Things are finally looking up for London Fashion Week. Burberry is back on the schedule for Daniel Lee’s debut, familiar faces like Julien Macdonald have returned to the lineup, and we’ve even had a surprise appearance from none other than Florence Pugh. All this after the gloom of last season, which saw various cancellations following the Queen’s death last week, and there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful on the FROW.
First up, though, is the biannual rigamarole any seasoned LFW attendee will know well. If you’re anything like me and intend on wearing silly shoes that definitely weren’t made for walking, the first thing to sort out is transportation. This season, I’m lucky enough to be getting between shows in a plush sage green Volvo XC40, which is one of the brand’s most sustainable and smoothest rides.
Speaking of shoes, another key part is figuring out what to wear. With hoards of street style photographers and guests vying for the attention of snappers, simply going into a show can feel a little bit like walking into The Devil Wears Prada, Dipping into the dressing-up box has never been quite so competitive. Some will go for standout theatrical looks – think tulle, neon, and oversized silhouettes – while others channel sartorial insouciance that is, ironically, just as carefully considered as anything else.
I sought the support of My Wardrobe HQ to source my looks, picking up a selection of simple, understated items that would pack a subtle punch, including a tailored Alexander McQueen jacket, a pleated Victoria Beckham dress, and a Burberry trench coat. Sorted.
The final piece to this increasingly elaborate preparatory puzzle is the hair. Mine is rather unruly on the best of days, and with a new fringe that I’m completely incapable of styling myself, I ended up in my local hairdresser, HARI’s, asking for a blow-dry. High maintenance? Me? Never.
And so it was with all this incredibly excessive – and yet, incredibly necessary – preamble that I finally ended up in the back of the Volvo on my way to the Tate Modern for the first show of the season. The Harris Reed show is always a starry affair, with past attendees including Sam Smith and Kim Petras. It was fitting, then, that things would kick off with Reed’s close friend, Pugh, reading a monologue penned by the designer about the importance of self-expression.
“The art of dressing up allows us to express who we truly are,” said the actor, who wore a black velvet corset with a high-waisted sequin skirt, floor-gliding sleeves and a circular headpiece. Titled “All The World’s A Stage”, the collection that followed was a kaleidoscope of silver and gold sequins, rich black velvet, and prom gold lame. Harlequin prints covered tight-fitting body suits worn under corsetry and full-skirted frocks, while Reed’s oversized headpieces reached new heights, as did the sculptural collars that stretched far above models’ heads. Everything sparkled.
Despite this, it was a mildly more subdued collection for Reed, whose previous collections have featured a wider range of palettes, textures, and shapes. Nevertheless, a triumphant show made all the more so by the whiskey and honey cocktails served to guests as they glided in.
The mood was similarly sombre at Bora Aksu, which began with a minute’s silence to honor the victims of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria. The show was accompanied by the sounds of a single cello and a classical pianist, which set a gothic scene for the collection that followed. Black pinafores hung over white lace tights while petticoats found their way over monochrome tulle skirts.
Bar the small set of crimson pieces that covered every part of the models’ bodies, color was kept to a minimum, with the odd flash of pink brought down a peg by black lace overlays and dark lace-up boots. Inspired by “the outcast”, Aksu took his cues from Edward Munch and Wednesday Addams, hence why models wore their hair in black braids and bore such disengaged expressions. A far more gothic aesthetic than we’re used to from Aksu but one that is perhaps more in keeping with current sociopolitical ongoings.
After this, I was in need of a boost. I know, I know, two shows and she’s already exhausted. But trust me: fashion week is not for the faint-hearted. When you combine countless deadlines with long schedules, too much caffeine, uncomfortable shoes, and far too many egos, it takes a physical and spiritual toll. So I popped into the Reviv clinic in central London for a quick IV drip in between shows. Packed with vitamin C and vitamin B12, it’s supposed to give my body an overall dose of wellness. Fingers crossed it keeps me going.
Revived and ready for another show, I asked my driver, Mike, if we could pop into Pret for a quick sandwich – long gone are the days when fashion shows provided free food and drink. Then off we went to Edward Crutchley. Buried in the depths of Sadler’s Wells with surround-sound thrumming bass, the show felt a little like being in a sex dungeon. This was aided by a monochrome-heavy, Matrix-like collection comprising clown-core ruffles, leather bras, and at one point, a leather jock-strap with a G-string that exposed the model’s entire behind to a somewhat tickled crowd.
Ultimately, it was up to fledgling talent Conner Ives to bring things to a close. By this point in the day, the fashion pack are all looking a little zonked. Or maybe that’s just me, who by this point had taken a little nap in the car and felt quite ready for bed. It was one of the rare times I felt grateful that going to a fashion show is, in some ways, like taking the London Underground: people packed tightly together pretending they’re completely alone. No one speaks to anyone – unless you’re part of an elite group of It girls, in which case literally everyone is speaking to you, or trying to take a photo for Instagram.
What a joy, then, to see such an energizing collection from Ives, who was sadly absent from last season’s schedule after making his LFW debut this time last year. The New Yorker’s signature fringed skirts were there in droves, as were colorful printed T-shirts and mismatched knee-high boots. Fleeces made a surprise appearance, with one model grinning at the cameras as she unzipped hers at the end of the runway, as did tailoring, with subtle tones and mannish silhouettes creating a contrast to Ives’ signature flamboyance. The fringed, tight-fitting dresses were a standout; as was the knock-out bridal gown, accessorised with a top hat and veil. If the clothes didn’t wake you up, the soundtrack most definitely would. Featuring dubstep remixes of Justin Timberlake and Fatman Scoop, the bass-heavy music was reverberating through my IV-injected veins.
Overall, then, a mixed bag from the shows. bold? A little. Fun? Sure. Playful? Definitely. But has anything really pushed the boundaries yet? Let’s see what tomorrow brings.
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