After a pared back event at last fashion week following the death of Queen Elizabeth, this month’s London Fashion Week returned full swing with a 127 brands proving London’s role as a global style leader. From a multi-media, multi-venue experience by Edeline Lee to designers from seven African countries showing for the first time, to upcycled sneakers by Helen Kirkum, here are fifteen of the highlights in a strong showcase of talent.
In an homage to London, the city she loves, to its heritage and creativity, Canadian-British designer Edeline Lee presented a brilliant guerrilla-style, immersive show in collaboration with film director Zeina Durra. Viewers were guided on a short walk through Burlington Arcade and surrounds, encountering dancers, singers, musicians and models along the way wearing Edeline Lee designs. The collection on show included the house’s signature Flou Bubble Jacquard fabric in pistachio, carmine and malachite. The show also featured recycled cashmere outerwear and a series of tailored garments, in the form of sleek, fitted jackets, cropped boleros and oversized blazers.
Leading the UK sustainable footwear movement, Helen Kirkum Studio uses recycled and dead stock materials from Traid Warehouse, London. Each pair of sneakers made is unique, weaving together the memories of the components that make it, allowing the owner to buy something inherently personal and one-of-a-kind. Launched at London Fashion Week, the Palimpsest Sneaker features mismatched fore and rear sole components. The upper is made of collaged, repurposed sneaker leather and the lining is corn leather. The sole was created by Forever, a company based in Porto, Portugal, a country at the forefront of sustainable shoe production, having just last week launched a “Green Pact” already signed by 125 footwear and leather goods companies.
For Autumn/Winter 2023, Paul Costelloe has taken his inspiration from his beloved Dublin and James Joyce’s Ulysses. The collection is very much a modern rendering of the period, using the most beautiful fabrics of Ireland, and Italy where James Joyce lived for many years. Woven cloth of silver by William Clarke of Derry, is presented in narrative prints adorned with scenes from Ulysses, and long tailored coats, skirts and highly structured fitted jackets from Magees in Donegal, and Emblem Weavers in Wexford. Twisted yarn knitwear, mixed in with rich velvets and lush brocades bring an opulence and vitality to this gorgeous collection. Paul Costelloe Bags complement the garments: large, soft leather slouch bags, tweed and leather satchels and distressed leather crossovers.
Global Fashion Collective
The first London showcase of the innovative fashion producer Global Fashion Collective presented fall 2023 collections by designers from Canada, Korea, and Mexico. Iann Dey’s 16 pieces featured luxurious textures in vibrant tones such as red, black, gold, silver and clay, accompanied by fine crystals, feathers, silk, and hand embroidery. Eduardo Ramos’s collection was inspired by the phoenix with the color palette of the mythical creature: gray and subdued tones, intense orange and red. Blue Tamburin, well established in Korea, thrilled London audiences for the first time with fantastical, imaginative garments. GFC shows at fashion weeks in Paris, New York, Milan and Tokyo, with plans to add a showcase in Monterrey, Mexico this year.
Creative DNA: Africa
Fashion Scout and the British Council presented an installation showcasing seven African designers against a backdrop of an original Half a Roast Chicken artwork. Creative DNA is a British Council program, focused on promoting alternative and innovative approaches to the global fashion system with the ambition of demonstrating that the fashion sector in Kenya is a professional choice for young people and a valuable contributor to the creative economy. Highlighting seven innovative designers from seven countries: Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda, and Zimbabwe the programme enabled them to gain better knowledge of the UK fashion industry, create networks and introduce themselves and their work internationally. Over their week-long residency the designers visited designer studios, workshops, fashion shows and retail giving them the opportunity to expand on their networks.
Dublin-born menswear designer Robyn Lynch founded her eponymous brand in 2018 and this season’s collection is in one color palette, consisting of four different shades of green: pale pistachio, lizard green, deep sage and phthalo green. The fabrics include denims, jerseys, ocean waste-recycled Seaqual® nylons and dead stock wool but the focus is on merino wool which is “much more complex than all synthetic and most natural fibres, providing it with a unique set of benefits that’s unmatched. The fabric absorbs UV radiation and is both 100% biodegradable and renewable” says Robyn Lynch. Highlights include an oversized hoodie, a box-fit fleece, an elegant hiking cargo trouser and jumper with references to Céilí, a Gaelic folk dance dating back to the 19th century.
Presented at Sadler’s Wells dance theatre, this ready-to wear collection referenced the early Medieval period. Standout looks included the opener, a round neck oversized coat and surcote in lichen textured wool jacquard. A surcote is an outer garment dating back to the Middle Ages. Commonly worn by soldiers on the battlefield, this long cloak or cape worn over metal armour would help to prevent heat stroke. A medieval colouring book inspired a “cartoon” print silk surcote over a merino rollneck sweater with plated lurex detailing and a maxi length skirt in wool mohair.
Noon by Noor
A classic and elegant luxury womenswear designer brand established in 2008 by cousins Shaikha Noor Al Khalifa and Shaikha Haya Al Khalifa. Showing at the Royal College of Surgeons, the looks were simple, in a natural color palette of black, grey, and brown and eminently wearable.
The first showing at London Fashion Week of menswear designer Geoff K. Cooper was a fusion of his diverse Trinidadian heritage. Influenced by the iconic outfits of Caribbean calypsonians such as Mighty Sparrow, actor Harry Belafonte and men’s style of the Windrush generation, the collection riffs on the military silhouettes and flamboyant tailoring they wore, seamlessly integrated with streetwear silhouettes, and knitwear inspired by materials found in local fishing villages. From the knitwear – all handmade by female crocheters and knitters in the Caribbean – to the classic tailored shapes on suits, to jazzed up denim twinsets, the collection has a playful carnival energy throughout.
Presented in the grand hall of Senate House, Tove’s elegant womenswear collection is in a neutral palette, accentuated with deep claret, pale buttermilk and the lustre of liquid metals. The brand has a season-less approach, with every collection a continuation of the one before. With a focus on sustainability and longevity, the fabrics are carefully considered natural, low-impact and degradable.
Unused, discarded lace and other fabrics are a feature of this etheral new collection which references troubled artist Edvard Munch and the countercultural symbol, Wednesday Addams. In keeping with these inspirations, the color palette is a muted collection of blacks and whites. Expert tailoring, deep black dresses and trench coats with taffeta detailing showcase the interplay between soft and hard, light and dark. Delicate embroidery and playful motifs enhance the clean lines of Aksu’s taffeta dresses.
Feben’s funky designs and bright colors lit up the London runway this month. Collection highlights include an asymmetrically draped gold and emerald skirt covered in sequin scales and loose trousers that jangle about the ankle with exquisite beading. Gowns and minidresses in satins feature glinting metal studs. The technique is also applied to this season’s padded scarves, resulting in an effect almost like bullets caught in protective gear.
Toga’s ready-to-wear collection explores the feeling of being liberated from constraints. Jackets are tailored to open widely at the chest. Coats show elements that are typically hidden, inviting the body outside. The conventionally concealed magazine pocket is brought to the fore. Shirting is manipulated to help reveal what’s inside. Materials, such as paper and plastic, are rescued and re-used.
A vintage-inspired AW23 collection, The Goddess of The Nile, was shown against the glorious backdrop of the Booking Office 1869 at St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel. Statement dresses and evening wear dominated, with designs inspired by ancient Egyptian techniques, symbols and colors. Heavy embellishments, with hand-embroidered dresses inspired by Art-Deco and Egyptian patterns feature. Key looks include ‘Ombre Bloom’, a beautiful hand-drawn floral artwork using oil pastels and inks and ‘Klimt Stamp’, based on an antique jewellery box found in Portobello vintage market. ‘Topaz Dream’, is a fun and conversational print, which was hand-painted by co-founder Orlagh McCloskey, a modern, RIXO take on ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphics. ‘Cleo Patchwork’ is a reimagination of the traditional technique ‘Assuit’, created with foil printing burnt out velvets and hand-painted geometric patterns.
Celebrity favorite Julien Macdonald returned to London Fashion Week, after a four year hiatus, with a spectacular runway show at the historic Freemason’s Hall. Known for his glitzy evening dresses, the British designer delivered a glamorous, crowd-pleasing light show with smoke, ticker tape and a fun, infectious soundtrack.