Wondering what you’ll be wearing next season? Paul McLauchlan unveils six key trends from London Fashion Week.
It’s a worrying time for London Fashion Week. The future is uncertain. The British Fashion Council, the UK fashion industry’s governing body, and some 80 plus designers on the official schedule are preparing for a worst-case-scenario situation as UK prime minister Theresa May continues to navigate a political impasse.
The cost of Brexit for the £32 million (€37m) UK fashion industry? The freedom of movement and trade, delivery delays and tariffs for retailers and suppliers, and the loss of labour and production centres to other countries. Livelihoods are at stake.
However, the designers at LFW continued as normal, offering one of the mightiest attempts to ensure they are worth listening to and worth believing in.
Here are the top six emerging trends.
Brexit is coming, it’s time to wrap up
As the reality of no-deal Brexit looms, over the UK, Ireland, and the EU, there wasn’t a designer in sight who didn’t refer to the uncertainty of the times we live in. It produced collections that invoked a sense of warmth and stability when the rest of the world can’t provide any. It’s time to wrap up, Brexit is coming.
Take for example Molly Goddard, a new name to add to your list, typically valued for her saccharine, frothy tulle ballgowns and cocktail dresses — she switched things up and she swaddled her models in grand coats and headgear.
Mary Katrantzou had a similar idea to rebuff the incoming political maelstrom with clothes that “consume the body, fusing form with fabric.” They were swathed in voluminous dresses and coats bursting with ruffles, feathers, and faux fur.
But it was Margaret Howell who questioned what it means to be British in today’s climate and expanded on the themes that cemented her as one of Britain’s longstanding purveyors of perfunctory style.
Howell’s conduit differed radically from other designers at LFW: she collaged sturdy outerwear with streetwise tailoring and baker boy hats to make clothes that are sensible and practical, but wholly delectable. She mixed androgynous styles for women with a few floaty dresses here and there. It acknowledged the reality of needing to be rough-and-ready for the world.
Brighten up your day
In the ritzy ballroom of a Park Lane hotel, it was the American designer Michael Halpern who posed an optimistic response to the tumult of today — swap black for every shade imaginable. He expressed himself in jewel tones and embellishment — it might seem silly, but such propositions of wild colour and glamorous shapes in dark times feels as political as wearing a slogan tee reading, “People’s Vote.”
The opening look at Mary Katrantzou’s show was a canary yellow gown bursting with plumes. Elsewhere, there was a panoply of colour, splendid multi-coloured feather-embroidered jackets, and twinkling, embellished evening wear with constellations of Swarovski crystals. Molly Goddard’s show concluded with a puffy highlighter-pink dress which looked like a layer cake of tulle, an Oscar-worthy dream.
A new form of sportswear is on the rise
We’ve reached peak sportswear, but if you want to buy into the trend, two London designers stood out as offering modern interpretations. Jasper Conran aimed to evoke “the ease and comfort of sportswear”. He took the key items — the jumper, the straight skirt, the sweat top, and the shirt — and rendered them with elegant restraint. Conran’s effortless simplicity was an innovative take on sportswear for those not interested in tight-fit tracksuits and logos. It arrived in a palette of walnut, cedar, scarlet, and yellow. Everything came with pockets and shoes were flat — Conran’s women are ready for the real world.
Burberry’s new designer, the Italian Riccardo Tisci, paid homage to London youth culture. For his sophomore outing, he mostly replaced formality with a sense of urgency: street-ready propositions. Firstly, he introduced Burberry’s take on the ‘designer trainer’ — these will be sure to drive sales. He issued takes on tracksuit pants, windbreakers, polo shirts and more, updating them with leather jackets, accessories and evening coats. Tisci is giving customers a reason to spend hundreds on Burberry: Haute sportswear is coming, just you wait.
Power to womankind!
In the Time’s Up-era, there’s been an emphasis on empowering women through fashion. At LFW, these five designers — all of them young and relatively new to the scene, you mightn’t have heard of many of them, but you should — responded to the moment.
Take a walk on the wild side with London-based Ashley Williams, where it was about sex and comedy. Between sperm-print fleeces and brazen femininity, Williams recommends you channel ‘bad girl cool’ with aplomb. (Her show notes noted Tobi Vail, Kate Bush, and Velma from Scooby-Doo as muses). Not only this but she interpreted sex in a way that fashion would’ve previously scorned.
Ryan Lo and Natasha Zinko’s visions were at loggerheads, but both were driven by the same impetus: to make women feel great. Lo draped his models in demure, ladylike shapes, while Zinko opted for an eclectic mix of outerwear.
Paula Knorr and Edeline Lee made grand feminist gestures. Knorr’s presentation was about the power of the female body. Her unwavering point of view once again brought her to a conversation between fabric and bodies, and how one can uplift the other. This produced gorgeous disco-inspired party dresses.
Meanwhile, Edeline Lee invited guest speakers from various disciplines — law, nursing, human rights activism. The speakers were introduced by models in sublime, flesh-coloured, ladylike frocks.
Get ready to party
The mood at Osman, designed by Osman Yousefzada, was bold and romantic. He styled his usual tailoring-meets-cocktail-dressing style with skin-tight, tattoo-like tops resulting in a flamboyant edge.
It was at Preen by Thornton Bregazzi, where the disparate worlds of British folk and Irish dancing, and rave cultures converged.
“Our show is inspired by the culture of dance and music and to the impact, it has had on us,” the designers stated. Irish dancing dresses got an update with sparkles and bright colours.
Ashish’s reference was also niche: he summoned film noir of the 1960s to make glittery sequin dresses which shimmered spectacularly under a spotlight.
Erdem’s party princesses recalled Rome in the 1960s — specifically the world of Princess Orietta Doria Pamphilj and her trip to London. He juxtaposed “the voluminous grandeur of her Papal ancestry and the nipped-in, undone glamour that seduced her in the streets of London. As always, his flair for gorgeous cocktail dressing shone through with regal silhouettes and florid patterns.
Ditto, Christopher Kane, one of Erdem’s peers. He also showed cocktail dresses but with a much kinkier prerogative. Kane’s girls were accented with leather, latex, and humorous fetish references —“Rubberised” emblazoned on dresses along with a print of rubber gloves — that’s one way to be the life of the party.
The tailoring trend has been done to death but, in London, the designers proclaimed a new vision.
At the Central Saint Martins MA graduate show, there were plenty of creatively futuristic ways forward but mainly for men. It was subtler options that stuck this London Fashion Week. Take, for example, Alice Archer’s crimson corduroy tuxedo with floral embroidery inspired by mediaeval woodcuts. Polish designer Marta Jakubowski posited sharp tailoring with a 1990s edge.
Irish designer JW Anderson presented his best show to date. His tailoring mimicked the couture proportions of Cristobal Balenciaga but for a contemporary client. He showed asymmetric capes and multi-textile blazers. Simply divine.
Or Roland Mouret, who offered oversized iterations, mixing fabrics and colours, and styling dresses over pooling trousers — it will arrive in stores, available in sizes UK 8 to UK 20. At the Italian label Ports 1961, the message was clear: layer skirts and dresses over trousers, throw a large camel coat over the top for added finesse. This is a modern take on the three-piece suit, especially for women.
It was Victoria Beckham’s show that solidified the tailoring message for London. Her show was one of the highlights of LFW for its clean lines, pointed collars, and minimal dresses. She contrasted check suiting with block-coloured turtlenecks in baby blue and lilac.
Cashmere sweaters and midi-length skirts were enhanced with pointy-collar white shirts. From the palette to the styling, everything was slick and sharp. This answer to the maximalist bombast of the past few years in fashion was a welcome breath of fresh air. Strip back the theatrics, clarity stands for something. Just ask Beckham.