While London Fashion Week has been no stranger to the impact of major external forces in recent years – including Brexit and the global Covid-19 pandemic – this year’s Spring-Summer 2023 shows have once again taken place against a dramatic backdrop.
Since the death of Queen Elizabeth II, much of the schedule has been thrown into confusion – especially around her state funeral on September 19. Shows and events scheduled for that day have either been rescheduled or canceled. Burberry — holder of a royal order and one of the tentpole British labels on the calendar — was the first brand to announce it would not be presenting the show (after a later rescheduled date). Celebrated Belgian designer Raf Simons, who is making his much-anticipated London debut with his namesake brand, has also released a statement confirming that the show will not go ahead as planned.
Caroline Rush, chief executive of the British Fashion Council, told CNN in a phone interview ahead of the opening day that she fully understands the reasons why brands are changing plans.
Still, the industry was quickly around many young, emerging brands and designers where disruption could be critical.
“London has always been known as the global capital for innovation. It’s where we have more innovative and independent businesses than any other fashion capital,” said Rush. “I think the sense of community that comes through those designers has been born in the last couple of years and we’ve seen it again now in this difficult time after the death of the Queen.”
Harris Reid, just this week announced as the new creative director of French fashion house Nina Ricci, is one young designer who has succeeded against these odds. After graduating from Central Saint Martins during the height of the global pandemic, Reed first relied on social media to spark interest in his designs. On the December 2020 cover of American Vogue, Harry Styles wore a one-piece (suit jacket and hoop skirt) and Reed’s outfit for the 2021 Met Gala featured supermodel Iman.
On September 12, he was one of the first designers to announce that his spring-summer 2023 show would go ahead – and tweeted the importance of “living for small brands in London this week”.
In the run-up to the event, Reid’s Instagram Stories teased clips of the night’s catwalk prep, emphasizing the often uncomfortable and grueling reality of putting on a show. On Thursday night, in a restored 16th-century church in the City of London, Reid set the tone for London Fashion Week with a live performance by Adam Lambert and a collection full of luxury and sculptural art.
And while the events coincided with a time of national mourning, there was much to celebrate. Simone Rocha unveiled her first menswear collection, while JW Anderson returned to her London schedule for the first time since 2020. Asian American designer Chet Lo made his solo fashion week debut with a number of unique pieces and accessories. Back-to-back LVMH Award winners Nancy Dojaka and SS Daley were among those representing emerging talent.
Turkish-British designer Dilara Finikoglu went viral with a quiet catwalk show on Saturday that included a selection of vampiric, Victorian-inspired looks (some by Amelia Gray, influencer and daughter of “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” reality star Lisa Rinna). And at Susan Fang, models even walked on water — thanks to a floating plane built into the indoor pool deck.
Read on for London Fashion Week highlights.
A week of honor
Designers who chose to celebrate the passing of Britain’s longest-serving monarch did so in a variety of ways. For smaller labels that can’t afford to change much of their physical collections, music (or the lack of it) has often become a form of praise. Adam Lambert sings Queen’s “Who Wants to Live Forever?” At the Reed Show, Michael Halpern opted for silence during the collection’s opening look — a tribute to the late Queen. That sartorial honor was the Queen’s 2011 Inspired by the outfit she wore while attending the opera with former French president René Coty in 1957, it was a timeless cerulean cape over a turkish cloak and headscarf.
“We really wanted to do something that felt respectful,” Halpern told CNN in his studio before the show. “No music, no fancy lights, nothing. A real cute, short, modest walk down the runway with one of the girls at the beginning of the show.”
“She’s wearing this beautiful blue dress, and that’s the exact color (of her first look),” he added.
At the end of Dojaka’s show, the models each wore a lily of the valley — Queen Elizabeth II’s favorite flower and was featured in her 1953 coronation bouquet. Christopher Kane, returning to the program for the first time. He created a gray coat and skirt that mirrored the last official photograph of the former emperor from before the outbreak, according to the show’s notes.
Perhaps the most extensive tribute, however, comes from Richard Quinn. His fashion career is closely linked to the royal, who — after being awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design in 2018 — fronted the Autumn-Winter 2018 show. Quinn quickly became one of the country’s top talents, and in honor of her royal patronage, she opened the show this season with 22 black looks – long crystal-embellished veils, bejeweled crowns and a wide-brimmed hat reminiscent of the Queen’s style.
As models walked, a melancholic video montage of the monarch as young and feminine played on suspended screens: footage flashed of the Queen laughing off duty, at her wedding to Prince Philip and, of course, at Monday’s state funeral. . The entire collection was dedicated to Queen Elizabeth II, who “touched many with her grace and kindness,” according to show notes.
A woman’s view
Rocha — whose renegade romantic, subversive and often gothic take on femininity has won her numerous accolades, including the prestigious British Womenswear Designer Award in 2016 — made her menswear a gender-inclusive collection this season. In the fresco-covered lobby of London’s Old Bailey criminal court, the Irish-British designer offered a fresh spin on menswear, featuring tutus, ribbon-studded ballet flats and bow-trimmed backpacks. Khaki trench coats are embellished with red and green crystals, arranged into poppies, and thick belts (as in late emo fashion) contrast with delicate ruffles.
Molly Goddard, another lynchpin of the womenswear circuit, has similarly expanded her signature line to the menswear crowd. Known for her candy-colored, diaphanous tulle creations, Goddard first launched her menswear line in 2020 with a mostly conservative collection of tartan suits and Fair Isle knit cardigans. On Saturday, she stepped it up a notch in her trademark t-shirts, shirts and suit jackets. She also got into the menswear movement with a full pinstripe kilt.
All scheduled for Spring-Summer 2023, the collections are buzzing with feminine energy. Chinese designer Yuhan Wang found inspiration in female pilots, reimagining aviator uniforms and helmets with fluorescent prints and ethereal fabrics like silk organza. For Halpern, his mother’s enduring beauty — which he continued to host and accordingly dress for New York City socialites, even after the family split upward — shaped his spring-summer designs. Regina Pio is on the 28th floor of a London skyscraper this season with office-friendly tailoring, evening gowns and mules ready for the walk – all defying the talkative image that elevates the glamor of working women.
Brazilian designer Caroline Vito’s collection of cut-out mini dresses and off-the-beaten-path evening wear was a love letter to “the most controversial and overlooked aspects of the female form,” curated by nonprofit talent agency Fashion East. . In partnership with casting agency AAMO, Vito’s show aims to be a role model for the industry, featuring curvy and plus-size models between UK sizes 10 and 20.
Ties, ties, and ties were inescapable at this time. The poster girl, creator of the peek-a-boo it-girl party dress favored by Kylie Jenner and Dua Lipa, sent several looks down the runway, often with three belts at once. Rocha created garter belts from oversized parachute straps dangling from under skirts, while Yuhan Wang created body-hugging utility bags complete with pink lace and chintz fabric.
Taking cues from science and the human anatomy for Spring-Summer 2023, Kane created a multi-strap corset from plastic and tiny metal clusters. “Skeletal Structures,” according to Khan in the show notes, “focuses on the strength and importance of the abdominal area and external muscles.”
Top Image: Harris Reid Spring-Summer 2023 at London Fashion Week.
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