Before London’s final day of shows had even begun, editors’ social media feeds had already begun to switch focus to Milan. These days, designers only have an audience’s attention for a moment - and, depending on your place in the schedule, some can be lucky to have a moment at all. “Isn’t it a shame that more people aren’t seeing this!” one journalist sighed in the front row at J JS Lee’s show - an assured outing that placed Lee’s trademark tailoring skills firmly front and centre. Prince of Wales-check dresses and skirts were cut long, with subtle drawstring cinches at the waist and knee, whilst trousers sat suspended from slim accent waistbands. Cool mint, ice white and camel shades kept the collection’s mood firmly on the low-key side, allowing Lee’s mottled-wool cocoons and bandage-wrapped overcoats to shine.
Emilio de la Morena Fashion Show Ready to Wear Collection Fall Winter 2017 in London (by Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION)
It may have been a subtle show, but Lee is slowly building a successful brand, retailed everywhere from London’s DSM to Tokyo’s Isetan. Most of the final-day designers, in fact, were sharply focused on maximising their moment in their own specific ways. Kicking the day off, Emilio de la Morena’s puffy, ruffly cocktail frocks and sheer skirts overlaid on piles of colourful feathers were perfectly matched to his sparkly, It Girl-heavy front row. Richard Malone, a Fashion East alumnus making his solo debut, had students lining the walls of the presentation space, sketching his models’ graphic, retro sportswear separates - but he’d also had a larger captive audience thanks to a prime slot on the cover of this weekend’s Stella Magazine, where his SS17 clothes were worn by resurgent Nineties supermodel Cecilia Chancellor. And Faye Toogood may have had one of the last slots of the day - but visitors to Somerset House’s International Fashion Showcase would already have been attuned to her remarkable, slow-fashion approach; Toogood designed the exhibition’s setting, with piles of bricks and fabric daubed with London clay.
It’s one of the most remarkable things about London, in fact - how, despite the odds, new names continue to creep through the cracks. Whilst the big-name editors were lined up on Christopher Kane’s front row, their assistants (and future replacements) were Instagramming Shrimps’ primly-pretty separates against the presentation’s furred white backdrop, and tweeting excitedly about Turkish designer Dilara Findikoglu, whose wildly-embellished Marilyn Manson bride-inspired collection injected a note of dark Gothic decadence to the schedule. Late on Sunday night, a select few made it to the Horse Hospital in Bloomsbury to see Lily McMenamy cavort in Symonds Pearmain’s full-throttle club wear. And this afternoon, in the East End, Isa Arfen’s models lured the audience along an intricate spiderweb tightrope route, wearing vibrant harlequin patterns and splashes of opulent texture.
The challenge, of course, is survival. Each of these names, in dramatically different ways, has proven their skill at grabbing the limelight. Come next season, though, where will they be? Beyond the hype, the world is looking bleak for young designers. And even the established ones are battling to endure. Hopefully, they’ll all still be in contention next season; London’s schedule would be a considerably duller place without them.