Once home at grandiose Somerset House where the majority of shows would take place, London Fashion Week now takes place in all neighbours of the capital’s centre, from underground skate parks to stately homes, art galleries and market places. It’s a luxury to familiarise oneself with buildings you might otherwise never see inside, but it takes a lot of running from one end of London to the other, inevitably leading to what many attending back-to-back shows have come to term endearingly as going from fashion week to fashion weak.
Fashion weakness is a state marked by a unique combination of mild delirium, exhaustion, phone fingers (from too much Instagramming) and, of course, a little bit of a hangover. So, when it comes to this point in the shows, it lies with the designers to pick everyone up and wow them with collections they don’t feel they’ve seen time and again over preceding days.
Fashion East, which showed yesterday in Covent Garden, is one such show. A collective that selects and nurtures young designers, this season presented three names: Charlotte Knowles, Asai and newcomer Yuhan Wang whose differing collections respectively referencing Sci-Fi and Asian culture, offered food for thought.
Schedule mainstay Margaret Howell comforted show attendees with what they know, love and trust her with: masculine-cut English heritage pieces in wools, gabardines and cottons, Simone Rocha put forth another collection steepehd in historical references and Roland Mouret took inspiration from feminist artist Judy Chicago, paying tribute to the #MeToo movement with models wearing badges bearing the slogan, “woman up”.
And, of course, between it all, paparazzi chased influencers dripping in designer gear, prosecco was quaffed and fashion editors, buyers and high-street store reps noted down trends that began to shine through after three days of shows (shots of yellow, the continuing reign of flat shows – hallelujah – and plenty of suiting), that they will then show in their magazines, sell in their shops and be inspired by for a mass audience.
Here are some of our favourites from yesterday’s shows.
Preen by Thornton Bregazzi’s traveller shrine
Partners in life as well as business, husband and wife team Thea Bregazzi and Justin Thornton continued to explore female empowerment for another season.
A room erected with free-flowing drapery and a traditional Romani wagon set the scene, while guests were greeted at their seats by wild flowers wrapped in foil – the kind that travellers pick and sell – and a catalogue of books the duo looked to for inspiration.
Here, the list of literature cited everything from fortune-tellers and gypsy witches to pastoral nomadism as their muse.
As we’ve come to expect from Preen, their inspirations were referenced to literal degree with a symphony of clashing patterns, patchwork prints, neckerchiefs and woven sandals worn with peanut-coloured frilly socks.
Meanwhile, the brand’s signature repertoire of florals and diaphanous dresses also made an appearance. This time though, they came torn apart and re-sewn, fashioned out of lamé and heavily festooned with layers of tulle and sequins.
It was incredibly pretty but the duo often like their woman to have a badass side too, a trait which made itself known via blasé low-slung belts, form-skimming mini frocks and bright red embroidery which read: “Cancelled without prejudice.”
Margaret Howell delivers the ultimate workwear wardrobe
Returning to the minimalist showspace of the Rambert Dance Company, Margaret Howell’s spring/summer 2019 collection offered more riffs on Britishness.
With a mood board citing Scottish knitwear, Irish linen, workwear details and cropped trousers, it became evident that the brand’s latest incarnation would incorporate everything we have come to know and love about it.
Presenting another co-ed show, with both her women’s and men’s collections, the garments attested to Howell’s raison d’etre over the past four decades of her career.
Among the standouts were those that you could imagine real people taking joy in wearing, from her latest incarnation of the Mackintosh raincoat to white city shorts, squared off ties and pinstripe wide-leg trousers.
While little of the show came as a surprise, what was new was the limited, yet entirely effective colour palette. Here, Howell’s customary affection for navy, grey and crisp white was met with varying shades of green, mustard yellow and burnt orange.
Fashion East: Futurism, femininity and sartorial warfare
A pioneering non-profit initiative established by Lulu Kennedy in 2000, Fashion East has an unrivalled reputation for spotting the most exciting new names in the industry.
In fact, it has helped kick start the careers of some of the UK’s most prolific talent including Simone Rocha, Roksanda Ilincic, Gareth Pugh, Ashley Williams and House of Holland.
Hoping to join the long list of illustrious alumni, this season Fashion East presented a trio of up and coming designers Charlotte Knowles, Asai and Yuhan Wang.
Kicking off the show, Knowles and her partner Alexandre Arsenault presented their second collection. With a futuristic take on femininity, the collection – which was inspired by sci-films and family trips to the seaside – investigated what sexy looks like from a female point of view. Think hyper-feminine yet utilitarian pieces, activewear and swimwear covered in dainty florals, plaid and distorted sea lion prints.
Making her debut showcasing with Fashion East, Yuhan Wang was next. Another collection inspired by femininity, the designer sought to investigate the line between coverage and exposure by creating pieces that are aesthetically Asian yet cut in a Western way. Here, this translated into satin silk dresses with slender sleeves, cut-out fabrics that flashed bare flesh and giant cartwheel hats framing each of the model’s faces.
Finally, returning for his fourth round with the platform, British designer A Sai Ta presented a collection inspired by his Asian heritage and a recent trip to Vietnam. “From war, trauma and vulnerability, love and strength emerges,” the show notes read.
This season, Asai’s emboldened heroines stormed the runway in sharp silhouettes and an eye-catching array of prints, including khaki green camouflage, tie-dye, leopard and zebra print. As the show progressed, bulletholes were replaced by soft draping, fluttering feathers and smashed chinoiserie porcelain jewellery made by multidisciplinary visual artist Claire Barrow.