To say last week was eventful would be an understatement. With the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, Britain lost its longest reigning monarch having sat on the throne for the last 70 years. As the UK entered a state of mourning, the looming London Fashion Week has the industry in a frenzy as designers, editors, and PR girlies alike navigate this unprecedented event. In a sign of respect the two biggest brands on the schedule, Burberry and Raf Simons swiftly decided to cancel their shows. WWD reported in August that the British-style stalwart and trench coat aficionados were actively looking for a replacement as Riccardo Tisci’s contract comes to an end early next year, meaning we might have been robbed of one last Tisci outing. As for Raf Simons, any fanatic (myself included) has started their own mourning period for the London show that never was. So where does that leave us?
To state the obvious, not everyone is fortunate enough to be valued at billions of pounds. For a brand like Burberry cancelling a show, no matter how grand a spectacle, is much easier than the emerging talents frantically using every resource at their disposal to get their collections finished. So spare me from any patriotic pressure to put fashion week on pause, and let's take the opportunity to do what London does best and continue championing fresh faces like the ones Fashion East will introduce on Friday. Karoline Vitto and Michael Stewart of Standing Ground join the long list of alumni including Chet Lo and Yuhan Wang who are spreading their wings with solo shows. Other highlights include S.S. Daley and Nensi Doaka who are on their way to becoming household names – and they have the LVMH Prizes to prove it. As for the blockbuster brands filling the hole left by Burberry and Simons, we can count on JW Anderson and Richard Quinn to put on a spectacle sure to inspire.
Home to some of the world’s most revered fashion schools, there's always going to be an exciting new crop of recent graduates on the schedule. From Central Saint Martins’ renowned MA Fashion course are Ukrainian designer Masha Popova and Feben who already count Dua Lipa and Beyonce as fans of their respective eponymous brands. It’s the former's memories of the post-soviet suburb she grew up in mashed with the eclectic codes of Y2K that informs her irreverent approach to design. Deconstructed denim and a penchant for butterfly motifs have made her an Instagram it-girl favourite, making her runway debut next week much anticipated.
As for Feben, the designer’s multifaceted collections come from her equally multifaceted background. The Ethiopian designer was born in North Korea, raised in Sweden, and moved to London when she turned 18. Making her runway debut for S/S 22, it’s her sensual use of satin juxtaposed with textural technical fabrics that makes her one of the city's most exciting new names to know.
FUTURE HOUSEHOLD NAMES
Formerly fresh faces themselves, this season sees a slew of designers primed for taking on the global stage with their distinct, highly refined brand identities. Surly still jubilant after snagging this year's LVMH Prize, LFW darling Steven Stokey Daley of S.S. Daley has quickly become a favourite thanks to his romantic take on menswear with previous collections reframing long-held notions of British classism. Come Saturday 17th, his S/S 23 collection will take place at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel. Built-in 1873 the ornate gothic revival building should be the perfect backdrop for Daley’s theatrical inclinations and refined knitwear as the brand expands with womenswear.
Another highlight on the schedule is Dilara Findigoklu who's returning to the runway for the first time since her A/W 20 show. Striking the perfect balance between Victoriana and punk, it’s the Turkish designer's affinity for dark romanticism defined by corsetry and lace that makes her a favourite for gen z style stalwarts Bella Hadid and Addison Rae. Expanding the Findikoglu universe with a swimwear line, it was the captivating campaign starring Lily McNemeny that has us excited for her next chapter.
While the cancellation of Burberry and Raf Simons might have put a damper on things, there is no shortage of designers ready to fill the gap with their own sartorial spectacles. After his brief Milanese love affair earlier this year, JW Anderson is returning to London with its much anticipated S/S 23 womenswear show. Jonathan Anderson’s irreverent resort collection in Milan featured a myriad of everyday objects like BMX handlebars and CDs as adornment. If there was a time to add some playfulness to the mourning streets of London it would be now. I for one can’t wait to see how many pigeon clutches roost on the front row.
Still, if there was one designer to keep on your radar it would be Richard Quinn. Last season’s sickly pink fever dream highlighted the British designer's signature kink meets couture aesthetic with floral opera coats over skin-tight latex suits. Getting a royal seal of approval from Liz herself having received the Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design in 2018, Quinn has become a London staple thanks to his theatrical presentations and sprightly colour palette.