London Fashion Week Digital Leads Designers Into The Archives

by Hetty Mahlich on 15 June 2020

London designers looked to their past to envision collaborative futures within the digital space.

London designers looked to their past to envision collaborative futures within the digital space.

For what some expected to be the most future looking fashion week yet, the first fully digital London season saw designers looking back in time.

With COVID-19 having forced the industry into a much needed slower pace, London designers found new stories to weave from their archives. Marques'Almeida launched their new brand re'MAde, created entirely from deadstock fabrics left over from previous collections. Working closely with their network of Portuguese manufacturers, the brocade, checkerboard, polka dot and striped prints the M'A girl knows and loves were tied together along seams and in an abundance of frills. Familiar a-symmetrical skirts, biker jackets and boyfriend jeans in archetypal M'A frayed denim were re-framed with layers of archival fabrics. It was all about '...tidying up the house, and working with what you have' Paolo Almeida said. Showcased via a lookbook and behind-the-scenes documentary film, the limited run of designs is available via pre-order.

In a similar vein, menswear designer Robyn Lynch released a twelve piece capsule using surplus materials from all the way back to her MA collection, mixed together with deadstock fabric donated by cycling specialists Rapha. Using precious scraps from her own past, Lynch refined the hybrid aesthetic of casual wear and heritage craftsmanship that she has developed thus far. The nylon windbreakers sliced together with Aran cable-knits that Lynch does so well have been pushed further to create a zip-knit technical sweater and a pair of shorts with functional zippers. Presented via a lookbook made in collaboration with artist Joe Cruz, Lynch also recorded the process in a home-movie. What begins as a sombre record of the start of the lockdown- with Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's address on the 'calm before the storm' playing over Lynch Zooming her family, facing the confines of her bedroom, and the last moments of blissful unawareness at the showrooms in Paris- soon becomes a moment of opportunity. Documenting the collection coming together, it's clear that optimism can be found in the act of creating, there's joy to be found in the past as we move towards the future.

Robyn Lynch June 2020
Marques'Almeida re'MAde

Sinéad O'Dwyer meanwhile released two developed iterations of her S/S 20 fashion film Silicone Valley, first showcased in February. Made with Agusta Yr, the two-part films have used 3-D to extend the original body of work. Similarly Xander Zhou, who has painted the picture of a dystopian, digital future in recent seasons, used this moment to develop meaning in what we have seen so far. Unable to travel to Beijing where his team are based, Zhou has been working with them virtually to develop the next collection. Feeling it inappropriate to go back to 'business as usual', the menswear designer created a film for June 2020 offering a Critical Update on A/W 20 along with a preview of S/S 21, where a computerised voice talks the viewer through the looks, the cuts, the trimmings, the fit. Both Dwyer and Zhou offer interesting takes on how we might re-consider engaging with garments in a more sophisticated way through our screens.

Per Götesson's offering was a direct response to the current atmosphere of disconnect and loneliness. An archive project of sorts, Götesson and stylist Gary Armstrong brought together the A/W 17 to A/W 20 collections in a lookbook and film. Drawing on the novel Gullivers Travels, a constant source of inspiration for the designer, and the Per Götesson maritime spirit, photographer Jessie Adams visited abandoned seaside spaces. What emerges in Patrick Waugh's collaged photographs and stop-motion film is a surrealist environment in which to find The Ghost of Gulliver. An introspective exercise in re-examining and making concrete what is important to the Per Götesson man, here he finds a sense of home even in the most unfamiliar of climates.

On Saturday evening, Charles Jeffrey's legendary LOVERBOY club night returned. Originally planned as a party to launch the new capsule collection 'Self-Portrait of a LOVERBOY', with the hedonistic spirit of the original parties at it's core, LOVERBOY 2.0 instead returned in a reconfigured format. Live-streamed from the basement of Vogue Fabrics Dalston, where LOVERBOY was born, Jeffrey used the moment as an opportunity to pass the mic to Black and POC voices, whilst also fundraising for U.K Black Pride. Named Solasta, the Scottish-Gaelic for something luminous or shining, the event was presented by Miss Jason, with dancer Malik Nashad Sharpe, singer-songwriter Rachel Chinouriri, poet and activist Kai-Isaiah Jamal and University of Westminster graduate fashion designers Halina Edward and Catherine Hudson all taking part. LOVERBOY's origins in self-expression, community and creating a safe space matured into something even more enchanting and powerful than before.

In the absence of touch and physical connection, London designers made clear that looking to the past can take us into the most meaningful of futures. One can only hope it's an atmosphere which might last.

Still from Sinéad O'Dwyer's S/S 20 'Silicone Valley' fashion film