Furry Trims and Nosy Neighbors: How London Fashion Week Turned 40


It was the Sunday of London Fashion Week and the last model had just stepped off the runway at the JW Anderson show. A heaving scrum soon descended on the designer, a sea of phones held aloft like antennas. Jonathan Anderson’s collection had been a nostalgic British jumble of chunky knits and trench coats, school uniform staples, retro thermal underwear sets and hats like Grandma’s gray pin-curl wigs, all chucked into a subversive tumble dryer for a warped take on what once felt familiar. Why?

“I was looking at ideas of ‘odd type’ characters in Britain, the nosy neighbor next door, but then slightly twisted into grotesque distortions and proportions,” Mr. Anderson said. He had been inspired by Generation Z’s constant remixing of the past, using the prism of technology or referencing bygone trends through street wear.

“I guess I was thinking about how Britain has changed,” he added, “and how we look at it in a completely new way.”

It was a fitting meditation for one of the country’s biggest fashion names, not least given the celebrations underway in honor of a momentous birthday: This season London Fashion Week turned 40.

Landmarks inevitably invite comparison and reflection, and plenty has already been written around the midlife crisis facing the smallest and most rebellious of the four major fashion weeks. A harsh retail climate thanks to a slowdown in luxury demand, particularly for the independent designers who largely populate the London schedule. The growing might of the giant luxury groups headquartered in Paris and Milan. And on the eve of Fashion Week, 10 Downing Street — which has planned an afternoon tea on Tuesday to close the event — confirmed that Britain had entered a recession.

Refreshingly, however, many designers offered more than stiff upper lips. There were terrific clothes aplenty, from cornerstone names such as Molly Goddard, Erdem and Simone Rocha as well as fresher faces such as Dilara Findikoglu and 16Arlington. And a welcome return to the schedule by the 2015 LVMH Prize winner Marques’Almeida, its designer duo all grown up and with a scattering of sweet children as models.

From floral brows, big coats and lashings of fake fur to a seasoning of Hollywood stardust on Sunday night thanks to a happy scheduling clash with the BAFTA Film Awards, here are five things that turned our heads this week.

The red runway trend may not be abating just yet, but a scarlet woman is so last season. She has been replaced by a classier, more understated lady, one who prefers a deeper shade, ranging from burgundy to oxblood, and oozes an aura of wealth, status and power.

At Roksanda, the sleek opening look — a plunging blazer in black cherry with statement shoulders matched with a layered tunic over pants — had actually made its public debut on Zendaya several days earlier at a London press junket for “Dune: Part Two,” while Emilia Wickstead plumped for dark, delicious glamour with ladylike pencil skirts and car coats in lustrous carmine leathers and sequins. Molly Goddard layered new ideas and shapes in shades of ruby using lashings of the brand’s hallmark tulle and Chet Lo, inspired this season by the Terracotta Army unearthed in China in the 1970s, had a rich earthiness to his signature spiky knitted designs. Time to hit the claret.

The stakes were sky high for Burberry this season — just like the flags that flew atop the giant black tent that the brand erected in Victoria Park for its runway show on Monday night. The critical and commercial response to Daniel Lee’s wildly expensive first two collections as chief creative officer of Britain’s largest luxury house by sales had been tepid. Lately, the share price has been tanking, thanks to two profit warnings in three months. What could Mr. Lee — who famously brought major buzz back to Bottega Veneta in his previous role — pull out of the bag for his third Burberry outing?

The great and good of British supermodels, for one thing. Agyness Deyn, dressed in a green gabardine trench and flared pants with yellow tartan turn ups, led a lineup of runway icons including Lily Cole, Karen Elson, Lily Donaldson, Edie Campbell and Naomi Campbell to a thumping retro Amy Winehouse soundtrack. They wore outerwear in nudes, olives and oatmeal that were designed to exude both coziness and style edge, from fuzzy duffle coats and leather belted field jackets to the strokable fringes and hems adorning almost every garment. Also on show were romantic plaid maxi-kilts and chunky scarves, ludicrously capacious bags, silver-tassel loafers and chunky boots for striding.

It all felt much warmer, a bit more relaxed. There were moments that almost felt like a hat tip back to the glory days, before Brexit or Boris Johnson or Riccardo Tisci, to a time when Christopher Bailey harnessed a feel-good feeling to Burberry clothes that made them truly desirable and put London back on the fashion map. A best-of-British front row that included Cara Delevingne, Skepta, Lily Allen, Olivia Colman and Joanna Lumley all whooped with delight — and possibly relief.

Will it be enough? Time will tell. But sometimes winding back the fashion clock as you try to move forward is no bad thing.

Thanks to the BAFTAs (the less said about that red carpet the better), the stars were in town and out on the front row. Rosamund Pike gave us a twirl at Molly Goddard, while Kristin Scott Thomas dazzled in emerald green at Erdem next to Lily James. Some even took to the runway themselves as Hari Nef opened for Dilara Findikoglu and Joanna Lumley appeared in a presentation for the hot jewelry brand Completedworks. Fun fact: Ms. Lumley’s character, Patsy Stone, in the TV show “Absolutely Fabulous” was based on Lynne Franks, the founder of London Fashion Week.

But the most A-list of guest rosters was at the BAFTA after-party staged by British Vogue and Tiffany & Company, where such homegrown party co-hosts as Emily Blunt and Emerald Fennell joined Chioma Nnadi, British Vogue’s newly installed head of editorial content, for what felt like her de facto coming out party. Cheers.

London often presents plenty for those who lust after grungy streetwear, but this season several major names stepped up to offer options for the glamor-hungry crowd. Shown in front of the disputed Parthenon marbles at the British Museum and inspired by the American-Greek soprano Maria Callas, Erdem delivered sumptuous draped cocktail dresses and embellished skirt suits, grand operatic capes and fluffy flat marabou slippers, as well as earrings in the shape of gilded roses, like the real ones thrown at the end of a diva’s performance. Richard Quinn placed clients for his timeless couture-like creations and burgeoning bridal business on the front row of his salon style show, which had been swathed in 900 meters (2,950 feet) of his signature floral fabric.

But it was Marco Capaldo of 16Arlington — the 2023 winner of the British Fashion Council/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund — whose slinky vision of sophistication felt the most current. His fuzzy oversize handbags and knits, sheer paneled frocks and shimmering silver evening pieces may have been inspired by misunderstood monsters and have had animalistic touches, but there was a simple beauty to his sleight of hand that makes Mr. Capaldo one to watch.

You don’t often see laced hot pants, corsets, nipples and naked flesh in traditional places of worship, but then Dilara Findikoglu is not exactly your traditional label. After canceling her show last season because of liquidity issues, Ms. Findikoglu made a triumphant, sexually charged return Sunday night with a collection that railed against toxic masculinity.

“This is a manifesto for a world order born of an unrelenting vortex of femme energy; the bringing of a new world to life through mass ritual,” she said in her show notes about the deconstructed corporate suiting and shirting teamed with boned underwear, PVC pieces, knickers made from silver keys and a white feathered cocktail gown. “This is the imagining of the world that I know can put ours to right.”

Ms. Findikoglu was looking for new beginnings. But with her show, called the Wake, Simone Rocha closed the final chapter of a triptych that began last season with the Dress Rehearsal and continued last month with the Procession, her nuptials-themed couture collection for Jean Paul Gaultier. Presented on Saturday night in a 12th-century church, St. Bartholomew-the-Great, the collection was inspired by Queen Victoria’s mourning attire after the death of her husband, Prince Albert.

Corsetry glistened with crystal embellishments while faux fur stoles lay over shoulders, and backs were covered in translucent wisps of organza tailoring. Models — some of whom had winding rose briars painted over their eyebrows — clutched soft-toy handbags shaped like lambs and processioned in Ms. Rocha’s wildly popular rhinestone-encrusted Crocs. The devil was in the details.



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