Lea Dolan, CNN
While London Fashion Week is no stranger to the influence of significant external forces in recent years – including Brexit and the global Covid-19 pandemic – this season’s Spring/Summer 2023 shows have again unfolded in an extraordinary context.
After Queen Elizabeth II’s death, much of the schedule was turned upside down, particularly around her state funeral, which took place on September 19. Shows and events scheduled for that day have either been postponed or cancelled. Burberry – a royal warrant holder and one of Britain’s star labels on the calendar – was the first brand to announce it would not be holding its show (followed later with a rescheduled date). Famous Belgian designer Raf Simons, who was due to make his highly anticipated London debut with his eponymous label, also released a statement confirming that his show would not go as planned.
Speaking ahead of opening day, British Fashion Council chief executive Caroline Rush told CNN in a phone interview that she “absolutely” understands why brands are changing plans.
Still, the industry has been quick to rally behind many younger, emerging brands and designers for whom the disruption could be critical.
“London has always been recognized as a creative capital of the world. It’s where we have more emerging and independent businesses than any other fashion capital,” Rush said. “I think the sense of community that comes from these designers has been born over the last couple of years and again we’ve seen it now through this time of adversity following the Queen’s death.”
Harris Reed, unveiled this week as the new creative director of French fashion house Nina Ricci, is a young designer who has managed to succeed against all odds. After graduating from Central Saint Martins at the height of the global pandemic, Reed first relies heavily on social media arouse interest in his creations. This led to Harry Styles wearing one of his pieces (a suit jacket and a hoop skirted suit) on the Cover of American Vogue December 2020and Reed dressing model Iman for the 2021 met gala.
On September 12, he was one of the first designers to announce that his Spring/Summer 2023 show would take place – and posted on Instagram about the importance of “being there for small brands in London this week”.
As the event approached, Reed’s Instagram Stories teased snippets of late-night runway prep, highlighting the often unglamorous and grueling reality of putting on a show. Inside a refurbished 16th century church in the City of London on Thursday night, Reed set the tone for London Fashion Week with a presentation that included a moving live performance by Adam Lambert and an overflowing collection of elegance and sculptural art.
And despite events coinciding with a period of national mourning, there was cause for celebration. Simone Rocha unveiled her first menswear collection, while JW Anderson returned to the London program for the first time since 2020. Asian American designer Chet Lo made his solo debut at fashion week with a range of spiky parts and accessories; Back-to-back LVMH Prize winners Nensi Dojaka and SS Daley were also among those who represented the best of emerging talent.
Turkish-British designer Dilara Findikoglu went viral for her silent show on Saturday which included a selection of vampiric Victorian-inspired looks (some modeled by Amelia Gray, influencer and daughter of the ‘Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ reality star Lisa Rinna). And at Susan Fang, the models even walked on water — thanks to a floating runway built on the surface of an indoor swimming pool.
Read on for highlights from London Fashion Week.
A week of tributes
Creators who have chosen to pay tribute to the passing of Britain’s longest reigning monarch have done so in a number of ways. For smaller labels unable to alter most of their physical collections, music (or lack thereof) has often become a form of eulogy. Adam Lambert sang a rendition of “Who Wants to Live Forever?” of Queen. at the Reed show, while Michael Halpern opted for silence during the first look of his collection — a tribute to the late queen. This sartorial homage was a wavy cerulean cape draped over a turquoise dress and headscarf, inspired by an outfit the Queen wore in 1957 while attending the opera with former French President Rene Coty.
“We wanted to do something really respectful,” Halpern told CNN in his studio before the show. “No music, no fancy lights, nothing. Just a really nice, concise, modest ride with a girl on the trail at the start of the show.
“She was wearing this really beautiful blue dress, and it’s the exact color of the (first look),” he added.
During the finale of the Dojaka show, the models each wore a sprig of lily of the valley – apparently a favorite flower of Queen Elizabeth II, and one that featured in her coronation bouquet in 1953. Christopher Kane, who returned to the program for the first time since before the pandemic, created a gray sweatshirt and skirt that nods to the former monarch’s last official photograph, according to the show’s notes.
However, perhaps the most important tribute was paid by Richard Quinn. Her fashion career is inextricably linked to the monarch who, after presenting her with the Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design in 2018, was front row at her Autumn-Winter 2018 show. Quinn was quickly cemented as one of the best country talents, and in honor of his royal supporter, this season he opened his show with a funeral procession of 22 all-black looks – including long crystal-embellished veils, bejeweled crowns and a wide black -brimmed hat reminiscent of the Queen’s style.
As the models walked, a melancholy video montage of the monarch as a young child and woman played on overhead screens: rotating glimpses of the Queen laughing off duty, during her wedding to the prince Philip and, of course, footage from Monday’s state funeral was released by . The entire collection was dedicated to Queen Elizabeth II, “who touched him among many others with her grace and kindness”, according to the show’s notes.
The female gaze
Rocha – a renegade romantic whose subversive and often gothic take on femininity has won her numerous accolades, including the prestigious British Womenswear Designer Award in 2016 – made her menswear debut with a gender-neutral collection this season. In the frescoed halls of London’s Old Bailey Criminal Court, the Irish-British designer offered a new take on menswear, with tutus, ribbon ballet flats and bow-embellished backpacks. Khaki trench coats were embellished with red and green crystals arranged in poppies, while chunky chain belts (like those typical of late ’90s emo fashion) contrasted with delicate gathers.
Molly Goddard, another kingpin of the women’s fashion circuit, has also extended her signature sparkling ruffles to the male population. Known for her candy-colored sheer tulle designs, Goddard launched her menswear line in 2020 with a largely conservative collection of tartan suits and Fair Isle knit cardigans. On Saturday, she took it up a notch with T-shirts, shirts and suit jackets trimmed with her signature ruffles. She even waded further into the man skirt movement with a full-length pinstripe kilt.
Throughout the Spring-Summer 2023 lineup, the collections vibrated with feminine energy. Chinese designer Yuhan Wang found inspiration in female pilots, reimagining aviator uniforms and helmets in floral prints and ethereal fabrics like silk organza. For Halpern, the enduring glamor of her mother – who continued to plan and dress accordingly for lavish house parties worthy of a New York socialite, even after the family moved upstate. ‘State – shaped his spring-summer creations. Rejina Pyo presented this season on the 28th floor of a London skyscraper, a range of office-friendly suits, evening dresses and mules made for walking – all set to a spoken soundscape exalting the beauty of working women. .
Brazilian designer Karoline Vitto’s collection of cut-out mini dresses and quirky evening wear, curated by non-profit talent incubator Fashion East, was a love letter to “the most controversial and most overlooked of the female form,” according to the show’s notes. In partnership with casting agency AAMO, Vitto’s show exclusively featured curvy and plus-size models between UK sizes 10 and 20, hoping to set a precedent for the industry.
High quality hardware
Buckles, straps and harnesses were essential this season. Poster Girl, creator of the peek-a-boo It-Girl party dress adored by Kylie Jenner and Dua Lipa, sent a slew of looks down the runway often with three belts at once. Rocha recreated garter belts from oversized parachute straps that dangled under dresses, while Yuhan Wang made suspender backpacks with utilitarian pouches in pink lace and chintz fabric.
Kane, who drew inspiration from science and human anatomy for Spring ’23, fashioned multi-strap corsets of clear plastic and tiny metal buckles. The “skeletal structures,” as Kane called them in his show notes, “emphasize the strength and importance of the abdominal region and outer muscles.”
Top image: Harris Reed Spring/Summer 2023 at London Fashion Week.
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