June’s edition of London Fashion Week was brief, but packed with punch – WWD
LONDON – Hybrid London Fashion Week which ended on Monday was a wink and miss you showcase with few designers showing off their wares, but those who attended including Martine Rose and Priya Ahluwalia made an impression.
Rose drew large crowds for her first physical show after the COVID-19 pandemic on Sunday at Vauxhall, south of the River Thames.
She offered elevated everyday wear with silly details, such as key rings dangling from pants and bags, or unslid pockets, unzipped pants, and models wearing earrings with l ‘packaging.
Her feminine looks were surprisingly sexy, especially those dresses with a broken back zipper.
“As I passed the last two years, I realized how my focus had become very detailed,” Rose said after the show.
“I was actually really worried because I’ve become so micro-focused. It was about fly openings and ill-fitting jackets and I was thinking, ‘Is this going to translate? is not a great silhouette.
“Then, of course, there is always the subtext of sex. I wanted it to be really sexy, and I think it was,” she added.
The designer took the opportunity to launch her new sneaker collaboration with Nike, a hybrid of Nike’s iconic Shox model and her own mule design, inspired by the concept of smart shoes.
After the show, Stavros Karelis, founder and chief purchasing officer of multi-brand retailer Machine-A, said he thought Rose deserved a “global” position.
He praised the designer’s ability “to create incredibly influential and commercially so accessible and successful collections. It makes her a leader in the game.”
According to industry sources, Rose is considered for the top designer position at Louis Vuitton for men. She declined to comment on the speculation.
But Rose is unlikely to sit on her laurels for long as London’s new generation is catching up fast. Some of them have overcome great challenges to organize physical presentations this month.
Alicia Robinson, creative director and founder of knitwear specialist AGR, decided to walk the runway in June because it works better for her brand.
“It was very difficult to find sponsors. No one really wants to do anything this season, and everyone wants to do something in September. But our business model is that we show in June and January and then we have our production delivery dates around that.
“We always try to deliver early so that we have the longest possible sales time as a new brand. I stick to choice,” she said.
Her Spring 2023 show at Fabric, the famous London nightclub, offered a burst of color with size-inclusive signature knits. It was perfect for the Pride Month parade, which takes place in London on July 2.
She also showcased exciting new items for the brand, such as recycled denim patchwork jackets and pants and metallic crochet dresses.
Robyn Lynch, meanwhile, offered a cheerful take on summer vacation dressing during a show at Old Truman Brewery in east London, followed by an after party with Labrum London.
Lynch said she was happy to stage a show, even though the week was low-key.
She wanted to produce “something I’m happy with, and just have fun doing it. And I think we got there,” Lynch said during a preview.
She added that since there was no official BFC location, she had to “completely guerrilla produce”, and hope the collection would speak for itself.
She did not disappoint.
Lynch has managed to incorporate elements of her fun, witty personality into her technical sportswear-inspired pieces and luxurious knits.
His collection featured designs and slogans, including “I caught crabs”, reworked from a T-shirt belonging to his mother Susan Lynch, who complained that her previous collection was all about her father.
Lynch was also inspired by the “ugliest, funniest and most charming souvenir” vintage t-shirts she bought on eBay while researching.
She thought, “How can I take these trashy, cheap, tacky T-shirts and make them really high? So we got these beautiful cotton yarns from Italy and knitted the pattern of the graphics into the shirt. They are all knitted and woven in jacquard. They have a super soft feel, but they’re still quite cheerful and playful,” she said.
A few designers searched for answers about the future and explored their respective heritage.
Foday Dumbuya, founder and creative director of Labrum London, was born in Sierra Leone and raised in London. His background inspired the collection, which featured a loose pajama-style fit and a mix of colors he borrowed from artist Mark Rothko.
“We always talk about freedom of movement, people have to move freely,” Dumbuya said from the sidelines, where his friends Idris Elba and Tinie Tempah joined him.
“We can bring our culture and merge it with another culture and then bring that explosion,” he said.
The show also came with subtle political messages. The designer collaborated with UK charity Choose Love on t-shirts that read “Designed by an Immigrant”.
Hoor Al Qasimi, creative director of Qasimi, is looking to move forward with the brand that her late twin brother Khalid founded.
“Legacy isn’t just about what you leave behind. It’s also what you do in the future,” said the Emirati designer.
Indigo blue dominated the collection as a tribute to the Tuareg people of the Saharan desert who wear richly colored turbans and veils to protect themselves from desert sands and evil spirits.
There were embellished pieces inspired by pearl fishing in the Gulf; Arabic calligraphy that translates to ‘Desert Freedom’ and ‘Stranger’, and traditional basket weaving on pants and military jackets.
Designer Priya Ahluwalia turned to the 54 countries of Africa for her “Africa Is Limitless” collection.
The place was seeded with the tapestry rugs often found in South Asian and African homes, a personal nod to her dual Nigerian Indian heritage that continued into the collection.
The collection featured knit track jackets with sporty panels; denim twin sets printed with patterns found on Ankara wax print fabric and a T-shirt vest that read “Freedom to Indulge”.
Newcomer Carlota Barrera has found freedom in the great outdoors. She made her track debut at BaySixty6 Skate Park in Westbourne Park and aimed to emulate the busy streets of Cuba.
“You’re walking down a street, and you’re always hearing music and someone singing around the corner – and it mixes with the sound of dominoes and the screaming of children. All of those things are the sounds that remind me of Cuba,” Barrera said during a preview.
She played with fabrics often worn in Cuba – cotton, lyocell and linen – and combined them with raw silk and cotton. Fabrics were lightweight and silhouettes had a relaxed feel, echoing the more casual way people dress today.
Meanwhile, handbag brand Yuzefi, which has 100 retailers worldwide, showcased a small selection of ready-to-wear and added knitwear to its list of sustainable sateens, cottons and linens.
Among the standout presentations on the digital program was Brandon Choi, whose humble couture collection included grand dresses and 18th-century styles in cardboard, tulle and sheer fabrics.
Lea Nyland Studio was another star of the program offering a range of lightweight, lace and crochet dresses and fabrics with raw edges. The boxy, whimsical shirts in Loss of Ego were pure bliss: some were adorned with 3D fabric sheets, while others had colorful kite strings dangling from them, and still others featured small scenes of beach.
A handful of buyers from Italy, Germany and the UK and stores including Nordstrom, Ssense and Bergdorf Goodman attended the three-day showcase.
Harry Fisher, founder of the Htown showroom, which represents sales of AGR, Ahluwalia and Saul Nash, said turnout was better than expected and designers did well to show off their menswear in early June, when buyers have larger budgets, and brands have more time to produce orders.
Thibaud Guyonnet, creative director and head of buying at Berlin-based retailer Voo Store, said he would never skip London, no matter how short.
“London is always fresh, fun and young. I love the vibe around the show,” Guyonnet said.
“It kicks off menswear month, and everyone is full of energy,” he said, adding that particularly strong designs came from brands such as AGR, Martine Rose and Ahluwalia and he would buy for the spring 2023 season.
Bruce Pask, director of menswear at Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus, said this edition of London Fashion Week proved that “London continues to be an important and inspiring city for menswear, both for its rich history in British sewing, knitting and manufacturing as well as for its exciting array of inventive new talent and fashion schools that are sources of incredible creativity and visions for the future of the genre.
“I also took the opportunity to make several studio visits to meet recently awarded young designers and see their work. London is a vital source of new voices in the fashion world and I want to make sure we are here to support, encourage and mentor them when we want to, and also be inspired by them and their work,” said he added.