Fashion has become a democracy. From social media to seeing-now-shopping-now to those that walk the catwalk, it revolves around the customer. That might seem like an obvious thing to say, but it’s not – because oftentimes, in fashion, “commercial” comes with dirty connotations; it suggests something isn’t creative, new, forward-thinking, or innovative. But that’s not true. And the savviest and most successful of designers know how to get that balance. And you’ll find a whole host of them in London, most often thought of as being the more eclectic and rebellious capital of the four – aka, not as wearable as the rest, not as business-minded as the rest. But ten years on and a schedule full of names that started out back then and which are now soaring in their label’s success would say otherwise.
Sharon Wauchob Fashion Show Ready-to-wear Collection Spring Summer 2017 London
“It is different,” noted Irish designer Sharon Wauchob backstage after her show this season, which saw her return to the capital after a hiatus in Paris. “I was in London at Central Saint Martins in the Nineties and it’s almost like it’s a new city. It remade me think how I’m doing them [collections, shows] and for what reason. It’s interesting and it does challenge you.”
Wauchob showed a fluid collection of pyjama-loose looks, one that felt refined by comparison to the city’s other collections, and so consequently felt like a fresh addition. “It’s more about having a story and being a bit more free in the individuals you’re casting,” she noted.
Marques' Almeida Fashion Show Ready-to-wear Collection Spring Summer 2017 London
One brand that has made a point of this is Marques’Almeida. The LVMH-Prize-winning duo have fast-tracked themselves to LFW success via their blend of diced, spliced denim combined with an oversized attitude worn by real girls, their girls – in fact, they enlist their fans and customers regularly for their campaigns. This was an extensive collection from this pair, Marta and Paulo, every idea played out to dress-up effect. Lace, ruffles, shirts, streetwear, Nineties, Noughties – it was there and more. And it felt like they had a lot of fun with it – and will no doubt drill down more into just one or two of those areas for their next output.
But they’re not the only ones to get to know their customer: the key for any designer right now. Not just thinking, “Who is my woman?” and coming up with an elaborate backstory, but really getting to know her. And that’s exactly what Paula Knorr did, handing out a questionnaire to 25 women in her surroundings she found to be inspirational. “Some of the answers were really poetic and I tried to transfer that into garments, listening to them and what they wanted,” she explained. “Creating that world where the woman is the most important thing.” So, post-graduation, to get herself back into the design process, she spent one month drawing and painting herself, which ended up as the prints in this, her Spring/Summer 2017 collection. “It’s really nice because I was the explorer for other women and collecting their thoughts and now I’ve brought myself into that,” she described.
Bora Aksu Fashion Show Ready-to-wear Collection Spring Summer 2017 London
Personal exploration and development as a designer also factors. “I think the more you do, the more you refine and get your priorities right. For me, it’s finding that root each season that I’m trying to do, and every season grasp hold of it a little more. I’m doing very personal collections but they’re becoming more rooted,” explained Bora Aksu, who’s now been showing some 15 years on the schedule. For him, despite numerous amounts of travel and inspiration as a result of it, it’s only in London he finds he can actually put pen to paper. “It’s the only place I can design; I create my own cocoon.” For him, it’s worked out well – his emotional and nostalgic collection with their layers of considered frou instantly recognisable as being his. “London always has this amazing ability for being new and creating cool, young designers, giving them the platform to move on to the next step,” he reflects.
David Koma Fashion Show Ready-to-wear Collection Spring Summer 2017 London
One such designer is David Koma, who having launched his eponymous label in the capital after graduating from Central Saint Martins, was subsequently poached for the top job at Mugler, where he’s currently getting it just right. His own collection, too, stands out as a sophisticated and dynamic offering on the LFW schedule.
“I love London, living in London, working in London,” enthused the designer backstage. Monochrome with hits of green neon made his svelte, lithe, and structured silhouettes. “We went with a lot of couture elements, embroidery, the touch of the hand, and then put with flays to make it a bit more youthful,” he explained – this combination providing a “David Koma sportiness” to it all.
Gareth Pugh Fashion Show Ready-to-wear Collection Spring Summer 2017 London
Another designer who managed to work all the layers required now to make it more than a student dream and an actual business was Gareth Pugh – his drama reigned in for draped and wearable pieces among those that were social showstoppers.
Christopher Kane Fashion Show Ready-to-wear Collection Spring Summer 2017 London
Ten years on and the likes of Mary Katrantzou, Erdem, and Christopher Kane, once young new names vying for attention on the calendar, have now proved their worth. They know what the customer wants and how to deliver it. Any stockist's list is testament to that. And London is looking pretty sophisticated because of that, actually.