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By Libby Borton

After a tumultuous year in Britain, with politically catastrophic lows and highs of social unity, the response from designers has been complex and wondrous. With such downcast hearts, many seek to return to better times, rejuvenate, restore innocence and rebel against hate and greed. From heavy, teen-like grunge wear of camouflage and tartan, to childlike floating florals, ruffles and ribbons, the compass points to revival and rebirth. Gutsy and loud, they clash against the grey-scape cage, breaking out of misery and despair and looking forward with a mischievous grin.

Just you wait and see.


LFW has reached a higher consciousness, using more faux fur, recycled materials and ethical fabrics than before. Preceding official LFW events, VIN + OMI’s show was almost violent in its aggression against climate change, featuring a very notable Debbie Harry wearing a recycled plastic jacket. Later in the week, Vivienne Westwood was joined by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Kahn, to promote The Fashion SWITCH campaign for a greener future, which reaches out to brands and businesses to use a green energy supplier by 2020.


If there’s anything we can take from LFW, it’s comfort is key, and the baby-doll dress is the perfect attire for prancing about in. Whilst Erdem and Simone Rocha performed just as well, Molly Goddard stole the show with full flounce and unabashed attitude. Led by the nonchalant swagger of Edie Campbell, cigarette in mouth and wine in hand, a festoon of frills and tulle were twirled to astound the audience. With curls tamed by thick Alice bands and bare feet, it’s an odd reminiscence of a child at play. Just with alcohol.


The trusty trench coat has had a bold transformation, thanks to Burberry, Marta Jakubowski and Marios Schwarb. From block colours to sheer matt plastic, the well-loved coat is enjoying a renaissance, banishing its usual beige for brighter shades of green and red. Its iconic structure is elongated and made dramatic, with almost spherical shape and large lapels. Similarly, the blazer is shifting from fitted to boxy, with playful accents and big buttons.


Let loose your locks and scrunch your hair, curls and waves are breaking out from the strict lines of straightened hair. Twist, bunch and crimp for a versitle look, triumphed by Richard Malone, Shrimps, Pam Hogg and Ashley Williams. The silhouette of an untamed do mirrors the fluid and unrestrictive clothes, whilst using techniques previously favoured in the eighties and nineties.


Reverting to the vagueness of childhood memory and half-remembered dreams, a few designers translated myth and imagination into swirling and tumbling dresses to sweep the catwalk. Most notable was Pringle, whose history, which could be so heavy and unyielding, floated onto stage in rippling fabrics of silk, gauze and cashmere, igniting a sense of fantasy. Like selkies from the sea, bound in loose knitted dresses the colour of fishing nets, the collection was a breath of Scottish air. Keeping to their roots paid off, creating a beautiful landscape of pale blue sea and yellow gorse, pocketed with barks of orange and stormy black.


Despite some designers still insisting on using real fur and leather, one animal-loving designer, Hannah Weiland, is taking a quite stand against such uses, by adorning her models in faux leather and fur for her brand Shrimps. With Doctor Seuss appeal, fluffy slippers shuffled across the stage, whilst robes of lime green and white trailed behind. Some models clutched furry emerald handbags as if it were the first day back at school. The wide-eyed innocence was attractive and thought-provoking, warmly received by campaigners and fashionistas alike.


Tommy Hilfiger’s ultimate model, Gigi Hadid, ended London Fashion Week with a flourish, making the event a family affair with Bella and their younger brother, Anwar. With all eyes on her, she naturally stopped the show, strutting her stuff in understated grunge-wear with over the knee black socks and billowing black and red florals. Gigi has an impeccable quality of elevating simple outfits to trend-setting heights, so be sure to keep your eyes open for those copycats who’ll come creeping after her.


Veering from the delicate sigh of spring, this coming year is brimming with fluorescent flowers, banishing the more fragile pastels to the side-lines. Liberty print fed on a hallucinogenic drip, then dipped in acid, Richard Quin’s head-to-toe floral body suits are draped, wrapped and swathed in classic 1960s designs. The layering he created comes across as a homage to the herbaceous borders of house-proud wives, whilst also giving a nod to the abundant creativity of nature. The Queen of Print, Mary Katranzou, has some equally psychedelic flowers in less-structured and more blooming shapes. Dip me in honey and call me a bee, I’m a hive of yearning for this bouquet.


Riding the interstellar space wave, Jack Irving’s avant-garde designs abducted the On|Off show and took it to another dimension. Jagged bodices, over the knee boots and inflatables shimmered with starlit glamour and alien attraction. The iridescent sheen of green and burnt amber was almost out of this world steam punk, with a kind of brazen drama that eclipsed Luke Anthony Rooney and CAPLANENTWISLE’s more understated designs.


Patterns, stripes and clashing prints in candy colours and pastels alike were rife throughout the week, heralding a more fun-loving and cheek-pinching year ahead. Fluid trousers with vertical stripes, reminiscent of circus stilt walkers, and bold geometric prints were flaunted over the catwalk, most notably by Burberry, Emporio Armani and Peter Pilotto, to name just a few. Coax yourself out of the shell of black and bland, and play with eye-catching colours and pick-and-mix patterns.


Up to the knee, on the knee, over the knee, these boots were made for walking and they’re everywhere. Whether half-hidden beneath rippling dresses or as the statement of the outfit, knee-high boots have lent a little drama and sass to this year’s styles, raising an understated outfit to stop-and-stare proportions. Now in block colours, the classic black boot has found a new lease of life in royal blue and blood red.


Both on and off the catwalk, the summer dress was still in use, now fluttering over jeans and half-hidden beneath heavy coats. Block colour fitted dresses were emphasised by pattern-wielding t-shirts and tops, and, in particular, Marques' Almeida used asymmetric vests over shirts to create a dynamic shape. With plenty of clothes with intentional cut-outs and tears, it’s the perfect chance to add a pocket of colour and movement. 


Derived from Scandi chic and quiet Japanese contentment, minimalism has now pervaded how we dress. Favouring only a handful of block colours, designers such as Margaret Howell, Rejina Pyo, JW Anderson, Joseph and Marta Jakubowski have devoted themselves to the ideal of less is more. Whilst still creating daring designs and unusual shapes, their collections are modest, abstaining from garish patterns and outlandish styles. Instead, many of them have gone back to the classic tailored suit or two piece and given it a structural twist.


If given the choice, I don’t think many of us would want to grow up, and, within London Fashion Week, we don’t have to. Cute dresses, adorned with bows and ruffles, came tumbling from the Tim Burton-esque Ryan Lo, whilst Burberry injected frivolity into their rigid, ceremonial dress by deconstructing them and layering with knitted tank tops. Whilst we’ll talk playing pirates later, there’s something to be admired in the wealth of floating dresses any Wendy would love to soar away in.


With the smug charm of a pretentious teenager, the likes of Burberry, TOPSHOP and VERSUS use gritty themes to develop an unexpected and yet completely appropriate combinations on their catwalks. From the revamped trench coat to old-fashioned florals layered with metallic dresses, these outfits are tongue-and-cheek, flaunting a punk attitude, which tramples tradition underfoot. Considering the divide between the youth and the middle-aged currently, the aesthetic clash is both visceral and thrilling.


Akin to the theme of Neverland, where there are children who never grow up, there are also swashbuckling pirates. House of Holland’s stormed through the seas with its sumptuous display of pirate chic, featuring waves of red and blue and tricorn hats of red ruffles. On the shore, Steventai channelled a beachy theme with beachball belts, boxy, block colour shorts and vertical striped trousers. Be sure to cast your eye over to Emporio Armani’s adorable and oddly Australian-looking pattern of crabs and seashells in their latest collection, too.


Sophia Webster is renowned for her whimsical footwear and accessories, and this year was no different. Her inspiration came from the Cottingley Fairies, photographs taken in the Victorian era and were believed by many to be true depictions of the elusive creature. With elegant swooping heels and cute handbags, embroidered with beads to read Chick Flix and Frills, Roses are Red and I’ll bring you Flowers. You’ll be whispering ‘I do believe in fairies, I do, I do’, in no time.


Red is ripe for the picking, puckering its lips in a few key collections. As a striking accent, it reared its head in the guise of boots and tights in a ‘The Scarlet Letter’ inspired collection by Preen by Thornton Bregazzi and in Temperley London’s shoes, belts and lips. As a head to toe ensemble, Antonio Berardi used a beautiful merging of traditional shape and vibrant colour, and Bora Aksu used polka dots and stripes for a romantic, almost gothic appeal.


Your mother’s safe suburban chic was given a cheeky redevelopment by Anya Hindmarch, whose bespectacled models traipsed about the catwalk in sensible flats, heavy cardigans and very small knickers. Peter Pilotto used similar shades, redefining the shell suit. Like Stepford Wives, their pursed lip attitude was scintillating and overbearing, but the real show stopper was the collection from Christopher Kane, whose inspiration came from the pursuit of the proper woman. Encumbered with ruffles and delicate fabrics, it led to wondering about the real woman beneath. 


Fashion East was an overflowing, bubbling pot of textures, clashing patterns and jagged shapes. Loose knitted dresses tumbled under white shawls and tops hung from one shoulder, in patterns ranging from African, Aztec and modern. It was a true cacophony of the abundant delights of the East, a celebration devised by ASAI, Matty Bovan and Supriya Lele.


Whether constricted by the camera, staring gormlessly into the phone or pattering on a laptop keyboard, our generation is steadily becoming boxed in by technology. Hussein Chayalan took this idea and brought it to life in his latest collection, where models, at first, wear understated suits of grey in traditional tailoring, with gauze veils and sunglasses to obscure their faces. It was then taken further and more literally with rectangular cut-outs being fitted to frame the model’s face, as if she were trapped by society’s expectations.


The ruffle and wave of structured fabrics could not be ignored this September, featured by the likes of Minki, Emilio De Morena, David Koma and Fyodor Golan. Fabrics of all colours were ruched and ruffled to add volume and drama to tight-fitting dressers and oversize shirts. Like coral in the sea and the undulating aquatic life it hosts, it lent a natural flamboyance, reflecting the changing times and the adaption that comes with it. 


Simone Rocha returned with ultra-feminine silhouettes of shimmering white silk and Victorian lace, seeming both virginal and wise, with her iconic florals littering coats and dresses alike. Roksanda took inspiration from Wassily Kandinsky, whose surreal artworks were a response to revolution. Her white dresses bear the same swipes and paint-like texture of the brush, a bare canvas on which to design. Wistful for a time of originality and organic exploration in a cluttered world, both Roksanda and Rocha’s collections are an exploration for the soul.

Xiao Li

Taking a stand against fast fashion with her SS18 collection, I am Not a Robot, Xiao Li used a mix of mesh and organza to make feminine dresses of blistering red and candy pink. With strict lines and bold shapes, they seemed almost pre-packaged as if Barbie’s from the box, whilst the sheer and alternative use of fabric brought it out of norm. As if an audible tearing, Li seems to try and tear out of the constrictions of consumerist demands, making traditional garments with elements of radical difference.


London Fashion Week’s latest collections sent us sighing with nostalgia. Harking as far back as the Victorian era, many designs were cumbersome in curtain-heavy fabrics, ballooning like ball gowns and William Morris-esque patterns. Trailing forward in time the 1960s was very prevalent, such as Pam Hogg’s space-age bodysuits in pastel pink and green and Luke Anthony Rooney’s minimal geometrics. With Erdem’s high ponytails and Ryan Lo’s ribbons, the 1980s gave a more girly side to proceedings before it was squashed under the boot of 1990s grunge. We got it all, and we got it young.


With oversize dresses, relaxed suits and bare feet having dominated the catwalk, we are left feeling loose and fancy free, and more than willing to embrace the idea of comfort clothing. After all the political upheaval and uncertainty, what better way to calm the nerves than sink into something soft and pillowy and Mother of Pearl’s latest collection has just the thing. Paired with luxurious pyjamas are frilled cushions, plump and inviting, some of which were handbags and others tantalising tastes of their new lifestyle range. Pass the pillow, it’s nap time.

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