If I was to sit and think about how Canadian designer Erdem Moralioglu would spend the lockdown, I’d imagined tucked up in some cozy corner (expertly designed by his architect husband, of course) reading romantic novels and sipping from a glass mug, in lieu of visiting the art galleries and libraries he frequents for inspiration. And it appears he has done just that with Susan Sontag’s 1992 romance novel, The Volcano Lover.
In Sontag’s book, Erdem found plenty of symbolism within that resonated with his feelings during the lockdown, as his press release reads: “The Volcano Lover is an enlightenment romance, played out in the shadow of Vesuvius. The smoking volcano looms large literally and metaphorically; its behaviour is unknowable and untameable – far bigger and more volatile than the psychodramas of the Neapolitan court. As the volcano rumbles and revolution rolls around the continent, everyone understands that the future will be different from the past. It is a precipice moment in time, such as we face ourselves today.“
No doubt, Erdem was also inspired by the protagonist and 18th-century beauty Emma Hamilton so there was plenty of opportunities to design the Austen-esque puff-sleeved empire silhouettes that he favours. For our third time this LFW, this catwalk event was hosted in a woodland setting, and it helped give a sense of real-world practicality to the designer’s decadent gowns when paired with oatmeal cardigans, backpacks and khaki raincoats (except for the slightly ridiculous snakeskin platforms) which helped modernise the historical collection.
British menswear designer Priya Ahluwalia is one of the buzziest names on this season’s LFW roster after an excellent start to 2020 – at the start of the year, Ahluwalia became one of the eight LVMH Prize finalists, was named as a part of Matches Fashion’s Innovators programme and listed as one of the Forbes 30 under 30 on the European Arts and Culture list. Her namesake label combines influences from her Nigerian and Indian heritage, and Nigeria has been of particular influence after a trip to Lagos sparked her fascination with ethical production.
For SS21, Ahluwalia collaborated with Lagos-born British graphic designer Dennis McInnes, and the two explored the political and social unrest of Nigeria in the 1960s. The two investigated archival materials, newspaper clippings and photographers, all of which have now come together with the current global Black Lives Matter protests to serve as the visual foundation for her collection.
This collection is a stand out for Ahluwalia, and you can see that she had considered how the garments would translate digitally as well as looking great IRL. It feels like her most sophisticated collection yet, using more muted tones of beige and grey as a foundation, allowing the muted yellows and greens to pop.
Another of the few in-person shows on the schedule, Bora Aksu took advantage of the beautiful September sun in a catwalk show at St. Paul’s Church in Covent Garden, where guests sat one per socially distanced park bench and masked models picked their way down the steps of the church and a runway of paving stones.
While many designers have referenced the lockdown in their designs, or the people, places and things that have eased their downtime, none have made such a direct pandemic reference as Bora Aksu. Inspired by the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918, and the collection reflected this in three sections – the starched white cotton dresses of WWI nurses, pale blue to signify the grieving period that came after and finally a pink, fluffy series of looks representative of the Roaring Twenties.
The dresses were pretty, but it raises the question – is this how innovators are designing for the future, by merely looking back at the past?
As you would expect from a Beckham collection there are a lot of dresses, from a purple halterneck dress with black lace to an open back lace detailed floor-length silk black gown, a ruched neckline dress in a rose nude shade and a black triangle cut-out jersey dress silhouette. Elegant trousers puddled beyond the heels for a beautifully elongated silhouette. Much like Molly Goddard, Beckham favoured a parakeet green as her accent colour.
Just as Beckham does best, it was a relaxed, wearable collection for the modern women. As our need for formal and workwear has subsided during the lockdown, Beckham has kept her silhouettes loose and comfortable for the adaptable modern woman working from home.
Scottish designer Christopher Kane has turned the artwork he created during lockdown into a free-spirited, one-of-a-kind collection. During lockdown, Kane has rediscovered his love of painting, in his garden in East London where he spent hours creating artworks, from imaginary portraits to abstract pieces bursting with bright colors and glitter. “It’s my creative outlet, filled with my fears and anxiety. This is what I did to just get through lockdown,” he said to Kirsty Wark in an intimate conversation in his studio.
Wark walks through Kane’s recent micro-collection, from his initial inspiration for the paintings to his process of translating the paintings onto clothing, injected with heart-warming family anecdotes. As far as video alternatives to catwalk shows, Kane utilised the digital medium for its strengths – giving us a closer look at the collection, deep insight into his inspirations and sharing personal memories that make the clothes feel that much more special.
In contrast (and certainly not helped by the fact it appeared immediately afterwards in the schedule), LFW darling JW Anderson’s alternative video showcase was a total fail. The brand invited stylist to the stars Harry Lambert and The Crown actress Emma Corrin to the brand’s Soho store for a virtual shopping experience.
In a totally tone-deaf offering, Lambert and Corrin walk around the shop aimlessly, noting how “lovely” everything is and grabbing at the designer garb that they will inevitably be gifted following their role in the video. Meanwhile, viewers at home looked on in a mixture of horror and jealousy, either enraged by the glorified advertising video or envious of the goodies only these select celebs get to see in the flesh (at one particularly eye-rolling moment, Lambert and Corrin joke not to select any dresses for themselves, “because we can just borrow that anyway,” they sneer.)
JW Anderson is arguably one of London’s most beloved designers and one often considered at the forefront of his field. However, this video totally missed the mark. London Fashion Week has never and is not a shopping expedition except for the uber rich, and to ignore the opportunity to showcase a behind-the-scenes look at the collection’s production, or an in-sight into the designer’s process, at the very least, seems like a missed opportunity.
I will, however, hold my final judgement until next week, where Anderson will be showing his collection off-schedule. The show will be live-streamed on his website and across social channels on Monday 28th September 2020, 1PM BST / 2PM CEST / 08AM EDT.
Katie Ann McGuigan
Irish-born, London-based designer Katie Ann McGuigan makes a conscious effort to source her collection locally, from sewing technicians, pattern makers, shoemakers and factories to textile sourcing and yarns.
A recurring theme this season, for SS21 McGuigan found inspiration in her own family history alongside Irish photographer Tom Wood’s work capturing every-day scenes in the North of England from the same period, with McGuigan being drawn to the furnishings inside the homes of his subjects, informing prints, graphics and artworks in her collection. The collection features her signature hand-dyed casual sets, hand-printed leather jackets and trench coats. Crepe de chine and organza digital print dresses with matching silk scarves were highlights of the collection, creating effortless head-to-toe printed looks.
The collection is an excellent addition to McGuigan’s brand and shows a maturity in her design. While previous collections have heavily featured partywear, for SS21 McGuigan’s summery separates are the ideal uniform for working from home (although we’re hoping it won’t come to that by next summer!).
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