtrack also featured Phil Collins’ In the Air Tonight and the Beatles Come Together, really something for everyone). The collection, styled with assistance from ES magazine Style Director Jessica Skeete-Cross, no less, was a triumph of elevated, covetable sportswear and elegant tailoring. Black suits were paired with Puma trainers and diamante-edged umbrellas; relaxed leather racing pit jackets and trousers as well as boucle jackets embellished with the M insignia - embroidered by Skepta himself, who often pops into Soho haberdashery MacCulloch & Wallis to source his own beads.
Crocs live to fight another fashion season with Simone Rocha’s strangely palatable pearl-encrusted versions. Meanwhile, JW Anderson has reinvented the moccasin, with a heel! So wrong it could be right? While for glamour, Erdem’s floor-sweeping bow-decked heels are tantalisingly good.
Sinead O’Dwyer’s educating fashion
Instead of a show, Sinead O’Dwyer chose to educate her audience from her old classroom at the Royal College of Art with the trials of disrupting the status quo. O’Dwyer works with a size 24 fit model and fits four different sample sizes (unheard of), meaning she can accurately offer her pieces from a size 8 to 30. She pointed out that as a fashion student “you’re given the body you’re going to be designing upon. The mannequins [at college] are a certain size . So already this huge element of choice has been stripped from you.” She eloquently underscored that the reason it’s hard to find clothes which fit is that they’ve literally not been conceived with your body in mind. Her obsession with shirting continues for spring, with bust-framing bodysuits - inspired by her Cellist sister who found it impossible to find a shirt that wouldn’t budge when playing.
Everyone was talking about...
There are two things roaming show-goers nail: dressing the part, and nattering on the frow. Unexpected faces with prime seats prompted whispers, including a royal sighting of stars-to-be Ed McVey and Luther Ford, who will play Prince William and Harry in the upcoming season of The Crown, at Stefan Cooke. Being fashionably late was, begrudgingly, cool again. Model Adut Akech was the last to slink into 16Arlington, in a sheer gown. Didn’t she want to walk? “I am just doing Burberry this season,” she said. And Ncuti Gatwa, Sex Education star and new Doctor Who, caused a kerfuffle as he rushed into the JW Anderson show as it started. And at the parties, door-mania was rife. There was shouting outside the 10 Magazine bash at Claridge’s on Saturday - a frenzy fuelled by the fact Cindy Crawford was inside - Jourdan Dunn struggled to get into The Face’s event at The TwentyTwo, while Monday night was reserved for Perfect Magazine’s LFW closing bash, complete with sightings of Kylie Minogue and Naomi Campbell.
Matty Bovan’s supermodel supper club
The crypts of Trafalgar Square’s St Martin-in-the-Fields Church had a DIY makeover courtesy of Yorkshire designer Matty Bovan, in a show that came with a twist. The front row sat backstage for a banquet for the duration; imagine Georgia May Jagger and Andreas Kronthaler tucking into lobster and Tanqueray gin as models Ashley Graham, Winnie Harlow and Precious Lee prepared to take to the runway. “I’ve been working on this collection for the last 6 months, each look is like a sculpture that’s been worked and worked upon,” said Bovan of his patchwork-style, ruffled delights. They were a welcome shot of crafty glamour. “I never want to do something with a twist for the sake of it, but we’re always looking at ways to challenge ourselves, and in turn, the audience,” he said.
Ashish brings back the glitter
For this week’s self-declared seriousness in places, a happy counteraction came courtesy of Ashish, known for feel-good fabulousness. The Indian designer, who has not hosted a show since the pandemic, committed to a dreamworld for his sequin-heavy, gender-fluid catwalk at Nobu Hotel Portman Square on Monday. “I wanted to make it surreal; joyful, fun and sexy - everything you can think of in your dreams,” he said. Guests were greeted by a boy sleeping in a swan pedalo wearing glitter briefs, before intricate starburst embroidered gowns, weighty fringe beaded dresses and silver sequin jockstraps streamed out. All ages, sexual orientations and points of the gender spectrum were championed without a sense of tokenism. “I think the world is a scary place at the moment, there is a lot of division, and the two sides aren’t having conversations - I thought it would be so nice to do a show that was like a dream,” he said.
Not since Alexander McQueen’s 1993 introduction of the bumster - which saw him cut the back of the trousers so low as to reveal the top of the buttocks - has the lower back been the erogenous zone of choice. But Harris Reed nodded to just this with his finale look, a low-cut black deadstock velvet ball gown during his Tate Modern show on Wednesday evening. “We had to have a little nod to McQueen,” he said. “I love referencing the greats that came before us.” Others got a similar memo, and ran with it. Molly Goddard, known for her tulle creations, showed scooped-back dresses, and royal-designer of choice Emilia Wickstead followed suit. At talent incubator Fashion East, debut designer Olly Shinder took it one step further and slashed open the back of his trousers completely...
The fashion set’s style hacks to steal...
For those less set on cartwheeling in blow-up latex suits - as models did at designer Harri’s show - there are quick ways to get the street-style army look. First, wear a pair of knee-high white socks. These have been paired with black loafers - think Michael Jackson’s Bad era - or with pointy-toed kitten heel slingbacks, for evening affairs. Buy some ballet pumps. Everyone else is wearing them, Amy Winehouse style. Look to Pretty Ballerinas, Margiela, or your local dance shop. Shop the Stefan Cooke x Mulberry collaboration. The design duo got to upcycling old Mulberry bags with charming leather, red ribbon stitching for their show. The vision? “Kate Moss carrying her Bayswater,” Cooke says. They are available to shop now. It’s also been a bumper season for JW Anderson’s cult Bumper bag. Whisper it, but there is a crop of these available at half price from TKMaxx’s gold label today.