By the end of London Fashion Week, one feels saturated, stuffed, full to the brim. Having gorged for days on the incredible talents our capital has to offer, guests at the closing show can be lethargic, perhaps even jaded. But not today, not when a talent like Richard Quinn shows.
Gaggles of schoolchildren crowded outside 180 Strand this afternoon; Quinn had invited students from the art classes at his former schools: Chislehurst and Sidcup Grammar School, St Thomas More Catholic Comprehensive School and Central Saint Martins. Uniformed bodies took up key seats at the show, ousting bloggers and editors from their usual seats. Touching as this move was, it was motivated by more than just nostalgia. Quinn was making a statement about government cuts to arts education, quoting the 34% drop in arts GCSE entries between 2010 and 2018.
As the show started, an excerpt from Rossini’s overture to his opera William Tell, swelled around the space, played by a live orchestra - a selection from the London Philharmonic played their first runway show. As the first looks came out, whispers of 'Balenciaga' could be discerned - well, from my mouth, at least. There were silhouettes that were clearly inspired by Cristobal - see the puff ball dresses, the broad-shouldered coats. That being said, this was no Demna homage, this was Quinn riffing on styles he's learnt from and vamping them up.
Lana Del Rey's Young and Beautiful played, and the orchids surrounding the catwalk made sudden sense. Quinn was referencing The Great Gatsby; as thickly sequinned twenties flapper dresses emerged, a feeling of heady hedonism was evoked. Lusty roses bloomed on dresses, maintaining Quinn's reputation as the crown prince of prints. As the collection evolved, the florals did too - tropical flowers, hibiscuses and begonias, came on long, diamanté-trimmed kaftans.
Mixed animal prints appeared as the collection continued; on one alarmingly real looking coat, I wondered what the pelt was. Thankfully, they are all leather - this season, London Fashion Week is fur free.
The beading, the silks, the feather trims, all looked eye-wateringly luxurious. A rose-print dress with closely sewn sequins demonstrated the exceptionally refined craft that Quinn cultivates. Much of what was clear in this collection was the investment - both monetary and timely. Last season, Quinn famously won the Queen Elizabeth II award, and with this came international prestige. Quinn has been quoted saying that his business 'blew up' in the aftermath of this award; here, we saw that his designs have kept up with this growth.
The richness of the collection was palatable. This show reminded us why fashion keeps us hungry, why shows like this keep on satiating our unlimited appetites again and again. Congratulations, Richard Quinn.