London Fashion Week wakes up: Although the city is dubbed the “creative” of the four fashion capitals, this season designers who have survived the pandemic have put on their commercial caps, embraced sustainability and body diversity.
In this long game of fashion, designers have become aware of the importance of creating democratic collections involving everyone.
Paul & Joe’s Sophie Albou presented her collection in a grand ballroom at the Langham Hotel, befitting her cottagecore twee collection of bright pastel hues and pretty floral prints. She was inspired by the children’s novel “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Albou’s light tweed and handkerchief-checked overalls would fit perfectly into an adaptation of the film as well as into the wardrobes of well-to-do young women and their daughters.
Rixo co-founders Henrietta Rix and Orlagh McCloskey will have their Spring 2023 collection available in an expanded UK sizing range of 6-24 – for a mid-priced company like theirs this is a key decision, especially when Catherine, Princess of Wales wears your designs. The collection included over 100 looks, which is tiring to sift through, but that’s exactly what their UK customers want. The hit pieces were the Blake & Apple and Kamilla with bohemian prints reminiscent of vintage Biba patterns.
Phoebe English, who has kept a low profile in the industry, is busy crafting beautifully cut clothes on her own terms. She answers to no one but herself, and although she’s been let down by some of her dealers, the slow road has led to well-fitting, hassle-free, long-lasting partings for both men and women. . If English continues on this path, she could become the next Margaret Howell, who in 2020 owned a brand worth £150million.
For a next-gen designer, Feben Vemmenby of Feben managed to strike the right balance between portability and creativity for her first physical runway show. Her collection is inspired by spirituality with references to tarot cards printed on form-fitting dresses made in collaboration with artisans in Accra, Ghana. Vemmenby had help from veteran stylist Karen Binns, whose clients include Bianca Saunders, Afrobeat artist Wizkid and Tori Amos. Feben is stocked at retailers like Browns, Farfetch, and Ssense, which speaks to its promising future.
Temperley London’s Alice Temperley jumped through the hoops, from moving studios in Notting Hill to the countryside; dealing with the pandemic and having to stop shipments to Russia, where much of its sales came from.
“It was big enough to be a problem, but we actually redirected that [Russia-bound] stock to other locations where there was demand,” she said. The appetite for her rich bohemian designs, however, lasted and now she is expanding it with more shimmery Art Deco-inspired pieces. Temperley’s shimmering tuxedos and sparkling dresses are sure to resonate with the brand’s English aristocrat and Tatler Toff clients.
House of Sunny founder Sunny Williams has been making noise with a Gen Z audience for quite some time now. The brand, which presents off-schedule during London Fashion Week, has built a community of psychedelic knit cardigans and dresses – and fans of the brand include Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner.
Since launching the line in 2011, Williams had been dedicated to creating two collections a year with small units, an enduring practice that has been intact for over a decade now.
Her spring 2023 collection was also about moving slowly. He titled it “Take Your Time” based on holiday treats: berries printed on bikinis and off-the-shoulder sweaters; pink sunsets on oversized shirts; green and blue faded zip-up jackets to look like the crystal clear sea, and large tote bags for day and mini versions for night.
For her first standalone presentation, London-based Romanian shoe designer Ancuta Sarca, a runner-up at this year’s Andam Fashion Awards, offered stylish, well-made shoes that stay true to the brand’s reuse and upcycle philosophy.
Models showed off backless pointy heels made from recycled Nike sneakers, water shoes, flip flops and clogs alongside macho motorcycles while wearing specially designed Skims suits. Sarca also unveiled a pair of loafers, made with pieces from Vans’ signature checkerboard slip-on and Sk8-hi style, as part of a partnership with the VF Corp-owned brand.
Paria Farzaneh took the fashion crowd to Phoenix Garden in central London for her first show in two years. For her latest show, she blew up a pitch in Amersham and showcased military-inspired looks. This time, Farzaneh seemed to be in a calmer place as she watched 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 refuse the mainstream version of modern society, to build a collection around diversity, inclusion and courage. Headliners included a red top with side cutouts, blue layered shorts and a lace crew neck shirt.
South Korean fashion designer Goom Heo, who was shortlisted for this year’s LVMH Prize for Young Designers, unveiled her Spring 2023 menswear collection as a lookbook during London Fashion Week. The designer offered hyper-sexual acid wash denim pieces as if they were made for the Spartans or Lil Nas X.
Heo was inspired by the subversive works of Swiss photographer Karlheinz Weinberger. The raw, rebellious attitude captured by Weinberger in the 50s and 60s showed up in the lookbook, where the energy of homoerotic fantasy was off the charts.
Calypso, Afro-Caribbean music originating in Trinidad and 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 artists of Calypso music dress and then put a personal and modern touch on it.
Key pieces this season were high-waisted trousers, open-neck shirts and five-pocket vests, and in paisley, floral and zigzag patterns. The color palette was inspired by Belafonte’s iconic album cover, while the lookbook paid homage to Irving Penn’s “Small Trades” series.
While a handful of designers have adopted a business strategy for London Fashion Week’s biggest program in some time, Turkish-British designer Dilara Findikoglu has stuck to her guns for her comeback show after taking a pause. His shows often have a whimsical way of entertaining themselves, with music and drama, while simultaneously engaging you in the clothes his characters wear.
This season there was only silence with the sound of shoe bells and the occasional crunch of fabrics being dragged across the old floors. After the show, Findikoglu said she wanted to reflect “that trapped feeling throughout the collection,” which in truth, after a pandemic with a global recession and cost-of-living crisis in play, the last thing one has need is to think about how serious the reality can be.