LONDON A/W ’21 DIGITAL
On one of the many phone calls that now shape London Fashion Week, Riccardo Tisci reflected on the way artistic expression is changing a year into the pandemic. “I’m sure, after all this finishes, it’s going to be amazing… for music, for arts, for fashion. We want to find a new freedom. For the last two decades, we’ve all been focused on numbers and money. Now, we want to live life.” His Burberry men’s collection – presented digitally like every other show this season – embodied the kinship and break with tradition that defined the London collections. Tisci’s menswear investigated the dress codes of British country dressing and re-coded them for a new era. For the many emerging talents he shares the show schedule with, it’s the attitude of a new world order.
Following the social upheaval of 2020, it’s hard to find a young designer whose work isn’t rooted in an aspect of cultural or subcultural reflection. And rightly so. Priya Ahluwalia – who received this year’s Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design on Tuesday – called her collection Traces, investigating the evidence of migration that exists within our wardrobes. Yuhan Wang took inspiration from the Tang Dynasty of her own cultural heritage. Saul Nash created a moving film about homosexuality in the context of the milieu in which he was raised, reflecting on the relationship between the codes of his elevated sportswear and ideas of gayness. Art School dedicated its non-binary collection to London Trans+ Pride, and Bianca Saunders continued her study of the changing face of masculinity and men’s approach to dressing.
Visually, compared with the exuberance of those who preceded them, the expression of the new designer generation is somewhat muted. Their analytical investigations of dress codes – from formalwear to sportswear – and how to change them for the anti-patriarchal, anti-imperialist environment they are calling for cuts a quiet contrast to a slightly older designer like Matty Bovan, whose explosive visual universe is still going strong. This season, he reflected on the dystopian reality of the pandemic in a collection that exercised naval references in a narrative about a sinking ship. “It’s definitely escapism, but the narrative isn’t necessarily resolved. Do we know if the characters are rescued? I like it to be open-ended,” he said, a realist in dreamer’s clothes.
“Appropriately for a collection made in lockdown, Emilia Wickstead took inspiration from Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window in an indoor-outdoor collection that juggled domestic and formal dress codes. Casually, Roksanda Ilinčić shot a short film starring Vanessa Redgrave, her daughter Joely Richardson and granddaughter Daisy Bevan, illustrating through cinematic storytelling the ‘middle space’ we’re currently living in – and dressing for.” – Anders Christian Madsen
Michael Halpern’s take on current affairs was more optimistic. Like most of the London establishment, his collection was about the “emergent wardrobe” of the post-lockdown world: “What people are going to wear when they come out of lockdown,” as he said. Halpern’s catsuits, jumpsuits and sarongs weren’t proposals for an autumn day look out of confinement, but they weren’t follies, either. “You want to feel like you’re putting on clothing again. You want it to feel different than normal. It’s not some chiffon thing you waft around in at home, but something you go out in,” he said. “I’m sick of comfort-wear.” Molly Goddard may be very pregnant, but she wasn’t giving in to sweatpants, either. Her sprightly collection was full of the jaunty silhouettes and bright colours that have made the hearts of her clientele grow fonder in the past.
Also very pregnant – and busy home-schooling – Simone Rocha’s tough romanticism had a rebellious back-to-school attitude about it; a uniform for a collective mentality, once we all get to go back to work, anyway. In that sense, the London collections were an exercise in concrete proposals as to what our emergent wardrobe might look like, informed by what we’ve been through, and often suspended between the comfort zone of loungewear and dressing up. Appropriately for a collection made in lockdown, Emilia Wickstead took inspiration from Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window in an indoor-outdoor collection that juggled domestic and formal dress codes. Casually, Roksanda Ilinčić shot a short film starring Vanessa Redgrave, her daughter Joely Richardson and granddaughter Daisy Bevan, illustrating through cinematic storytelling the “middle space” we’re currently living in – and dressing for.
Ever the poet, Erdem Moralioglu found a beautiful analogy to express that same transitional wardrobe, capturing it in a runway film choreographed by Edward Watson of The Royal Ballet. “When I was working at the Royal Opera House, that was the moment I found so exciting: the dancers shifting around, criss-crossing, half-dressed in what they wear during the day and half-dressed in their costumes,” he said, recalling Corybantic Games, the ballet he created costumes for in 2018. The contrast between a ballerina’s everyday dancewear and her ornate costumes served as a fitting illustration of our impending transition from domestic dressing to dressing up.
Article: London Fashion Week
Media: London Fashion Week