After a lacklustre New York Fashion Week (to say the least), all eyes turned, of course, to London Fashion Week, which has become the default home of the new creative crop of talent. It boasts a history, and a rummage through its archives is what sows that seed and spurs on a new generation of designers each and every season. Press and buyers alike wait eagerly for a new shiny star to throw their weight behind. There isn’t always one, it should be noted, but there are plenty of designers out there willing to give it a go and fill the coveted spot.
Central Saint Martins Fashion Show 2017 in London (by Gio Staiano for NOWFASHION)
London College of Fashion kick-started five days of collections on the eve of LFW: slick in execution, ideas were more restrained than we saw on the Central Saint Martins MA catwalk the next day, but there were a couple of names and themes to note – Lorenzo Buzzi and Gergei Erdei both opted for historic influences when it came to shape and texture, Elizabethan style nods to silhouettes and finely worked surface detail. They made a catwalk impact.
Fast forward twenty-four hours and 16 more hopefuls were out to impress at Central Saint Martins. Two names to register were Stefan Cooke and Gabriele Skucas, the two prize-winning students of the night; showcasing a trompe l’oeil and mosaic menswear collection with a restrained series of knitted skirts, cardigans and shirts that had something rather Amish in dress about them, respectively.
Of course, it’s not always the winning that counts: there were other collections here that had appeal, be it catwalk or editorial or beyond. Markus Wernitznig opened the show to dramatic effect with fuzzy-fluffy coats and colourful sculptural accordion trousers, little black caps to complete the look; while Amir Khorasany offered a palette cleanse with sheer transparent kaftan-cape-not-kaftan-cape creations; zingy pleats and carabiner affixations dangling from the bold kilt-like and scuba-sleek creations of Emma Chopova and Laura Lowena; and the saccharine became edgy, light and cool in the hands of Tom Guy: the womenswear designer and recipient of the Theory scholarship sent out bodiced ball gowns and jumpsuits in pastel-sugar shades. But they were light and caricature elegant, Guy’s – presumably – signature etched on to them to give them verve and make sure they didn’t wander into too-sweet territory. Elsewhere there was tinsel and tight tailoring and it was nice to see that the Vetements effect had more or less moved on when it came to the ideas being explored in these collections. Phew!
On Off Ready To Wear Fall Winter 2017 Fashion Show in London (by Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION)
Prior to Central Saint Martins there had been a good old-fashioned flashback with On|Off making a return to the schedule. After a hiatus, the designer support and showcase initiative headed up by Lee Lapthorne gave us a combination of the cute and the whacky – Luke Anthony Rooney falling into the first category for a capsule of colour-blocked slips which were easy and fun; while Jack Irving, a graduate of the Central Saint Martins MA circa 2014, opted for “creating cosmic worlds” apparently for “alien showgirls to parade through”. Stepping into Gareth Pugh realms, he gave us mosaic leotards, sparkle-encrusted rib constructions and… fashion inflatables. Dinosaur-style, orange peaks blew up into shapes, almost taking out the eyes of the audience. Cue cheers. Because this kind of crazy has always been the lifeblood of On|Off, a champion of the more extreme of the creative talent out there.
Fashion East, too, is another London fashion body that specialises in new talent, though here you’ll find it towing the line between avant-garde and the potential real fashion brands in the making. What we saw today was more sexy kitsch from Mimi Wade, heavily worked and treated layered looks from A Sai Ta of Asai, making his debut with the Fashion East stable. There were some nice pieces here that added a craft layer to the already many layers of the looks. Matty Bovan, a hyped favourite on the London Fashion Week scene, toned down and focused last season's offering which made for a good move. These tangled knit pieces were a more tangible idea, with a little more finesse and direction.
Earlier in the week, Fashion East alumni Ashley Williams (she made her debut in 2013), proved that there is hope and can be a world beyond the support-scheme of fashion - post-which, for so many designers it can sadly become the end of the line. It's not an easy job, after all. Her signature fun and feist came alive for a personality-laden collection that successfully chopped and changed its style cues, combining the American West with loungewear, Clueless plaid with sportswear, Hawaiian prints with cowgirl fringing which came rendered in yoked shirts. It was fun and young – two words that people look to find in London fashion.