2023 marks the 30th anniversary of the British Fashion Council’s NewGen initiative, which supports and nurtures emerging British designers, and the autumn/winter 2023 season kicks off a year-long celebration, which will include an exhibition hosted by the Design Museum in September.
NewGen offers designers financial support, showcasing opportunities, and mentoring to develop critical skills to future-proof their businesses, and has supported and nurtured hundreds of designers, including Alexander McQueen, Christopher Kane, JW Anderson, Roksanda, Grace Wales Boner, and Bianca Saunders.
For autumn/winter 2023, NewGen cohorts include ready-to-wear designers across menswear and womenswear, as well as accessories, including Ahluwalia, Ancuta Sarca, Asai, Chet Lo, Conner Ives, Di Petsa, Eftychia, Feben, Harri, Helen Kirkum, Labrum London, Leo Carlton, Nensi Dojaka, Paolo Carzana, Robyn Lynch, Roker, S.S.Daley, Saul Nash, Sinéad O'Dwyer and Yuhan Wang.
Each of the designers has to conform to the minimum IPF Standards 2023 developed by the Institute of Positive Fashion mapped against the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Standards apply to seven focus areas of a garment’s life cycle: strategic direction, raw material sourcing, design, manufacturing and distribution, retail, consumer engagement and post-consumer, working conditions and fashion shows.
Chet Lo ‘Bioluminescence’
London-based Asian-American designer Chet Lo, known for his love of vibrant colours, went dark for autumn/winter 2023, finding beauty “in a sea of darkness by leaning into angst, rage, and discomfort”. The result was black taking the spotlight alongside gradients of colour materialising vertically from dark to light on spiky mini dresses.
Lo also experimented with laser-cut leather for halterneck gowns and skirts in a pattern that appears run over by a car and used wool provided by Tollegno 1900 for his trousers and spiky pieces, which are still integral to the brand. For his cardigans, he sliced the fabric at the neck and navel to expose key sections of the body.
“I wanted to branch off into different materials this season,” explains Lo in the show notes. “I’ve been astounded by leather’s different properties and many capabilities, such as laser cutting and manipulating the colour. We’ve also begun weaving in different, more organic and natural fibres that are more durable and breathable.”
Other highlights include black lapel-less coats with plunging necklines in a nod to the Hanfu and reference Lo’s East meets West sensibility, as well as merging the Chet Lo logo and Smiley motif into angry anime eyes across organic cotton T-shirts, a leather bag, wool jumper, and scarf.
Lo also highlighted new techniques with a gown that began at the top in wool felt and transforms into a billowing silk as it falls.
“This season, I had so many ideas around fabric manipulation,” added Lo. “I loved combining two polar-opposite fabrics, the severity and rigidity of tailoring wool felt and silk’s mercurial and liquid nature. We wove the two fabrics together in a “sprayed” effect that we should perfectly resemble the descent into the depths.”
S.S. Daley AW23
Steven Stokey-Daley had a great 2022, winning the LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designer and the Emerging Designer Prize at the British Fashion Awards, and this confidence was evident in his autumn/winter 2023 collection inspired by Kate Bush’s ‘The Ninth Wave’ a collection of songs part-inspired by Alfred Tennyson’s poem ‘The Coming of Arthur’.
“Listening to The Ninth Wave by Kate Bush, I found the whole universe in it,” explained Stokey-Daley. “I do see clothes as music, and this feeling for the collection overtook me in a way that I couldn’t ignore. The pull of the water has led us to a fresh new world, one that’s about the confidence of being who I want to be.”
Legend of theatre and film, Sir Ian McKellen opened with a reading of Tennyson’s poem, dressed in a rounded navy peacoat with a life drawing of a male lover attached, as a keepsake, along with a book in his hand and a sailor’s cap on his head.
These nautical shipwrecked aesthetics ran through the collection, with shorts belted with ship bunting, shredded knits, and shirts that are shredded together as if a sailor was stranded at sea. There was also a focus on tailoring, like a suit jacket cut with a neat sailor’s collar with the front seams picked out with hand-stitching, and handmade ceramic buttons.
There was also quirky detailing, with knitwear featuring dried flowers, landscapes, and even a duck, alongside pieces featuring quotes from the inspirations of the show and tailoring with striped shirts printed with oranges.
Stokey-Daley also presented technical clothing for the first time, with a gold and blue striped hooded cagoule with an asymmetrical zip and raglan sleeves featuring a custom-made silk jacquard lining, as well as brown cargo pants with lieutenant pockets on the sides, finished with hand-overlocking stitches.
For womenswear, there was more of a feminine aesthetic with silk caftan dresses, striped skirt suits, balloon-hemmed shifts, and a sheer midnight blue dress layered over a long white shirt gown.
Conner Ives ‘Magnolia’
For autumn/winter 2023, Conner Ives was inspired by Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1999 film ‘Magnolia,’ which follows an ensemble cast of interrelated characters pursuing happiness, forgiveness and meaning in the San Fernando Valley, as well as looking back on his childhood when he first started thinking about fashion and admiring pictures from the Balenciaga autumn/winter 2006 collection.
“I didn’t even know what I was looking at, but I remember to this day the trapeze coats, the hats, the boots, everything,” explains Ives in the show notes. “I would sneak my mom’s fashion magazines into my childhood bathroom, storing them secretly in the cabinets for late night reading. A cliché yes, but for me it was an undeniably formative moment.”
This led to a more refined, grown-up Conner Ives, explained the designers, with looks following the same format as his debut last year, featuring clothes detonating archetypes crafted from disparate pop-culture and historical fashion references. There was Kate Moss at Glastonbury, complete with oversized shearling gilet and patchwork boots, Carrie Bradshaw in a bell-sleeved LBD, and Diane Keaton in a slouchy white shirtdress worn agape, complete with a necktie.
Other highlights include the pop star referencing Britney Spear’s ‘Overprotected’ music video in a bias dress paired with boot-cut jeans, and Nan Kempner, from Nicholas Coleridge’s 1998 book ‘The Fashion Conspiracy’ sporting a bias-cut slip dress, fashioned from surplus Americana T-shirts.
Ives even closed the show with his take on the white wedding gown from ‘The Parent Trap’ worn by Elizabeth James, complete with top hat and veil.
“There was also a push this season for a more refined image, a grown-up Conner Ives,” added the designer. “This time, they’re more aspirational, more of a departure. It was about women that bought their own couture, understood the textile compositions and the savoir faire that goes into the meticulous art form of dressmaking.”