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

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The UK is weeks away from its departure from the European Union, but confusion still reigns as to how the country will actually accomplish its thorny extraction. Parliament can’t agree on anything, while a cabinet revolt, increased delays, and in-fighting have kept Brexit from going smoothly.

In London, climate-change activists made their concerns heard at London Fashion Week, as members of the protest group Extinction Rebellion blocked roads outside of Victoria Beckham’s show. “There’s no fashion on a dead planet,” marchers chanted. They’re not wrong. The need for reform in the fashion industry is crucial as crude waste, the immense use of non-renewable sources, and the vast production of greenhouse gas by the manufacturing and shipping sectors contribute to climate change.

On the day that LFW kicked off, another protest occurred, this one backed by thousands of teenagers and children who skipped class to march on behalf of climate change. The youth are in revolt. To its credit, the London fashion scene seems to be tuned in. The British Fashion Council (BFC), BBC Earth, and Mother of Pearl teamed up at LFW to host a panel on sustainable production methods and materials, like microplastics. In the talks, Mother of Pearl acknowledged the need for alternative textiles and launched a sustainable collection called ‘No Frills’, which will be available on Net-a-Porter later this year.

Amy Powney, Mother of Pearl's creative director
Mother of Pearl's Creative Director, Amy Powney | Photo: Courtesy of Mother of Pearl

Piggybacking on change-oriented focus, many designers at LFW are eschewing the use of exotic animal skins. However, the vanguard of the movement is – without a doubt – Stella McCartney, who has been creating fashion collections with vegan and sustainable materials long before it was trendy to do so.

Her frustrations echoed around LFW, as she underscored a missed opportunity for designers to do more than hop on a bandwagon. “What’s the difference between an exotic skin and a cow skin? I don’t get it – that’s the same conversation to me. People really don’t want to talk about the fact that the fashion industry’s biggest impact is its use of leather. The animals it kills, the toxins, the chemicals, the cutting down of rainforests, the food and water and electricity it takes to make a leather bag. If you really mean it, stop using leather, full stop,” she sounded off.

While “change” is a catch-all term, it is also the perfect term to describe the conversations ranging at LFW. The runway represented the mood as well. The majority of collections felt decidedly youth-focused, socially aware, and feminist in nature. In the wake of #MeToo, they fully rejected the male gaze, offering ample shapes and protective layers.

Simone Rocha placed emphasis on multigenerational, size-inclusive models – Jeny Howorth, Chloë Sevigny, and Marie Sophie Wilson-Carr included – outfitting them in an intoxicating array of feminine, flattering designs. Rocha is one of LFW’s most thoughtful designers, and the fact that she is a woman designing consciously for women is not lost on her fans. Easeful silhouettes, sumptuous fabrics, and designs that are both fashion-forward and wearable made for a Fall/Winter 2019 collection that one could live in – day and night.

Simone Rocha Fall/Winter 2019 | Photo: Courtesy of Imaxtree

Oversized designs also invaded at House of Holland, which turned an array of travel-themed references into a funhouse reflection of the jet-set life. Chinese cheongsam jackets, Mexican blankets, Japanese obi belts and mandarin collars, and French berets became the accents that accompanied a streetwise mix of youthful clothes in denim, vibrant prints, and subdued khaki nylons.

Feathers are having a moment in fashion – you might even say they’ve become essential to the Fall/Winter 2019 wardrobe. At New York Fashion Week, they were all over the Michael Kors, Oscar de la Renta, Prabal Gurung, Dion Lee, and Marc Jacobs runways. In London, we saw them at Peter Pilotto, Roksanda, and rather vividly at Mary Katrantzou. The first portion of her presentation was dedicated entirely to the fluffy stuff, which came in a rainbow of colors and – if the feathered volumes weren’t enough – was upholstered with ruffled trim. Couture-like silhouettes and cracked prints that resembled animal spots also worked to amplify the collection, but it was her immense feathery pieces that were the most mesmerizing takeaway.

Mary Katrantzou Fall/Winter 2019 | Photo: Courtesy of Imaxtree

Is Victoria Beckham showing in London permanently? This is her second season at LFW and, although she is certainly missed at NYFW, she has proven to be a bright spot on the calendar across the pond. Her sophisticated workwear-ready collections have long resonated with women. Now – with refreshing punches of bright-crimson reds, International Klein Blue, and lilac – her autumnal tones for Fall/Winter 2019 really popped.

If you haven’t been keeping up with her design evolution, you might be surprised to see so many relaxed shapes and knits on the Victoria Beckham runway, but for those in the know, this is exactly where she has been heading. An increased emphasis on knitwear added tactility to a collection that sometimes skewed aloof for all of its polish. And a few words on Look 7 (below): that blown-up tweed and cape accent worn with a vivid blue boots is the exact outfit we want to wear to work next week. Too bad we have to wait until next season to snag it.

Victoria Beckham Fall/Winter 2019 | Photo: Courtesy of Imaxtree

If you’re at a club, dancing along to your favorite jams, there’s one certainty: you’re not asking nor even thinking about asking your dancing partner about their political beliefs. As one of the last remaining community activities that humans still enjoy, dancing is about fun, release, and entertainment. For Fall/Winter 2019, Justin Thornton and Thea Bregazzi of Preen explored a multitude of British dance traditions, from maypole ceremonies to underground club kids raving through the night in some undisclosed location.

Grunge met Victoriana on their runway, occasionally collaged together on single looks, like the mullet-hemmed skirts spliced from fuzzy plaids and elegant lace-trimmed silks. Also in the mix were a variety of wallpaper-printed suits, embroidered tapestry coats, and ruched asymmetrical dresses. The black, red, and ivory party frocks that closed the show were especially fetching – enough to make you want to throw one on and hit up the dance floor.

Preen by Thornton Bregazzi Fall/Winter 2019 | Photo: Courtesy of Imaxtree

This isn’t your mother’s Roland Mouret. Almost nothing is left of the house that started the famous ‘Galaxy’ dress to tie it to its previous era of out-and-out glam dressing. Instead, it is where women of all sizes snag languid trench coats, massive teddy coats, embroidered blazers, smart wool blazers, three-piece ivory tuxedos, and elegantly crumpled frocks.

Ranging from size UK 8 to 20, Mouret is all about inclusivity, and it’s rare to see a designer really commit to both fashion-forward designs and democratic sizing. Usually, one is sacrificed for the other. Mouret, to his tremendous credit, has evolved faster and more effectively than most in this regard.

Roland Mouret Fall/Winter 2019 | Photo: Courtesy of Imaxtree

Brexit has thrown Britain into chaos and, as such, British identity has very much been under the microscope at LFW. What does it mean to be British anyway? What is British heritage, and what does that heritage mean to these brands? At Peter Pilotto, Britishness was the central idea, which sounds really stuffy and maybe a bit dull, but the designer and his partner Christopher de Vos had a lot of fun riffing on the theme.

Ultimately, despite a few posh checkered-wool pieces, this collection was filled with stunning party clothes. There were twinkling lurex dresses (and so many pairs of sparkling tights), softly pleated color-blocked gowns, frocks decorated with hothouse blossoms, fil coupé looks aplenty, and others trimmed with fluffy feathers. We’ll take one of each, please.

Peter Pilotto Fall/Winter 2019 | Photo: Courtesy of Imaxtree

Meanwhile, Roksanda, who is known for her bold color-blocked clothes and vibrant color pairings, took this aesthetic and cross-applied it to the massive silhouettes we’ve been seeing everywhere. Unfortunately, when she did this, she created a collection of looks that might have belonged to Valentino, a label owning this territory right now.

What lies more within Roksanda’s vernacular were a series of camel-colored robes with fuschia silk lining, loose suits, and quilted accents cinched to the body with belts. She might do well to explore the outerwear and suiting realms, and develop the sporty side of her brand further.

Roksanda Fall/Winter 2019 | Photo: Courtesy of Imaxtree

Once again, Erdem Moralioglu knocked it out of the park. His Fall/Winter 2019 collection was pitched right down the center of all of the looks we’re seeing at NYFW and LFW, except he has been doing this all along, so his interpretations are really fantastic. One commenter on Instagram nailed it when they said, “If I were a vampire, this is how I would dress.”

The collection is darkly glamorous, filled with vivid blossom prints on noir backgrounds that were transformed into puffed and ruffled dresses galore. There were elegant leather gloves accessorizing some looks, and long black veils completely shrouding others. The good news is that you don’t have to be a vampire to wear these looks – just a patient soul who can hold out until they hit the shelves this fall.

Erdem Fall/Winter 2019 | Photo: Courtesy of Imaxtree

For Fall/Winter 2019, JW Anderson gave a whole new meaning to the term “helmet hair”. With lacquered coifs that were flattened against the skull and riding helmets suspended daringly above the crown of the head, he achieved a wholly unique – and very memorable – look. The gravity-defying nature of his hats was echoed in a Cloud Nine theme; Anderson intended to make women feel like they were floating.

This meant elegantly draped capes, swishy trousers, capes that enveloped the shoulders and torso with a framed neckline, puffed pieces that resembled gray clouds, and lots of floofy feathers. Anderson’s high-minded designs used to leave wearability as an afterthought, but in recent seasons, he is really thinking about the women who wear his clothes. For this collection more than any other, he delivered an impactful, fashion-forward look and easeful wearability at the same time.

J.W. Anderson Fall/Winter 2019 | Photo: Courtesy of Imaxtree

For Fall/Winter 2011, Christopher Kane’s weird, liquid-filled pouches were so new and innovative that they instantly made people sit up and take notice of his fledgling brand. Now, eight years later, Kane has revisited the motif for Fall/Winter 2019, decorating his collection of diamond-chained minidresses, grandpa cardigans, and fishtail frocks with it in sparse quantities. Kane spends a lot of energy weaving ideas of sexuality and sensuality into his collections, and this one proves just how complex those themes are.

Supported by the kind of research that leaves one eager to delete their browser history, the designer explored the world of fetishes – think: balloon, latex, rubber, and more. The results were surprisingly cool, but not that sexy. We loved a button-up shirtdress with big, inky latex patches pinned to the shoulders, the mega puffas, and one hilarious “looner” shirt suggesting an alternate nickname for those who get a little too excited by balloons. The studded pieces showed by Kane were also really interesting, especially in the case of a wool dress/coat hybrid with bulky sleeves. A skirt with a windowpane cut-out up the thigh that was strung with diamond garlands was also really desirable. Now that was sexy. 

Christopher Kane Fall/Winter 2019 | Photo: Courtesy of Imaxtree
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