London Fashion Week has become globally renowned for championing new design talent and at the heart of that is the British Fashion Council’s NewGen programme that nurtures emerging designers. For spring/summer 2024, the initiative welcomed a host of new designers, with Tolu Coker, Aaron Esh and Derrick becoming standouts this season and names to watch for the future.
Tolu Coker ‘Irapada’
British-Nigerian designer and multi-disciplinary artist Tolu Coker, a Central Saint Martins graduate who has worked in the design studios of J.W. Anderson, Maison Margiela and Celine, made her NewGen debut with an SS24 collection exploring her Yoruba roots and familial history.
Coker, known for her affinity for honing on the African diaspora, was heavily influenced by her late father’s archive and the dialogue between family matriarchs in England and Nigeria for her collection featuring an amalgamation of a ‘Sunday’s Best’ aesthetic and classic Yoruba pieces.
This translated into celestial white gowns reimagined as shirt dresses with corsetry and exaggerated collars, as well as sensual halter neck tops styled with midi skirts with gathering and cut-out detailing adorned in a signature jacquard print, lightweight, and oversized blazers, which were accessories with grass-woven bucket bags and statement hats.
Commenting on her SS24 ‘Irapada’ collection, Coker said in the show notes: “The collection nods to different forms of empowerment and how women have translated that spirituality into their dress. My grandma is a great reference point and features heavily throughout the collection. She was a Muslim woman who married a Christian man, which is considered both in the religion and in culture, haram. That was a huge statement within my family.”
Coker also continues her commitment to sustainability by repurposing pre-loved materials into jacquard prints throughout the collection in the form of deconstructed denim, using warping and wefts to create a tactile finish, as well as upcycling lace into her pieces.
The denim also features regal images of family matriarchs, which plays into Yoruba signifiers, namely ‘Iranti’, which means ‘to remember’ and is often a tradition visited after the passing of a loved one as a keepsake. In addition, animal prints make an appearance splayed out on the back of clothing in a bid to pay homage to how Yoruba culture has travelled throughout the diaspora.
“The collection is titled ‘Irapada’ meaning redemption in Yoruba, because I was thinking about what it means in a literal sense – but also how this can apply to clothing and restoration,” adds Coker. “Upcycled lace has a new lease of life, and denim fabrications are woven with pre-and post-consumer waste.”
Aaron Esh ‘Chaos and Control’
London-based ready-to-wear designer Aaron Esh, who studied at Central Saint Martins and became a finalist at this year’s LVMH Prize, made his catwalk debut at the Tate Modern with a collection combining the “establishment rigour with the rebellious spirit of youth culture”.
For SS24, Esh unleased what he calls “chaos and control” in the “stillness of sobriety,” expanding his established menswear label infused with the rigour of Saville Row tailoring with sleek and sexy womenswear in the form of evening dresses with thigh-high splits, satin tailoring, and bubble skirts.
There were also codes of British adolescence, with bootleg blue jeans, charcoal uniforms, and bomber jackets concealing crisp white shirts, alongside sophisticated multiple-pleated trousers, Lavallière silk shirting with trailing necklines, and balloon-hemmed bouclé tweed coats, as well as backless bias-cut dresses and gossamer knit.
London menswear label Derrick, founded by Central Saint Martins graduate Luke Derrick presented a film for London Fashion Week as an exploration of the distinct experience of moving through London after hours.
Derrick, who has trained with the likes of Brioni, Alexander Mcqueen, Dunhill, Rapha, and Savile Row, operates his studio in East London, offering a new British elegance in menswear. For his NewGen debut, he worked with London-based filmmaker Dylan Hayes on a short film to “set the tone for the chapter ahead,” and to act as a taster for his debut catwalk show at LFW in February 2024.
Entitled ‘Nightwalking,’ the film offers up Derrick’s take on the “scatterbrained existence of modern London living,” following a man wearing sleek and elegant tailored pieces as he makes his way across London. You see him forgetting his keys, missing the bus, and then leaving his blazer on the tube.
Commenting on the film, Derrick said in a statement: “For my first season with NewGen, what I thought was really important was to set a tone for the chapter ahead, of the world in which the label inhabits, and how it might respond to it.
“Within the scatterbrained existence of modern London living, there’s a near-intangible chic hidden in the blur of riding through the restless state of urgency that underpins the metropolitan existence. This film was us trying to bottle that atmosphere in the shared distinct experience of moving through this city after hours. We very much hope you enjoy it.”