When London Fashion Week opens its doors twice a year, it brings in a marauding hoard of fashion elites who converge on the streets of London, with their trendsetting posture and their seemingly fail-safe bespoke attires. The bloggers, stylists, make-up artists, editors, writers, photographers, the buyers, the sellers, all come together to engage the progression of high fashion and the commerce that drives it. That evaluation can make or break small designer boutiques and validate larger ones instantly. So it is no surprise that there is stress, there is glamour, there is conflict and there is closure at every show that is lucky enough to have a proper presentation.
Despite the aura of surrealism, fashion, like art, imitates life in its success and failure, whimsy and substance.
The general public gets a glimpse of high fashion in the form of runway shows; a few bloggers and media elites see it through the prism of tightly controlled backstage access that transitions into front row seats of the spectacle. But between the polished catwalks and chaotic back-stages, a lot of effort, a lot of soul searching, a lot of creative ideas emerge and fail in the dust of high expectations and low tolerance for mediocrity. London Fashion Week’s excellence also breeds a competitive edge that cuts through the sentimentality of doing a good enough job and demands doing the best job possible. And there lies the reality of high fashion. There are no shortcuts, overnight success in fashion, everything is weighted, substantiated and sold according to the sense of prevailing aesthetics.
London Fashion Week wrapped up this week amidst the gloom of typically British weather. Despite the doom and gloom of unrelenting rain and occasional cold spell, the catwalks were buzzing with the glitz of celebrities and designers of enviable talent. From the glamour of Burberry to the soho chic, “devil may care” collection of Vivienne Westwood. From the gender bending glitter of Asish to the feminine charm of Zeynep Koltan, from the dark brooding edginess of Ccuoco to the playfulness and colour of Ryan Lo, the runways were anything but monotone.
Vivienne Westwood, Burberry and Paul Smith, being the stalwarts of British fashion, introduced a series of substantive collections that had glamor, grunge and androgyny as the main components of construct. With the added layer of “politics meets fashion” in the Vivienne Westwood show, and it was a strong showing of the best of British fashion. But traditionally, London Fashion Week has always been a springboard for newer Anglophone designers as New York is too restricted, and access to NYFW requires not only talent but also substantial cash backing from investors. This year, LFW was flush with such talents.
Few of the shows (of the newer designers) that stood out were Ryan Lo, Zeynep Koltan, Fydor Golan and Eudon Choi. All four of these shows had an element of classic mixed with the modern. While there were other contenders like Anya Hindmarch and Asish, their collections were more of an experiment in aesthetics than an outright dash to functional clothing.
The intricacies of Zeynap Koltan’s gowns were exceptional and provided a strong contrast with an industry that is making more and more gender-neutral clothing. Ryan Lo incorporated a classic mid 1800s look with modern functionality, while Eudon Choi added a layer of colour and contrast with their new collection. Designers like Christopher Raeburn experimented with geometric shapes, while Roksanda reimagined the jumpsuit within the construct of high fashion meets functionality. The glitz and gloss were evident in Versus, as it paid homage to Donatella’s Versace. JW Anderson found a way to play with pop art on his collection, which he described as “intergalactic Olympics.”
By the time the LFW SS16 called curtains on the proceedings, the spring and summer trends were firmly set for the upcoming year. And amidst the chaos, the glamour, the rain, the crowd what stood out were the celebration of an art form that drives one of the biggest industries in the world, and shapes our understanding of aesthetics in many forms.