London Fashion Week is waking up: as much as the city is billed as the ‘creative’ of the four fashion capitals, the designers who have survived the pandemic are putting on their commercial caps this season, embracing sustainability and body diversity.
In this long fashion game, designers have realized the importance of creating collections that are democratic and inclusive.
Paul & Joe’s Sophie Albou presented her collection in a grand ballroom at The Langham Hotel, to match her small cottagecore collection of light pastels and pretty floral prints. She was inspired by Frances Hodgson Burnett’s children’s novel The Secret Garden. Albou’s lightweight tweeds and handkerchief-checked dungarees would look just as at home in an adaptation of the film as they would in the wardrobes of wealthy young women and their daughters.
Rixo co-founders Henrietta Rix and Orlagh McCloskey will be offering their spring 2023 collection in an extended UK size range from 6 to 24 – for a company like hers that trades in the mid-price range this is an important step, especially when Catherine, Princess of Wales, wear your designs. The collection included more than 100 looks, which is tiring to page through, but it’s exactly what her UK clients want. The hit pieces were Blake & Apple and Kamilla, with bohemian prints reminiscent of vintage Biba patterns.
Phoebe English, who has maintained a quiet profile in the industry, is busy making beautifully tailored clothes on her own terms. She doesn’t answer anyone but herself, and while she’s been dropped by some of her specialty retailers, the slow road has led to well-fitting, fuss-free, and lasting splits for men and women. If English continues down this path, she could become the next Margaret Howell, who had a £150million mark in 2020.
For a new generation designer, Feben Vemmenby from Feben managed to strike the right balance between wearability and creativity for her first physical runway show. Her collection took inspiration from spirituality with tarot card references printed onto bodycon dresses made in collaboration with artisans in Accra, Ghana. Vemmenby had the help of experienced stylist Karen Binns, who counts Bianca Saunders, Afrobeat artist Wizkid and Tori Amos among her clients. Feben is available from retailers such as Browns, Farfetch and Ssense, which is a testament to their bright future.
Temperley London’s Alice Temperley has jumped through hurdles from moving studios from Notting Hill to the country; Coping with the pandemic and the need to stop shipping to Russia, where a large portion of their sales came from.
“It was significant enough to be an issue, but we actually rerouted it [Russia-bound] Stock to other locations where there was a demand,” she said. However, the appetite for her rich bohemian designs has persisted and now she’s expanding it with more shimmering pieces inspired by Art Deco. Temperley’s glittering tuxedos and sparkling gowns are guaranteed to appeal to the brand’s English aristocrats and Tatler Toff customers.
House of Sunny founder Sunny Williams has been making noise with Gen Z audiences for quite some time. The brand, which is showing off schedule during London Fashion Week, has built a community of psychedelic cardigans and dresses – and fans of the label include Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner.
Since launching the line in 2011, Williams has dedicated himself to creating two small-unit collections a year, a sustained practice that’s been intact for more than a decade.
His spring 2023 collection was also about moving slowly. He dubbed it “Take Your Time,” based on the little pleasures of the holiday: little fruits printed on bikinis and off-the-shoulder sweaters; pink sunsets on oversized shirts; gradient green and blue zip-up jackets resembling the crystal clear sea, and large tote bags for the day and mini versions for the night.
For her first standalone launch, London-based Romanian footwear designer Ancuta Sarca, a finalist at this year’s Andam Fashion Awards, offered stylish and well-made shoes that stay true to the brand’s repurposing and upcycling ethos.
Models sported backless pointed heels made from upcycled Nike sneakers, water shoes, flip flops and clogs alongside macho bikes while wearing custom Skims bodysuits. Sarca also unveiled a pair of loafers made from pieces of Vans’ signature checkerboard slipper and Sk8-hi style, as part of a partnership with VF Corp.-owned brand.
Paria Farzaneh led the fashion crowd to her first runway show in two years at the Phoenix Gardens in central London. For her last show, she blasted a field in Amersham and showcased military-inspired looks. Farzaneh seemed to be in a quieter place this time as she looked at many nomadic tribes in Iran, where her parents are from.
She also used bold colors and patterns used by this group of people who still resist the mainstream version of modern society to build a collection around diversity, inclusion and courage. Highlights included a red top with side cutouts, layered blue shorts and a lace crew-neck shirt.
Shortlisted for this year’s LVMH Young Designer Awards, South Korean fashion designer Goom Heo launched her Spring 2023 collection in the form of a lookbook during London Fashion Week. The designer offered hypersexual acid wash denim pieces like they were made for the Spartans or Lil Nas X.
Heo was inspired by the subversive work of Swiss photographer Karlheinz Weinberger. The raw, rebellious attitude Weinberger captured in the ’50s and ’60s was expressed in the lookbook, where the homoerotic fantasy energy was off the charts.
Calypso, the Afro-Caribbean music that originated in Trinidad & Tobago in 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 musicians dress and then gave it a personal and modern twist.
Key pieces this season included high-waist pants, open-neck shirts and five-pocket waistcoats, as well as paisley, floral and chevron patterns. The color palette was inspired by Belafonte’s iconic, sun-kissed album cover, while the lookbook paid tribute to Irving Penn’s Small Trades series.
While a handful of designers pursued a commercial strategy for the biggest London Fashion Week in some time, Turkish-British designer Dilara Findikoglu stayed to her guns for her comeback runway show after a hiatus. Their shows often have a whimsical style of entertainment, with music and theatrics while also engaging you with the clothing items their characters wear.
This season was all silence with the jingling of bells from shoes and the occasional squeak of fabric being pulled across the aged floorboards. After the show, Findikoglu said she wanted to “reflect that trapped feeling throughout the collection,” which in truth, after a pandemic, global recession, and cost-of-living crisis is the last thing anyone has to think about how grim reality can be.