Hits and Misses: A (Complete) Recap of London Fashion Week

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Photo: Courtesy of Burberry

London Fashion Week has been shrinking, condensed from an actual week-long excursion to just four-and-a-half days of shows, but this has only served to refine London’s talent pool. As the hometown of edgy designers like Vivienne Westwood, Gareth Pugh, and Molly Goddard, LFW is known for its eclectic, outre, even outrageous fashions. It’s the place where designers boldly embrace experimentation and craft-driven innovation, where you’ll find completely new textiles and materials emerging as fabulous clothes and accessories.

With some of London’s best and brightest such as Roland Mouret and Peter Pilotto hitting their stride during the Spring/Summer 2019 presentations, the likes of Victoria Beckham and Mary Katrantzou proudly offered collections that celebrated a decade of design acumen. It was a raucous season – one with more hits than misses – and it all started off with a sublime show by J.W. Anderson.

It was inevitable that there would be a time when the codes Anderson established at Loewe would begin to bleed into his eponymous label, and it finally happened during his Spring/Summer 2019. The designer has built a cult following at Loewe from devotees of his smart arts-and-crafts aesthetic – the same aesthetic that appeared throughout this new collection. With leather head coverings, fully crocheted pieces, fringed scarf edges, fluidly draped silhouettes, and raw netting materials, the clothes looked like they were crafted by an indigenous tribe, but from what corner of the earth the tribe hailed from? Impossible to say.

Anderson conjured this nativism so naturally that even complexly layered looks were easy to digest. In fact, overall construction of his garments was better, meaning the clothes were more wearable than they usually are (we have accused Anderson of creating silhouettes that struggle against the female form in the past). Although unpretentious and surprisingly wearable, the show was a touch overstyled. Strip away some of the excess, and you’ll find one of his best creations to date.

Photo: Courtesy of Getty Images

You overslept, you rushed to get out of the door, you raced to the metro station, you got there just in the knick of time – only to find that that a technical glitch has stalled the Red Line. We’ve all been there. For Spring/Summer 2019, House of Holland’s show was dedicated to the urgency of trying to get somewhere and what a woman might look like as she rushes by on the way to her destination  – a blur of technicolor.

Entitled “Pull in Emergency”, the collection had plenty of practical pieces for a woman on the go, but it was done in the brand’s signature sense of fun. Oversized suiting made everything comfortable, sheer ruching made everything sexy. Purple python prints, glittering loose frocks, logo’d tracksuits, denim jumpsuits, and mint rain slickers divided the looks into leisure and sports categories. If you caught a glimpse of the House of Holland girl as she rushes by, you’d feel like she’s really going places, both figuratively and metaphorically.

Photo: Courtesy of Getty Images

For her ten-year anniversary, Mary Katrantzou created a “collection about collections” with an emphasis on the collectibles that inspired her past work: stamps, badges, insects, banknotes, and flower gardens. Where fantasy prints once ruled the Katrantzou runway, the designer has gotten much more experimental in recent years, expanding her range to include all types of embroidery and embellishment techniques.

This explains why her stunning line-up for Spring/Summer 2019 included a dress made entirely from little jigsaw puzzle pieces held together by tiny O-rings and dresses made from macramé postcards alongside translucent toppers with flowers, badges, and other bits and bobs pressed inside. It was unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. It also underscores that LFW’s willingness to embrace the odd, the eclectic, and the daring means it’s one of the few places where real innovation in fashion is still happening. This was our favorite collection at fashion week (so far).

LFW’s willingness to embrace the odd, the eclectic, and the daring means it’s one of the few places where real innovation in fashion is still happening.

Photo: Courtesy of Imaxtree

Femme, breezy fashion has long been associated with youth, but Temperley London is here to argue the case for women who want to wear glitter and glam well into their golden years. With a diverse cast of models of all ages, Alice Temperley presented a collection overflowing with delicate embellishment, goddess gowns, and cheerfully decorated kaftans. There were robes fully upholstered in opalescent sequins, naked dresses with strategically placed arrangements of sunburst beading and nature-inspired appliqués, and printed silk dresses.

A lot of designers have talked about making clothes for “real women” – while serving up sturdy suits and unfussy separates – but what if a real woman, say a woman from a demographic that fashion typically shuns, wants to wear a beaded suit to her day job? Temperley London says, “Go for it!”

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Another designer celebrating her ten-year anniversary at London Fashion Week – albeit to a lot more fanfare – was Victoria Beckham. Modeled after her own personal style, Beckham’s brand really found its groove after she abandoned severe, body-conscious looks and embraced slouchy, comfortable silhouettes. Interestingly enough, in the wake of Phoebe Philo’s departure from Celine, Victoria Beckham has been a strong replacement for women who loved Philo’s practical but luxurious sensibilities.

Her anniversary show proved just how far she has come as a designer. Lace, patchwork blouses, lean track pants, fluid tent-like dresses, and longline knits were the kind of clothes that fashionable women love because they look expensive, but are so easy to slip into. Let it be said that Beckham, who identifies herself in each look, also knows that what appeals to her will appeal to the masses. That’s the key to her commercial success, and it has served her well.

Photo: Courtesy of Imaxtree

For Spring/Summer 2019, Preen by Thornton Bregazzi’s nomadic, travel-themed collection read like the pages of a weathered passport, with dozens of cultures, locations, and traditions collaged together to form a kaleidoscope of references. There were multicolored, multi-patterned patchwork dresses with handkerchief draping across the chest, ruched frocks with voluminous sleeves, and asymmetrical lace dresses embroidered with statements like “cancelled without prejudice”.

On a single dress, you might find Fair Isle knit sections fused with harlequin checkered segments and beaded floral prints. While playful, the collection’s bold shoulders and narrow waists and hips made for top-heavy designs that spell disaster for anyone who isn’t built like a supermodel.

Photo: Courtesy of Imaxtree

For the most flattering collection at all of London Fashion Week, we turn to Roland Mouret. It was also so unlike anything he has ever produced before that we wouldn’t have been able to identify this as a Mouret collection without being told first. Experimentation suited him.

Every single look contained dozens of tiny, precise details: cut-outs, asymmetrical draping, tiny chains, geometric badges, mesh paneling, fishnet layers, lace fronts, extra folds, pleats where you’d least expect them, low-slung pockets – the list goes on forever. Smart, cool clothes await the Roland Mouret girl who had long ago abandoned the ‘Galaxy’ dress in favor of beautifully constructed separates, luxurious coatdresses, breezy striped tunics, and hip-hugging trousers.

Photo: Courtesy of Imaxtree

A tropical, vacation-themed collection filled with silky, hothouse blossoms set in a tiki-themed locale? It’s well-trod territory, especially for spring/summer. However, in Peter Pilotto’s and Christopher Devos’s extraordinarily capable hands, the theme was just a jumping off point for exploring really glamorous, really gorgeous clothes. Inspired by glass artist Émile Gallé and his beautiful Art Nouveau creations, the color arrangements and blossoms were an especially vivid touch.  

Shimmering gowns, gleaming wrapdresses, tiered frocks shot through with gilded thread, and even brocatelle trench coats wove their way through Trader Vic’s tiki bar, dazzling onlookers with their excellently calibrated construction. The clothes moved beautifully – were beautiful, in fact. Who cares if their origin story has been done before?

Photo: Courtesy of Imaxtree

The suit has become ubiquitous as pervasive identity politics has urged designers to create clothes that women could feel powerful in. But how do you make a woman feel powerful and feminine at the same time? That’s a bit trickier. Do you sex up the suit? Do you design it in daintier fabrications? At Roksanda for Spring/Summer 2019, you do none of the above.

Instead, you cut the suit with a slightly bulkier shoulder and nip it through the waist, pair it with wide, fluid culottes and punch up its appeal with contrasting scarf attachments. Here is a suited look that is both empowering and flattering to the female form, something that a woman can feel both commanding and comfortable in. When she’s not headed to the boardroom, she’ll also find artfully arranged frocks printed with abstract faces and silky tent-like gowns to slip into for the evening.

Photo: Courtesy of Imaxtree

“Rebel, rebel, put on your dress.” David Bowie could easily have been singing to the muses behind Erdem’s fantastic Spring/Summer 2019 collection, seeing as how they were famous crossdressers – just like Mr. Stardust himself. In London’s Bloomsbury neighborhood, where Erdem Moralioglu lives, stands a plaque dedicated to “Fanny and Stella”, two men named Frederick Park and Ernest Boulton who were arrested in 1870 for their preference for women’s clothes.

The discovery of Fanny and Stella opened a rich vein for Moralioglu to tap, proffering plenty of opportunity to explore one’s own alter ego. Toreador jackets and sharp-shouldered suits channeled the masculine, while Victorian frocks, frothy tulle gowns, and stunning dresses made from interlaced appliqués spoke to the feminine. Topped with hats and face-obscuring veils, this ode to rebellion was charged with mystery and intrigue.

Photo: Courtesy of Imaxtree

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, designers have gotten far more protective of the female form, offering modest shapes, loose suits, and even the occasional chain-link armored accent to shield them from the male gaze. However, one designer whose attitude has not changed one iota since the movement began is Christopher Kane, who has only dug deeper into eroticism in recent seasons.

However, Kane views his work as empowering, offering women the opportunity to control the narrative by choosing to show their bodies. This idea reverses the notion that women put themselves on display because they want to illicit a certain reaction, and places the onus back on men. “My clothes do not determine my consent,” is a statement often seen on posters held aloft at women’s marches.

While Kane’s clothes for Spring/Summer 2019 were sensual, they weren’t tawdry or gross. In fact, the appeal of his clinging lace cut-out looks was their defiant attitude. The looks weren’t vulnerable, they were tough and shrewd – and, yes, occasionally very revealing. Overall, there were a lot of great designs, but the glossy dresses and denim were a confusing addition that didn’t speak to the whole. If Kane insists on leaning into sexual provocation, it would serve him better if he didn’t hold back.

Photo: Courtesy of Imaxtree

Finally, after a long wait, Riccardo Tisci’s debut collection for Burberry was revealed, and it was better than anyone could have predicted. When a designer takes over at a heritage house, speculation goes one of three ways: will they remake the brand in their own image (à la Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent), will they infuse the brand with their own aesthetic while maintaining core house codes (à la Maria Grazia Chiuri at Dior), or will they carve new terrain with a radical reimagining (à la Alessandra Michele at Gucci)? To his credit, Tisci managed to do all three.

He tore down the proverbial scaffolding and rebuilt the brand with a new logo, a new monogram, and a totally transformed flagship store renovation at 121 Regent Street. He showcased a collection that spotlighted the brand’s heritage in the beginning, and then cut to his own idea of what Burberry should be with a punk-infused line-up. It was a marvelous start to what will surely be an exciting new era for the legendary British brand.

Photo: Courtesy of Imaxtree
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