Outside the runways of London Fashion Week, Storm Dennis was howling and hitting you in the face in transit from one show to another on this city’s phenomenally packed schedule. If the wind felt overwhelming, it was only an expression of the creative energy being generated in a British fashion capital that could have seen tumbleweed following Brexit, but is rising above it all. So popular is the London schedule that it’s virtually impossible to summarise the multi-faceted directions the city’s fashion scene now represents. (Stay with me, though, I’ll give it a go.)
From the often home-spun “London couture” gestures and giant volumes of Richard Malone, Matty Bovan, Simone Rocha, Molly Goddard and Halpern, to the ladylike ballroom dressing of Roksanda, Emilia Wickstead and Erdem, British grandeur is alive and kicking across the tiers of the designer establishment. On the other hand, London now rivals Paris and Milan in the sophisticated, intelligent and sensual daywear category, too. Victoria Beckham, JW Anderson, Rejina Pyo and Burberry proved that fact, along with newer designers such as Petar Petrov, Charlotte Knowles, and Nensi Dojaka, who made her debut at Fashion East.
What so many of them shared is a motivation for progressiveness advocated so strongly in this age by the younger generations. In London, youth has always found a platform that takes it seriously, from our runways to the colleges that keep us alive, and this year’s Central Saint Martins MA show didn’t disappoint. Bright young things from Paolina Russo to Cameron Williams, Ella Boucht and Sadie McCormack flew the flags for the issues closest to their hearts – sexuality, exploitation, authenticity, to name a few – reminding us that nearly everything in this industry, bar a few ageless geniuses, starts with young people and their ideas.
The creativity levels in London will always fluctuate, but around the fashion houses of Milan and Paris, there are more graduates hailing from this city’s colleges working behind the scenes than anywhere else. Of all people, the American designer and magnate Tommy Hilfiger, whose travelling #TommyNow circus came to town this season with a collection devoted to the London he loves.
¨´We have a lot of Brits working for us,´ he said. ´Doing what we’re doing suits London very well. In general.´ Hilfiger was referring to the progressive spirit that penetrates London’s entire fashion scene.¨- Charles Daniel McDonald
This season, sustainability was at the forefront of designers’ minds, from Tommy, whose ongoing Lewis Hamilton collaboration is now 75 per cent sustainable, to Richard Malone, who won the International Woolmark Prize on Monday evening and whose made-to-order business is sustainable to its core – with the facts and figures to back it up. At Burberry, Riccardo Tisci presented a carbon-neutral show and talked about the steps he’s taking: “It’s something I don’t even need to think about anymore because you are constantly aware of it,”
Reflecting on the advancements that still need to be made, Tisci noted that “technically, things aren’t a hundred per cent developed yet.” For instance, “Nobody has the right, good-quality nylon yet.” As for fur, “I’ve used it my whole career, but I don’t miss fur. Today was all ecological and it looked real,” he said, referring to the sustainable faux fur he used in his Burberry show; his best to date. Simone Rocha based her collection around the Aran Islands, essentially devoting her show to the world’s most recognisable locally-sourced, artisanal product. And Michael Halpern partly used recycled sequins in the embroidery of his signature sparkly glam.
Between all the gestures of grandeur and couture aspirations that fill half of the London fashion scene, and the idiosyncratic and often modernist daywear wardrobe that contrasts it, this isn’t a fashion scene made for market segmentation. It’s a dynamic reality that could easily turn the London shows into a hot mess, but instead highlights the city as the industry’s beacon of self-expression and optimism in an era in which authenticity is the prime currency. Whether we’re hit by Storm Dennis or Hurricane Brexit, it’s a hankering for creation that prevails.
Media: London Fashion Week