In Focus: London Fashion Week designers look to a brighter future

Bora Aksu
Bora Aksu

The first London Fashion Week in the post-pandemic era kicked off in earnest in London today with socially distanced seating, relatively few physical shows but plenty of optimism.

Nonetheless those designers who did opt for a physical presence did so with defiance and optimism and beautiful, impactful clothing. Loungewear and leisurewear may be big sellers at retail right now but London is the heart of global creativity in fashion and, even with a the threat of second COVID wave hanging over them, designers seemed determined not to be cowed.

Burberry, which is usually the big-ticket draw for London Fashion Week, staged a show with no guests which was broadcast live on Twitch – a first for a luxury fashion brand. Called In Bloom, the collection, said chief creative officer, Riccardo Tisci, was inspired by the idea of regeneration – and let’s hope come SS21 that is what the world will be doing.

Burberry SS21
Burberry SS21

Tisci imagined a fairy story of a love affair between a mermaid and a shark for his show’s narrative, since he wanted to present something dark and unexpected.

“The sea, always beautiful, sometimes savage, invariably romantic, inspires the clothing. It reflects a multifaceted view of Britain – simultaneously rural and urban, spanning earth and ocean, always expressing freedom,” his show notes read.

Rumour has it this could be Tisci’s last outing at London Fashion Week as creative chief at Burberry but the event’s most long-standing designer, Paul Costelloe, shows no sign of leaving the London stage.

Paul Costelloe
Paul Costelloe

The Irish designer first showed at London Fashion Week in 1984 and he wasn’t going to let a pandemic stop him after 36 years. Taking over the Palm Court of the Waldorf Hotel, Costello mocked up his studio in the centre and sat sketching while surrounded by pattern cutters, models and an exquisite collection which he described as being “perfect to fly and kite and dream”.

Bora Aksu
Bora Aksu

Bora Aksu was next up taking over the courtyard of St Paul’s Church in the heart of London’s Covent Garden. In this hidden oasis, he presented a dreamy collection of ethereal dresses in silk tulles and transparent silk organzas in frosty colours.

The references to the current situation the world finds itself in were clear, not just by the delicate organza face coverings worn by the models but by the era Aksu had looked to for inspiration. He sought to take us back to 1918 when the world had been battered by WWI and the last lethal global pandemic – the Spanish flu.

1918 was a time of contrast, conflict and tension but, more optimistically, it was followed by victory and prosperity. While reflecting on the gravity of the times Aksu too was inviting us to look beyond into a brighter future.

Mark Fast
Mark Fast

In complete contrast to the delicate beauty of Costelloe and Aksu’s shows, was Mark Fast, who took over the Hackney Depot to transport us back to the club kids of the 80s and 90s with a collection that was majored on neon accents and body-con with sporty and varsity references.

The MF and FAST logos on acid bright hoodies, 80s acid-wash denim, and of course the signature Fast knits, this time offered in an array of bright stripes, made for a commercial and desirable collection that the youth market should lap up – it’s perfect for when they are allowed to get out and party again.

Mark Fast
Mark Fast

Fast says the only tools for dealing with uncertainty and positivity are “productivity and positivity” and this was a joyously upbeat show. Fast is also practising what he preaches, by taking the bold step of opening his first flagship store in Asia this autumn – a store in the centre of Beijing in 2020.

Seeing a British designer being so bold with his designs and his vision in front of a necessarily sparse crowd (health & safety means usually cramped front row benches are allowed only one occupant each) was uplifting.

No doubt other designers will prove to be equally so as this unique outing of London Fashion Week unfolds. While parts of the capital remain eerily quiet, this is London, it will rise again.