Out With The New: Reflecting Britishness at LFW

London Fashion Week began with one of the youngest names on the schedule, an Irish-born designer called Richard Malone. But, thanks to Malone, the week also began with a runway littered with remnants, carpet swatches and bolts of old fabric – an irresistibly convenient metaphor for where British fashion seems to be heading. Since the heady days of its explosive Noughties return to form, London’s landscape has been completely redrawn.

RICHARD MALONE FW18 show in London. Picture by Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION.

Stalwarts like Nicole Farhi and Paul Smith have gone, or have reverted to showing abroad, whilst industry darlings like Giles Deacon and Matthew Williamson have withdrawn from the schedule. The survivors of the Noughties supernova generation – Christopher Kane, Roksanda, Erdem, JW Anderson – are now established powerhouses. And the newest kids on the block, naturally enough, are still feeling their way forward. So after a week when New York unleashed a wave of young, bold energy, it was intriguing to turn to a London that seemed fixated once more on its past.

In Malone’s case, all the references had a point; sustainability and reuse has always played an anchor role in his work, as have his boisterous colours and patterns, often drawn from leftover retro source points. This time out, there were less bold clashes and more dramatic sculptural shapes, from shredded, brightly checked layers to swirling greatcoats in poppy red, Klein blue, and earthy greens – adding up to a kind of playful haughtiness that resurfaced over and over again across the day.

PAM HOGG FW18 show in London. Picture by Regis Colin Berthelier for NOWFASHION.

You couldn’t, in all probability, have gotten much more playful (or more haughty) than Dr. Pam Hogg’s late-afternoon show – a show filled with candyland-coloured tulle, glistening PVC, juice-coloured leather, and Ziggy Stardust separates. In place of the second-skin metallics that made her name over three decades ago, there were batwing tunics and high-stepping showgirls in sheer bodysuits festooned with strategically-placed ruffles, zippers, and pearls – a giddily theatrical collection that kept Hogg’s front row of fans, ranging from Yasmin Le Bon to Jo Wood to Lynn Yaeger, noisily entertained.

Across town, in Marylebone, in a towering concrete basement, Ashley Williams managed to do the same for another It Girl (and Boy) generation, from Alexa Chung to Pixie Geldof to Sadiq Khan. Williams shares Hogg’s uncompromising improvisational spirit, and her breezy line-up of SEX-stamped tulle frocks, rave-generation tie-dye separates and slogan tees had a clear appeal. But the collection’s cleaner moments – tailored duotone fleeces, slouchy suits, and neon knits – were the ones that lingered long after the energetic soundtrack faded.

ASHLEY WILLIAMS FW18 show in London. Picture by Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION.

Johnny Coca can hardly be considered a newbie; he’d enjoyed successful stints at Louis Vuitton, Bally, and Céline before landing at Mulberry in 2015. But his transformation of the brand has been stop-start, most notably when he skipped last season in favour of switching to Burberry’s see-now-buy-now model. So yesterday, in ways, he was starting all over again. And the change in tempo was neatly signalled by Coca’s choice of venue. In the past, he’s shown his collections in abandoned printworks and riverside fishmarkets; this time out, the new Mulberry was unveiled in one of the most spectacular mansions in Mayfair, inside a vast rotunda round which models circled in languid shifts and sprigged tea-dresses, all in sugar-soft garden shades of primrose, lilac, and baby blue. It’s not the first time Coca’s referenced the drooping, gentle glamour of 1930s British fashion – in the past, though, those references have been tempered with bold contrasts and stark styling. But yesterday he embraced them full-throttle, from the relaxed approach to tailoring to the slouchy new handbag shapes, to the spectacular whirls of taffeta Noel Stewart had conjured up for the models’ heads. It was a seductive, Cecil Beaton-esque fantasia on British fashion history – right down to Alison Goldfrapp’s emergence on a central podium, like a thoroughly modern ringmaster, to perform at the end of the show.

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