Back in February, when we reported on the Fall/Winter 2019 season at London Fashion Week (LFW), the UK was on the precipice of a course-changing decision on Brexit. Fast forward six months, and a lot of things have changed – but some things have stayed more or less the same. Prime Minister Theresa May has been replaced by Boris Johnson, but the country has still not made its exit from the EU (although Johnson has threatened no-deal Brexit legislation on October 31, despite the prodigious legal battle that the decision entails).
One political crisis leads to another, as the environment has stayed top of mind for the youth of Britain. Founders of Extinction Rebellion protested with a visual die-in, with five of the activists lying in a pool of (fake) blood outside a LFW venue, and the images went viral. But virality has its perks as it helped undergird one of the major themes of the week: sustainability. Although the prevailing mood was one of somber realism, the clothes that populated LFW were surprisingly optimistic.
Take the Preen by Thornton Bregazzi show, for example. Without broadcasting it, the label put together a sublime collection of its signature ruffled georgette dresses with a punk twist, only this time the georgette was made from “recycled plastic bottles and textile waste”. So, too, were other fabrics in the presentation, which were reconstituted from leftover material from previous collections, as well as a mix of sustainable viscose. It wasn’t the theme of the show, and it was scarcely called attention to. It bodes well that sustainability is becoming a foregone conclusion for some brands, rather than an afterthought or a one-off PR gimmick.
Roland Mouret also had sustainability on the brain, although his tack was altogether different. Instead of focusing on his sublime designs that the lucky among us will have hanging in their closets soon, he focused on what those clothes are hanging on. That’s right, he has gotten into the hanger game. His new creation, made with the help of Arch & Hook, is primarily comprised of recycled marine plastics. It’s a smart starting point for two reasons: billions of hangers end up in landfills and resist biodegradation and it made us look at his Spring/Summer 2020 collection differently.
This season, Mouret isn’t interested in creating product for products sake, but creating the kind of solution-driven clothes that women can buy and wear for a lifetime. There was a lived-in feeling to his easeful clothes that included gorgeous woven tunics, relaxed suiting, striped cover-ups, and breezy dresses that are trend-proof and travel-ready. Not satisfied with the biodegradable hangars and thoughtful designs, the designer also chose to auction all of the footwear worn on the runway to raise money for charity. You love to see it.
While the aforementioned Extinction Rebellion protest had taken place outside of the Victoria Beckham show, guests were insulated inside from the debates about climate change. The designer didn’t tackle the issue of sustainability through her clothes on the runway, but she did address it with her new beauty line, which debuted online at the same time as her LFW show. The products are 100 percent cruelty-free, and most are vegan. They’re also packaged in minimalist pre-used and recycled materials – it’s a step in the right direction.
Meanwhile, a perfectly pitched collection made its way down the Victoria Beckham runway for Spring/Summer 2020, balancing looks between the masculine and the feminine. And amongst neutral, polished suits came an array of colorful, roomy dresses with ruffled details. As punchy as Beckham’s jewel tones were, they played well with the more serene, tailored suit separates, especially in instances when they were paired together.
One of the shows that garnered the biggest buzz at LFW was that of JW Anderson. It was a lovely and languid tribute to bohemia and craft, but it looked rich, too. Many of the looks were encircled at the hips by stiff crystal belts and topped with glittering necklaces that suspended away from the body while sitting atop (and made to resemble) the female chest. Others were made of beautifully cut gold and silver lamé fabrics or came out as polished trench coats decorated at the bottom with trompe l’oeil crystal bangles.
But JW Anderson’s collections have not always looked like this. In fact, in the past, we have accused him of creating designs that – while truly experimental and interesting – struggled against the female form instead of working to enhance it. His work at Loewe has clearly helped him hammer an identity that sells and, with this collection, the bleed over from his other job is apparent, but altogether welcome. He has more than earned the rave reviews that flooded in after the show.
Out from under the Kering shadow, Christopher Kane was back once more with a sex-and-suggestion-laced collection. Admittedly, that sounds like a reductive description. What we want to say is that we really, really liked this collection – it’s rare that we don’t like a Christopher Kane collection, in fact – but it also felt like something was missing.
The clothes were a fantastic mash-up of nature-oriented elements and weird things like big silver balls clustered on top of a bag like a bunch of protons and neutrons. Looks early in the show pitted twee prairie meadow prints against fetishy-rubber elements, including a few gobsmacking pairs of boots that were made from crazy looping cut-outs containing multicolored blobs of goo. Other looks made the sex part really literal by imitating the look of fallopian tubes and ovaries on top of molded bodices and cerise lace.
There were also gorgeous stardust prints topped with crystal brooches, itty bitty metallic party dresses, and big slouchy sweaters that featured Earth as seen from space and bore the logo “Eco Sex”. Girls that live and breathe fashion are going to be keen on all of this stuff. But if you’re going to put planet Earth in your collection visually, maybe throw some support its way in a more tangible way?
Erdem Moralioglu is a consistently fantastic designer, and his collections always evoke the fantasy side of fashion, especially when he imbues it all with a good backstory. Watching the Erdem Spring/Summer 2020 collection of massive prairie dresses float past dreamily, we found ourselves wondering: where would we wear these looks? Certainly not to the office – okay, maybe that trench coat punctuated with eyelet details is an exception – and definitely not for a day of running errands. No, these clothes are for special occasions, the kind where making a dramatic entrance and seizing notice is a prerequisite.
Naturally, a collection dedicated to a larger-than-life character has that kind of head-spinning effect. This season, Moralioglu used actress, photographer, and political activist Tina Modotti as his muse; the huge knit shawls were a direct tribute to her. In the 1920s, she was a provocateur, pushing buttons with her radical outlook and using her prismatic personality and artistic talents to ingratiate herself into the same circle as Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Her zest for life was translated by huge ruffled dresses collaged together from a kaleidoscope of floral prints, massive polka dotted suits, oversized knit capes trimmed with fringe – all of which belong in the closet of a fashion fantasist, not pragmatist.
Huge enveloping volumes, feminine designs, and a brilliant palette of colors have swarmed the catwalks at LFW for Spring/Summer 2020, and Roksanda is where they all came to roost together. With the world looking scarier than ever, a bright spot of optimism is just what the fashion doctor ordered. More refined than her overly voluminous collection from last season, the lines and silhouettes – while roomy – felt crisper and more controlled this time around.
The reason Roksanda Ilincic’s creations are such a delight to behold is her bold use of color, whether it clashes or complements. This time around, her tomato reds, tangerines, mustards, lilacs, saffrons, and fuchsias worked together to create a vivid picture of positivity. While her signature looks – think: floor-sweeping color-blocked dresses and layered separates – were the core of the collection, she also included a variety of youthful departures like track jackets, tie-dye skirts, graffitied plissé gowns, and crumpled parkas.
Speaking of youth, sitting front-row along with her classmates was Ilincic’s nine-year-old daughter, Efima. With so much focus on the condition of the world that we’re leaving behind for young people, their presence was a potent reminder of the themes that ran through London Fashion Week – and rightfully so.