London Fashion Week closed on a high note for both fashion and diversity, as it was announced that Chioma Nnadi will take over operations from Edward Enninful at British Vogue.
This will make the London-born editor, who was thus far in charge of Vogue’s US website, the first black female head of the fashion title.
New roles, big shoes
While that job vacancy is filled, the front-row buzz focused on who would follow in the footsteps of Sarah Burton, who is stepping down from British fashion house Alexander McQueen. She has been keeper of the visionary designer Lee McQueen’s flame since his death in 2010, having served as his right-hand woman for the previous decade. Indeed, who could possibly fill her shoes?
Kept snugly under the radar, however, was the news that Irish designer Simone Rocha, famed for her love of pearls and embellished crinoline silhouette with biker boots, is the next guest designer for Jean Paul Gaultier haute couture, which will be presented in Paris in January. She is the first creator who lives in London to be invited.
Could there be hints of what’s to come in her summer collection, based on roses freshly picked and sandwiched between layers of organza, or interpreted in great whorls of fabric on dresses, or perhaps the series of ballerina dresses and men’s shirts garlanded with pearls like the icing on a wedding cake? It will be intriguing to see how her vision merges with the Gaultier legacy.
Right up Burberry’s street
Londoners, meanwhile, were embracing fashion week with Bond Street station rebranded as “Burberry Street”, encompassing a makeover of the underground station and pop-up events around town in a big marketing push for Daniel Lee’s second collection for the brand.
His show centred on city-life with easy tailoring, dresses with hand-painted summer fruit and exploded chain prints and, of course, the iconic trench coat – this new iteration is in black with the collar up and belted low on the hip.
Burberry is London’s linchpin super-brand; however, fashion week has increasingly focused on diversity, providing a platform for young designers from Asia, the Middle East, Ukraine (the backdrop to Ukrainian designer Frolov’s show was black-and-white archive film footage of Kyiv in the 1950s and 1960s, which felt very poignant when you know parts of his home city have since been destroyed) and, most recently, the African community.
One notable newcomer was Nigerian Tolu Coker, who celebrated her Yoruba heritage with a collection about the matriarchs of society dressed in their “Sunday best”.
Bahraini brand Noon by Noor presented a film this season, shown on large public screens at Here by Outernet, featuring its sweet, fresh-as-a-daisy black, white and stone-coloured cotton dresses and utility shorts ensembles. The Moonlit collection, by founders Shaikha Noor Al Khalifa and Shaikha Haya Al Khalifa, was filmed in a fountain courtyard in the middle of a hot August night in Bahrain.
Bora Aksu returned to his Turkish roots and childhood memories of his grandmother’s crochetwork, which he interpreted in his signature whimsical dresses. The many fez hats in the show were upcycled offcuts from his mother’s handknitting, accompanying dresses with Iznik tile prints and embroideries.
Designers Supriya Lele and Ashish Gupta, meanwhile, offered divergent visions of their Indian heritage. Gupta's collection was a sequin-fest of high camp with a diverse casting of models from cross-dressers to punks. A glamorous granny came out in outfits ranging from beaded pyjama suits and 1970s psychedelic gowns, to biker jackets with “No One Likes Us” and “And We Don’t Care” emblazoned in sequins on the back.
Lele, in her first stand-alone presentation, and generally known for investigating the heritage of her Indian immigrant parents, filtered the sari blouse and draping into corset tops and gauzy drapery worn with skimpy knitted skirts that clung precariously to hips.
Red carpet collections
There was beautiful, timeless tailoring at Tove, Eudon Choi and 16Arlington, with a loose, unstructured silhouette in shades of white and grey along with draped grey and white dresses.
At 16Arlington, Marco Capaldo upped the glam quotient with dresses and skirts covered by sheer white or glossy red paillettes, with more fabric paillettes cascading from clutch bags.
Tove kept it simple with long draped dresses teamed with babouche slippers and giant pearl hoop earrings, while Korean designer Choi showed desirable longline jackets with fluid pants and maxi skirts on a cast of models from young to those in their 50s.
There were also slick red-carpet collections from Harris Reed and David Koma, who have both worked the Paris circuit: Koma formerly creative director at Mugler, and Reed currently designing Nina Ricci. Koma presented vampish black minidresses either with biker jackets or trailing flourishes of bright or printed fabrics like trains, while American-born Reed showed gowns based on vintage Hollywood divas from the black-and-white era.
Among London Fashion Week’s biggest draws are Erdem Moralioglu, Roksanda Ilincic and Molly Goddard. Ilincic's boldly coloured designs are popular with the art world. Her signature billowing shapes (sometimes boned to hold a sculptural silhouette) and abstract prints were interspersed with more tailored pieces this season, all long and lean and topped with hats resembling those worn in the monasteries of her Serbian homeland.
Moralioglu and Goddard’s glorious summer collections started in the archives: Goddard explored the National Theatre costume hire, while Moralioglu travelled to Chatsworth, the stately home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, to research the duke’s mother Deborah Mitford.
Goddard’s resulting collection was inspired by ideas about the inner workings and underpinnings of costumes presented as drop-waist petticoat dresses, and skirts with ruffled petticoat edging and ballerina cardigans.
From the Chatsworth archive, Moralioglu unravelled the tropes of the late duchess with sumptuous opera coats and clutch suits made from the remnants of her chintz curtains; plus 1920s sequin slip dresses, 1930s tea dresses and 1950s-style prom skirts in exploded prints.
Subtly tucked away in the details were prints of chickens, bug jewellery and Elvis-inspired beading, which were Mitford’s passions during her lifetime. Who doesn’t love an English eccentric with quirky obsessions?