In another season, during another time, London Fashion Week would have been brimming with international press, buyers, influencers and notable industry folk. Front row catwalks would be celebrity-heavy and London abuzz with parties and events for its biannual fashion outing.
Unlike in September, the February catwalks were shown entirely digital with the British Fashion Council banning physical shows, presentations and installations: no events in front of an audience were to take place.
The four-day event was therefore primarily an online affair, with designers taking to film as its main presentational medium. Themes of escapism, heritage and healing were a common thread in the Fall 2021 collections which saw the biannual London Fashion Week transform into a new gender-neutral programme instead of solely womenswear.
Below five highlights from the LFW week digital presentations:
Bora Aksu at Tate Britain
AW21 sees Bora Aksu transport viewers to Revolutionary France amid the tumultuous landscape of war, upheaval and isolation, much of which resonates with current times. The collection is inspired by mathematician and physicist Sophie Germain and draws on the power of isolation and its ability to push people to their limits. Using silhouettes inspired by early 19th century codes, Bora Aksu combines the masculine and feminine codes that defined the early-modern era in a play on Germain’s own attempts to defy the masculine norms of her time. The backdrop of a visitor-free Tate added to the isolationist landscape Germain must have felt, while also highlighting one of London’s most important cultural landmarks, which has been closed and sorely missed by the public during lockdown.
In addition to winning the 2021 Queen Elizabeth II Award for Fashion Design, Priya Ahluwalia has been praised for her efforts to change the industry for the better under her namesake label. The Ahluwalia menswear universe for AW21 challenges the fundamental relationship between migration and cultural expression. Despite a near global travel embargo, Ahluwalia questioned the times in history “when people have migrated and it’s led to a real cultural boom, when the mixing of cultures has led to something new,” she told i-D. Translated into garments, the collection held a universal appeal, despite subtle references to heritage. Stripey bleached denim separates, a tailored corduroy two-piece and colour palette inspired by the artworks of Kerry James Marshall and Jacob Lawrence stood out amongst this solid collection.
Burberry men’s standalone presentation
Burberry’s Regent Street flagship was transformed into a maze of blocks in different heights for Creative Director Ricardo Tisci’s first solo menswear outing. Models walked around carrying backpacks with rolled up blankets and umbrellas, with the Burberry trench cementing its core category status from the very first look. In keeping with the gender neutral spirit of LFW, pleated skirts and faux fur coats could easily be translated to the women’s collection. Who wouldn’t want to escape to Burberry’s utility-inspired utopia?
Vivienne Westwood’s Punk Odyssey
London is so often heralded as a hotbed of emerging design talent, but it would be nothing without trailblazers like Vivienne Westwood. Even as Dame Vivien approaches her 80th decade this April, her passion for sustainability and never conforming still sees the brand at the top of its game. For fall Westwood took inspiration from the rococo painting Daphnis and Chloe by the French artist François Boucher. Mix in her signature subsersive drape and a fashion love affair is born. Over ninety percent of the materials used for this collection was repurposed from deadstock and existing fabrics to minimise its environmental impact.
It is hard to imagine Simone Rocha launched her company only 10 years ago. Having a multitude of achievements and accolades under her belt, a collaboration with H&M may be a pivotal moment for the brand to reach a wider, international audience. Though not that she needs this. The always visceral, sculptural and feminine landscape of Rocha’s collections have given her great acclaim, and this season were transformed with elements of funk. The setting was a Gothic church near Hyde Park, where tapestry dresses, bulbous sleeves and hand-embroidered silks were met with a biker jacket andplatform boot-sneaker footwear. In an interview with the New York Times Rocha was inspired by the idea of winter roses, for their strength and fragility. “You have the fragility of the petals, but then also the thorns, which kind of made me think of rebellious spirits and fragile rebels. I worked a lot in leather, which I sculpted into more feminine shapes — really waisted and with amplified hips. But then slowly that breaks down throughout the collection to a fragility beneath, which is these embroidered flowers on tulle and nets.”
Main image courtesy of Burberry