Political protests to Penny Lane moments: the biggest talking points from London Fashion Week

Emma Day highlights the emerging trends and hot topics from the British capital

Model Rose McGowan presents a creation during the Vivienne Westwood catwalk show at London Fashion Week Women's A/W19 in London, Britain February 17,  2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

Fashion month has moved on to another continent, leaving behind the Big Apple's concrete jungle for the hip hubbub of the Big Smoke. And London Fashion Week, which drew to a close on February 19, was as captivating as usual, bringing together avant-garde designs and a typically rebellious streak.

People power

A model wears a creation by designer Vivienne Westwood at the Autumn/Winter 2019 fashion week show in London, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019.(Photo by Grant Pollard/Invision/AP)

Politics packed as much punch as the clothes, with several demonstrations proving fashion isn’t just about what’s on the outside. At the opening of LFW, activists including model Adwoa Aboah and singer Emeli Sande took to the catwalk as part of the Justice4Grenfell campaign, which calls for action after the tower block fire that claimed more than 70 lives in June 2017. Participants and survivors clasped hands and were clad in printed T-shirts asking: “72 dead and still no arrests? How come?”. Punk legend Vivienne Westwood also used her show to tackle issues of climate change and capitalism, with several models delivering powerful monologues on the catwalk. The eclectic cast included #MeToo pioneer Rose McGowan, who wore a neon-yellow headpiece declaring “Angel”.

Frills and spills

epa07374937 A model presents a creation by British designer Molly Goddard during the London Fashion Week 2019, in Central London, Britain, 16 February 2019. The LFW Fall/Winter 2019 runs from 15 to 19 February.  EPA/TOM NICHOLSON

Go big or go home appeared to be the sartorial mentality in London, where flouncy tulles and a cacophony of chiffons were spotted at myriad labels. Larger-than-life gowns were present at Mary Katrantzou, Molly Goddard and Roksanda, with the XXL designs imbuing an infectious joy on the front row. Matching the voluminous silhouettes were equally capacious colour palettes, ranging from zesty lemons to bubblegum pinks. When it comes to embracing frou-frou yourself next season, take a leaf out of Goddard’s book and keep accessories to a minimum, letting the ethereal layers take centre stage.

Moves like Jagger

A model walks the runway at the Peter Pilotto show during London Fashion Week February 2019 on February 17, 2019 in London, England.

And we don’t mean Mick – we’re looking at you,  Bianca. Key shapes of the 1970s are having (yet another) resurgence, with flared trousers, crushed velvet suits and  retro-inspired belted coats all making an appearance on runways. Preen by Thornton Bregazzi channelled the rock-star decade with boisterous, floral two-pieces, while Halpern paid tribute to the glitz and glamour of disco with decadent doses of sequins sliding down evening gowns that wouldn’t have looked out of place on Farrah Fawcett. Peter Pilotto, meanwhile, brought an extravagant romance to proceedings with theatrical, rope-fringed tailoring and feather-bestrewn outerwear perfect for indulging your inner Penny Lane.

Hang loose

A model walks the runway at the Ports 1961 show during London Fashion Week February 2019 at the Christie's on February 16, 2019 in London, England.

Bid adieu to form-fitting separates and curve-skimming dresses for winter, with languid silhouettes set to seep into your cold-weather wardrobe. Lines were long and clean, fits relaxed and layering requisite at labels including Roland Mouret and Ports 1961, which each presented collections rich in artfully draped, oversized separates. Glimmering metallics at the former made the look evening-appropriate, while the latter adopted a more boxy, androgynous sentiment, employing classic prints for a twist on traditional tailoring. Bodycon, be gone.

Role call 

Actress chloe sevigny at the Simone Rocha show during London Fashion Week February 2019 at the Royal Academy of Arts on February 16, 2019 in London, England.

As expected, catwalks were littered with the industry’s most famous faces, from part- Palestinian star Gigi Hadid at Burberry to Moroccan- British clotheshorse Nora Attal at Simone Rocha. However, it wasn’t just the professionals enlisted to display designs, with Rocha also featuring American Horror Story actress Chloe Sevigny in her show. The American actress donned a ruffled white midi with tulle illusions, with model Lily Cole also coaxed out of her runway retirement for the occasion.

Practical magic

A model presents a creation from British designer Victoria Beckham during their 2019 Autumn / Winter collection catwalk show at London Fashion Week in London on February 17, 2019. / AFP / NIKLAS HALLE'N

Fashion weeks are rarely known for their functionality, with most designers flexing their creative muscles as hard as Channing Tatum in Magic Mike, resulting in outlandish designs that stir the imagination – but that you wouldn’t wear down the street. At this year’s London Fashion Week, however, labels reined in their ingenuity, resulting in pieces that were modish yet still utterly wearable. For her second LFW show, Alexa Chung presented a dark, almost dystopian line filled with patent leather jackets and lacetrimmed velvet midis, the nostalgic edge amplified by voluminous blouses and silken, Forties-style dresses. Each element had closet-staple qualities, as did Victoria Beckham’s offering,  which returned to the minimal aesthetic the pop-star-turneddesigner has become known for. Slouchy, long-line boots were layered underneath structured yet fluid midis, while understated knits and swathed necklines will undoubtedly solve any workwear quandaries next season.

A certain romance

A model walks the runway at the Erdem show during London Fashion Week February 2019 at the National Portrait Gallery on February 18, 2019 in London, England.

When it comes to eveningwear, opulence is in the air. Halpern’s glimmering mini dresses screamed cocktail hour and Emilia Wickstead’s billowing off-shoulder gowns were positively oozing drama. Erdem stole the show with a collection brimming with glamour and grandeur. The designer’s signature florals were abundant, cast across magenta brocade capes tied with a demure bow, or captured in sequins on ladylike, Jackie Kennedy-worthy cocoon coats. Sixties-inspired skirt suits were woven with bucolic sprigs of roses in a gothic black, while full Fifties-style skirts were paired with contemporary turtlenecks in clashing prints, for a finish that straddled both dark and light.

Good sports

A model presents a creation during the British fashion house Burberry 2019 Autumn / Winter collection catwalk show at London Fashion Week in London on February 17, 2019. / AFP / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS

Could the Rugby World Cup be inspiring Britain’s designers this season? It certainly seemed that way at both Burberry and Wales Bonner, where scrum-ready jerseys paraded down the catwalk, featuring sporty stripes and polo necks. A sporting theme continued at the former, in Riccardo Tisci’s second collection for the London label, with matchside colours, cuffed leather joggers and baggy trackpants bringing a leisurely feel to the season.

The great cover-up

A model walks the runway at the A.W.A.K.E. MODE show during London Fashion Week February 2019 on February 16, 2019 in London, England.

Whether boyfriend-fit blazers, unrestrained trenches or wintry wools, the week was wealthy in frankly fabulous outerwear. Emilia Wickstead found sartorial safety in numbers, layering a light duster underneath a sleek leather coat, with tones of mustard echoing the autumnal feel. Ports 1961 offered cosy, shawl-necked styles, while J W Anderson embraced checked, Sherlock-esque capes for a heritage finish.  A W A K E, meanwhile, took style cues from The Matrix in collarless quilted jackets and belted midis, blending long-line leathers with English countryside hues of russet and caramel for a futuristic take on seasonal stalwarts.


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