London Fashion Week Round-up Autumn / Winter 2020

Burberry A/W 2020. Photography: Burberry

It would be hard to write about London Fashion Week A/W 2020 without mentioning the UK’s withdrawal from the European union. Too soon to understand the impact it will have on the industry due to ongoing negotiation, it seemed like the international fashion press were looking to London to see how this season’s creative output would be translated through a post-Brexit lens.

We are all well-versed in socio-economic studies of how certain climates throughout history affect the clothing we wear but in a digital era, where we are sophisticated in both our analysis and consumption of fashion, it seems simplistic to talk solely about trends. Which leaves us asking: what purpose will fashion serve in this new era, and how will this translate in economic terms within the context of a global fashion market where London has been seen historically as a creative success, rather than a financial one?

The first subtle shift was the absence of prominent names from the schedule. Though the reasons of course varied, a debate has swirled for a number of years as to whether showing a twice-yearly catwalk show is a necessary commitment for every brand. These ideas seemed to have a certain pertinence this season. Interestingly, brands like Kiko Kostadinov, long seemingly crafting his brand’s unique vision for a number of seasons now, presented an off-schedule presentation in a venue that felt appropriate to the brand. Designers Symonds Pearmain, who historically have chosen to push boundaries with how they choose to present their clothing, chose to shoot the collection in look book format this season.

The most striking shift of the season were the brands with a few seasons under their belts who demonstrated new approaches to the industry’s harmful practices. Most notable of these were Richard Malone and Phoebe English whose show notes read like a call-to-arms. Detailed manifestos that broke down the catch-all term of sustainability felt authentic.

Malone’s commitment to new ways of producing fashion responsibly at every point of production was inspiring to say the least. Recycled fabrics were still core to the collection but it was his commitment to ensuring that workers on his collections get paid fairly which felt ground-breaking. Phoebe English radical commitment to sustainability saw her making her entire collection around fabrics that already existed here in London. She collaborated with a network of designers repurposing leftover fabrics, creating a collection of patchwork pieces, that have their own history and tell a unique story pertinent to this time.

There were also shows that gave us a well-needed dose of escapism. Richard Quinn’s show was a feat of grand proportions and soaring colour and reminded us that there is still a place in fashion for this kind of creativity. Matty Bovan also shared this proclivity for dramatic dimensions. His garments were inspiring in both their structure and detailed exploration of textiles. Yasuko Furata’s Toga was also preoccupied with proportion in the shape of some very desirable coats. She described the collection as “protective clothing for uncertain times” and there was also plenty of the kind of off- kilter accessories that we expect to see from the brand.

And lastly the minimalists. Newcomer to the schedule Nensi Dojaka (featured last year) showed as part of Fashion East and whose take on 90s minimalism nodded to Helmut Lang. A.W.A.K.E MODE is one to watch, with Natalia Alaverdian fast becoming a kind of fashion sorceress, simply beguiling us with very beautiful clothing.

We’ve chosen 7 of our favourite shows below which sum up the week.

Richard Quinn

Revealing a stage adorned in heavy, luxurious and floral curtains, singer Hannah Grace serenaded a tender rendition of Abba’s Dancing Queen while sumptuous and billowy shapes graced the runway. Boasting bright flashes of yellow, fuchsia, ruby red and forest greens, Quinn’s collection exuded a regal atmosphere. A glittering crystal and pearl chain mail armour suit and gown opened the London couturier’s procession of dazzling looks, the words “God Save the Quinn” and “I Love You” emblazoned throughout the pieces.

Whimsical, colourful and ornate full-skirted and corseted mini-dresses in impactful prints followed, hints of BDSM poking through in different forms, whether it be Quinn’s signature face masks encrusted in sharp silver spikes or diamanté, or a slick, full-bodied black vinyl catsuit worn underneath a short-skirted tapestry dress decorated with plush bows and dripping with crystal. Polka dots, large silk roses and feathers were thrown in to add to the collection of looks perfectly suited to the modern-day Marie Antoinette.

Menswear was also incorporated for the first time into Quinn’s collection, with looks fit for a king. Glittering houndstooth beading decorated patterned tailored suiting and tartan, feathered and rose-patterned corsetry was paired with sleek black trousers decorated in glittering beaded polka dots. As the final exquisite gowns circled back to take their place on stage and face the audience, one couldn’t help but shed a tear as Quinn stepped out to greet his subjects, his army of silk-swathed, crystal and pearl adorned models behind him. God Save the Quinn, indeed – and long may he reign.

Toga

“Dresses, shoes, and coats with down that let you sleep anywhere” were the words used in the show notes to describe Toga’s A/W 2020 collection. Inspired by the idea of protection in a time of uncertainty and existential questioning, designer Yasuko Furata put functionality at the forefront of her designs this season – without compromising on style. Set against a stark, cement backdrop of what looked like an underground car park, there was an eerie feeling of dystopia in the room as Furata’s looks circulated the catwalk. It was like preparing for the worst – while looking your best.

As it turns out, Toga proved that doing so is much easier than one would think, through an agglomeration of tent-sized, slick vinyl puffer coats and sandals with feather-lined soles. Large, deconstructed knitwear was paired with ‘bin-bag chic’ straight-leg trousers in shades of burgundy, teal and navy blue. Oversized trench coats and suiting revealed PVC lining shining against large lapels, and latex elbow gloves shone underneath rolled-up sleeves.

However, not all was dark and functional – nuances of pastels were found in a lilac floral-print suit and bright turquoise flower-patterned frocks and coats, perhaps to represent a glimmer of hope that there might be a light at the end of the tunnel after all. Either way, rest assured that thanks to Toga, we’ll be prepared, come what may.

Richard Malone

Always a strong voice in the London Fashion Scene in regards to sustainability, Richard Malone’s A/W 2020 showcased an experimental approach in the creation of the clothes – by using all-natural dyes made from unusual and innovative methods, producing rich, muted shades of brick red, olive greens, terracotta brown and delicious aubergine for the perfect autumnal colour palette.

Repurposed leather was cut into belted trench coats and patchworked into colourful co-ords of tailored trousers and sleeveless structured tops. Deconstruction was subtle, worked through the pieces as cut-outs of specific parts of the body to reveal a collar bone, a hip, a shoulder; hinting at elements of sensuality while covering most of the female form.

Shapes taken from Malone’s SS20 collection made a re-appearance, as massive, stitched geometric dresses bounced on the catwalk. One sensed an equestrian tone to the collection, seen in elements such as belted and corseted bridles strewn over ruched dresses, tops and skirts paired with 70s inspired platform riding boots. Thanks to Richard Malone, we’re ready to saddle up and ride off into the sunset of a more sustainable world.

Nensi Dojaka

Contrasting against the stark white walls and pillars of the Old Truman Brewery, Nensi Dojaka’s dark and neutral-toned designs made their mark as ones steadily on the rise to great success.

Hues of olive green and chestnut brown strewn and draped across the models’ figures, following the body’s curves and movements while revealing bits of skin through deconstructed, gauzy fabrics. Deconstruction and ruching dominated in the design of the garments, from a one-shouldered long-sleeved chestnut-hued minidress to a translucent black pencil skirt with gauzy front pockets, paired with a matching bralette peeking out from underneath an oversized blazer. Even silk tights were ruched, with triangular stitching zig-zagging up the front of the leg, creating a singular line from toes to thighs.

Mixing strong elements of a masculine wardrobe such as the black blazer, straight-leg low-waisted black trousers and a charcoal collared shirt with highly feminine textures and pieces of lingerie gave the overall collection a high level of sex appeal, a tasteful raunchiness, if you will – but in a delicate, subtle way. Harboured underneath the umbrella of Fashion East, Dojaka’s first collection with the brand incubator proved to be nothing short of a great success – and we will definitely be keeping our eyes and ears peeled for more.

Burberry

A part of Riccardo Tisci’s genius is in the fact that he leaves no customer base untouched. From classic Burberry-check lovers, to street-style devotees, most of us can find something desirable in the iconic British label. Since his takeover in 2018, Tisci has used this approach, creating sharp separations between the different aesthetics; however, AW2020 proved to a more singular idea, blending the street and the classic seamlessly to create one whole look.

Classic, ensembles were complemented by quilted puffer coats, followed by a succession of colourful, grungy checked shirts, layered or tied at the waist. Varsity-inspired polo shirts and jumper dresses also made an appearance, possibly Tisci’s way of paying homage to the preppy side of Burberry’s heritage. Flashes of chartreuse, brick red and bright steel blue contrasted against an otherwise neutral palette of glossy blacks and the classic range of nudes.

The classic check was translated and reinvented through full-bodied bodycon ensembles, slip dresses and on trench coats and bombers for both male and female. Glittering sequined dresses and suits, as well as diamanté fringing on corset-waisted dresses, finished off the collection, leaving us, if even possible, hungry for more.

A.W.A.K.E MODE

A.W.A.K.E MODE is always a show we look forward to at Fashion Week; Natalia Alaverdian never fails to enchant us with beautifully crafted pieces that stand the test of time, all while maintaining a whimsical twist – a skill she most likely incorporates from her love of film. Autumn/Winter 2020 proved to be no different, as the designer wowed us with yet another blockbusting collection.

Always the expert at female suiting, Alaverdian constructed soft structural shapes that embraced the female form, as well as classic peak-lapel shirt dresses with full, maxi length skirts. Pleating rippled throughout the ensemble of looks, flowing out into a tent-like shape from a simple roll-neck or as the skirt of a dress. Thick quilting was another essential in this collection, used on long, boxy coats and as a wraparound pencil skirt, thus bringing an element of functionality.

As a whole, the collection was tinted with Soviet-chic, minus the severity; and Alaverdian included a fair share of fun elements to create the perfect well-rounded wardrobe. Flashes of zebra print and bright cherry reds brightened up the palette, and strong elements of tin foil silver and holographic textiles showed the undeniable influence of flying saucer chic. Somehow, these unusual colours were reworked into wearable, classic items, to the point of us asking ourselves why we don’t own more holographic pieces in our staple wardrobes – and Alaverdian proved yet again that classic never has to mean boring.

Matty Bovan

Joining the movement towards grandiose proportions this season, Matty Bovan’s dystopian comic girl superhero, with a penchant for craft, stalked the runway for Bovan’s AW20 oeuvre entitled ‘Off World Aesthetic Exit’.

This season, individual pieces seemed to grow in sophistication with pinstripe fabric and suiting as part of the collection. A touch of executive-realness sprinkled with Matty Bovan fairy dust (read styled upside down, spliced and covered in Swarovski crystals!) Bovan’s gift for experiments in fabric manipulation included combined offcuts of London public transport Moquette, lamé jacquard with salvaged plastic fringing and upcycled denim courtesy of Fiorucci. There were even some Liberty fabric cushions nestling under coquettish tulle dresses.

Silk velvet crinolines and knitted ‘flag pole’ constructions were a high point, as were our aforementioned heroines gazing through ingenious ‘net curtain’ structures. Print was interwoven throughout the collection as were ‘Americana’ inspired knitwear pieces an unusual move for a designer so rooted in ‘Englishness’ the result was some very desirable pieces.

Despite all the un-doubtable skill and light-heartedness of the collection the end of the show notes which highlighted the very real concerns at the core of Bovan’s work. What relevance does creating fashion have in 2020 and how can we minimise the amount of over-consumption and waste it generates. If these questions are explored with an equal amount of joy that Bovan exhibited within his show, we’re in for a glorious ride!


Introduction by Shirley Amartey, catwalk reviews by Rose Langis