As the Spring/Summer 24 show season continues, we move straight in from New York and into London. One of my biggest takeaways from NYFW is that it made me appreciate London more. The designers – especially the emerging ones – have some real talent, care about the right things and are making an actual impact among not only fashionaires but also the unassuming, general shoppers. This year, The British Fashion Council is celebrating 30 years of NewGen, the initiative that supports the best emerging design talent and has nurtured the likes of Erdem, Roksanda, JW Anderson and Wales Bonner. The BFC has collaborated with The Design Museum for a NewGen Exhibition spotlighting designs from previous recipients and celebrating their work at the start of their respective careers. The current recipients represent a promising future for London Fashion Week, with their signature aesthetics, creativity and deep storytelling.
Phoebe reminds me of the idolised anti-fashion elites from Japan. She will do what she has always done regardless of ‘trends’ or other movements – she sticks to her values and executes them season in, season out. In the Iconic Images Gallery in St. James, we witnessed another signature dynamic presentation. Her environmental activism in fashion is among the best, the messaging has profound detail and unlike many, she believes we can be the solution as much as we are the problem. Among her models was fellow activist and author of Consumed: The Need for Collective Change: Colonialism, Climate Change and Consumerism, Aja Barber.
Much of the fabric used in the collection was old; hotel bedding, bridal cut-offs and surplus. English again collaborated with British outerwear specialist Lavenham and their exclusive, fully traceable British wool. She also partnered for the first time with second-hand specialist Glass Onion Vintage. The Lavenham quilting added heritage to clean and modern tailoring pieces, including a dark beige trench with petal-like soft lapels, also coming in a shortened version for men, another in black with a cropped sleeve and asymmetrical neckline. The softness was clear, comfortable pieces had panache and were refined with wrap and tie fastenings, swoopy blunt lapels and slouchy, relaxed silhouettes.
NewGen designer Dimitra Petsa treated us to a mythological self-love story. Looking to her own Greek heritage, a goddess figure was transported through the space by dancers, in her signature wet-look cut-out dresses. The show depicted the personal growth one goes through from navigating sexualisation as you age. It was like watching a fashion version of Immortals, as models came through the runway as soothing waves, to the sound of Violet Wilson’s angelic voice. Petsa has managed to keep her signature looks whilst also progressing her designs making the collections feel fresh, whilst also continuing to storytell with great strength.
Dresses began by looking torn and cracked with thin-threaded tears barely holding pieces together, and full-length rips down silky trousers, mirroring the brokenness of early trauma. Nude palettes on floor-length dresses covered in delicate pearls represented vulnerability, always connected by elements of the sea. The show was both visceral and tactile, with trompe l’oeil looks and multitudes of fabrics, some silk, lace, crochet, prints, leather and denim. The cracks pulled in closer, more restored and the confidence returned, white gowns closed, the slits crossed with ribbons formed from the self-healing, black looks added a touch of fierceness and self-assurance with a sexy, elegant silhouette and asymmetrical exposed shoulders.
It’s not all about spikes! Lo has dressed some enormous talent for immense occasions and editorials with their signature spiked ensembles. However, for the past couple of seasons, he has proven that he’s so much more than a one-trick pony. This collection introduced new esoteric tailoring options with faux lapel details and cross cut-outs on bodily vertices in a tight accentuated silhouette. The looks were fierce and sexy, and even the menswear exuded an expressive “look don’t touch” quality. You wouldn’t want to rub shoulders with the outward spiked sleeves or shoes (or thong, for that matter).
The menswear tailoring was equally “perverted” as Lo describes it, with slim but loose, open-chested suiting and thin red ribbon bonded around the torso and obliques. It was saucy and sumptuous, exploring sexuality with a devious volcanic edge. Encapsulated by red body-hugging trousers slapped with Chinese erotic prints and Japanese Shunga with popcorn tank tops, satin and lace-up sleeves. It may have been inspired by porn, but the collection was undeniably sexually liberating too.
Coker is a British-Nigerian designer who started her brand in 2018 after graduating from Central Saint Martins. Her AW21 collection was inspired by the ’60s and ’70s and featured a film motivated by the Black Lives Matter and End Sars Movements. Her collections are more than clothes, they give us a glimpse into her personal life and experiences, and reference the connection with her Yoruba family and the Black communities that came before.
This season, a film was projected onto the back wall and a saxophone player, sitting by a velvet-covered table, began to embouchure. The collection combined a “Sunday Best” aesthetic with classic Yoruba pieces inspired by her grandparents. The tailoring incorporated sophistication playing with fit and silhouette, corsetry and exaggerated details such as long pointed collars and triple-sized turn-ups. Denim converted classic pieces into contemporary offerings with contrast panelling, exaggerated seams and hip-slits in flowy skirts, followed by lengthy blazers paired with tights for a sexy take, too. Coker also has an eye for sustainable fabrics and design methods – upcycled lace had a new lease of life, particularly in a stunning black finale ensemble and the denim came from pre and post-consumer waste. Fabric restrictions, and non-virgin materials, can often lead to limitations but also foster creativity. With Coker’s inspiration and vivid storytelling, her strong ethics and a keen eye for dynamic and modern takes on classic garments, NewGen has most certainly gained its latest star.
To many delighted faces, Ian Wright opened the show with a very slow and steady walk, a stark contrast to the Arsenal legend’s more pacey days, with his head bowed opposing the upbeat personality we are used to seeing. His double-breasted, blue patterned suit was followed by a complete blend of tracksuits, suits, skirts, football wear and tank tops. Clothing tells stories about who we are and what we do, and the collection reported a sharp and fluid blend of expressive and vibrant clothing. Aptly titled “Nomoli Odyssey: A Migration of Style and Migration”, it combined creative Director Foday Dumbuya’s heritage with the things we love. The show was a blend of football (stay with me) in the form of a fresh new Adidas collab, Netflix – as a new round of the TopBoy collab was worn by rapper Unknown T – and music from Wretch 32, who became the latest flâneur rocking a vibrant green double-breasted suit, with signature tribal prints, bare-chested.
The obvious eye-catcher in the collection was the cult-classic Adidas Sambas, with prints featuring the latest Nomoli figurine in the webbings. The collaboration is said to celebrate the interconnectedness of humanity, as well as ‘representing a belief that freedom of movement, thought and expression is possible within our own Odyssey’ the designer told Highsnobiety. Dunbuya has a brand philosophy which is integral to the community and togetherness they’ve garnered over the years, which consequently spawned the longest-standing ovation of LFW. As he came out to celebrate with his friends on the front row and artists singing us out of the Four Seasons Hotel long after the show had finished, it did make me think about what can be next for the designer who seems to be in full flow.
Brett is a sustainable fashion campaigner, model and content creator.
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