March 4, 2024

On Friday, September 9, hours after the two weeks of mourning for the death of Elizabeth II were announced, two of the big claims of this London fashion week, Burberry and Raf Simons, canceled their shows. The first, because it is an official supplier of the British royal house, has postponed its Show to the 26th of this month —the only day off between the catwalks in Milan and Paris—; the second suspended him for having devised a presentation in the form of a collective party. Public celebrations have been banned for the past 10 days.

That weekend, the British Fashion Council, the government body that regulates and supports British fashion and which organizes fashion week, met with the designers and their press agencies to decide whether or not to go ahead with the shows. Most of the creators who walk in these days are emerging or medium-sized brands that can only present their collections with the financing and logistics of the BFC, and the international press, private clients and store buyers already had the tickets to plane and reserved hotels. Brexit has already hit British fashion enough, so they decided to go ahead, canceling parties for brands like Prada or Hugo Boss, changing the agenda and respecting Monday the 19th, the day of the queen’s state funeral. “It has been a Herculean effort, because we had to change the days and locations of the shows in record time, but all the designers and brands have been willing to collaborate and compromise,” says Caroline Rush, CEO of the British Fashion Council.

On Wednesday, September 14, a collective email from the organization urged attendees to “go to London to support the talent of its designers” and asked them to “respect the city’s time of mourning.” During the four days that fashion week has lasted, from Friday to Tuesday, there has been a minute of silence every day at the shows at eight in the afternoon. Other brands, such as Paul and Joe or Rejina Pyo, have also decided to start their shows in this way, with hundreds of guests in rigorous silence who, in most cases, arrived by public transport due to crowds and traffic cuts. The BFC gave attendees a voucher to travel free by public bicycle.

On the catwalk there were, obviously, explicit signs of mourning: Erdem dyed the last suits that paraded through the corridors of the British Museum in black. The designer signed a magnificent collection inspired by the art of restoration —with the collaboration of the main restorers of London museums—, with pieces that evoked the toilets or prototypes or garments that seemed to age in certain areas.

Several models pose in Erdem designs at London Fashion Week.
Several models pose in Erdem designs at London Fashion Week.

JW Anderson, who was returning to the British capital after a three-year absence, closed her parade with a dress that read the name of Queen Elizabeth and the dates of her birth and death, using the same typography as the posters that populated London. The Northern Irishman chose an arcade a few meters from his store in Soho, a place that he perfectly combined with his proposal: playful and surreal. As has been the case with her work at Loewe for the past three seasons, three-dimensional shapes (this time with metallic balls), trompe l’oeil (dresses that simulate fish tanks) and the amplified volumes of sweaters and dresses form the backbone of a collection that, however, is much more accessible and commercial than those exhibited with the Spanish brand.

The other long-awaited return to London, after a three-year hiatus, has been that of Christopher Kane, who moved to the imposing Roundhouse concert hall in Camden to remind attendees why after almost two decades designing his style it is still a only. In his collection for next spring were all his curious obsessions: fetishist garments mixed with romantic pieces, metal applications, distorted prints, draped silks mixed with plastic and, in short, the exploration of how pattern making and materials transform and reinterpret the femenine body.

Four of Christopher Kane's Spring/Summer 2023 collection looks at his show in London on September 18.
Four of Christopher Kane’s Spring/Summer 2023 collection looks at his show in London on September 18.Tim Whitby (getty images

British fashion exports to the world the idea of ​​modernity and creativity without restrictions. They do not need to use the usual dynamics in this industry to show that they live in the present. There are no bombastic parades or nods to the metaverse here, but they magically manage to make many of the first-time names seem established in just a couple of seasons. This has happened on this occasion with the last two LVMH prize winners, Nensi Dojaka and SS Daley. Both have been awarded the world’s most prestigious award for emerging design in 2021 and 2022, respectively, but it seems like they’ve always been there, despite having only four or five collections under their belts. The first, known for its tight dresses full of openings and laces, has taken a new step in its evolution with pieces that for almost the first time came out of black and that mixed transparencies with corsetry. He casting of models (Emily Ratajkowski, Vittoria Ceretti, Paloma Elsesser…) is perhaps the clearest proof of the brilliant success of this very young Albanian designer.

Steven Stokey Daley hasn’t even turned 30 yet, but his show at the Renaissance Hotel was one of the most anticipated on the calendar. The brand new LVMH award, until now focused on the masculine, presented for the first time a mixed collection in the usual format: an emotional parade in the form of a play performed by actors from the National Youth Theater who, on this occasion, recited love letters between the writers Vita Sackville West and Violet Trefusis. As it could not be otherwise, the collection revolved around gender fluidity seen from the prism of Daley —and his stylist, Harry Lambert, architect of singer Harry Styles’ wardrobe—, that is, the subversive use of codes British aesthetics, from school uniforms and countryside to Savile Row tailoring.

Models walk in SS Daley outfits at London Fashion Week.
Models walk in SS Daley outfits at London Fashion Week.David M. Benett (Dave Benett/Getty Images)

New names on the calendar such as Chopova Lowena, who straddles Baltic folklore and punk by recycling old fabrics and debuted with a highly acclaimed show, and Chet Lo, who trained within the Fashion East talent incubator and whose spiked dresses knitwear have captivated cerebrities, show that, despite the fact that this has been a rough edition, London can continue exporting its avant-garde idea to the world with total solvency. The BFC has obviously decided that these days of fashion shows will be closed tonight by Richard Quinn, the designer who received the Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design in 2018 from the queen herself; an image that at the time went around the world.

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