Can a fashion week function without runway shows? It’s the question London’s editors and buyers were asking themselves on the eve of London Fashion Week’s first ever hybrid physical and digital event.
Having spent the weekend half-glued to my screen watching fashion films and digitised runways and half-scurrying around town to attend 1:1 appointments with designers, small-group presentations and the odd socially distanced catwalk event, however, I can conclusively say yes, yes it can. And in some ways, it was all the better for it.
While we all enjoy the stunning creative spectacle of a great catwalk show, there was much joy to be had in having a full 15 minutes 1:1 with a designer, to touch and feel the clothes up close (rather than them whizz by on a runway) and glean the designer’s viewpoint first-hand.
The clothes on show were also evidence of the silver linings of lockdown, which afforded designers time to reflect, innovate and get creative. Never was this more evident than at Christopher Kane, who spent lockdown painting glittery faces and mindscapes in his garden, which were then translated into his SS21 offering and displayed via an appointment-only exhibition at his Mount Street store. “Painting during lockdown replaced the void of making collections,” explained the Scottish designer. “It became a way to escape my own mind no rules, deadlines, or pressures.”
While brands have undoubtedly suffered at the hands of Covid, this season’s freestyle fashion week format unburdened many from the pressures of delivering costly and time-consuming shows, freeing them to consider fresh and thought-provoking ways to show their collections. This plus a notable absence of the influencer-fuelled street style circus gave this season’s event an intimate feel, with a renewed focus on the designers, the clothes and most importantly, the people that will wear them.
The post-pandemic party dress
2020 might have been celebration-light, but with any luck come 2021, we’ll all be in need of a damn good party dress, and designers across the board offered joyous, sparkly feather and diamante-adorned creations that promised of next summer’s celebrations. From Molly Goddard’s tulle head-turners – which this season came in riotous reds and buttercup yellows – to Burberry’s crystal chainmail minis and Simone Rocha’s pearl-encrusted, balloon-like silhouettes, next season’s shelves are set to be choc-full of dresses so delightful you’ll be duty bound to throw a party in their honour. For Christopher Kane, who spent all lockdown painting, eventually translating his glittery artworks into a ss21 collection, effervescence is essential: “I think its OK to wear sparkly things!” he says. “We need more than ever to feel good about ourselves, we need more joy.”
Imposing, fearless and flattering, power trousers are making a return – and spring’s silhouette is supersized, and wearable. Victoria Beckham, quite the trouser aficionado herself, gave us split hem high-waisted straight leg trousers in wool, gabardine and linen check so extravagantly long in length they pooled elegantly about the floor, while Temperley offered similar proportions in more tailored fits paired with matching waistcoats. At Margaret Howell and 16Arlington, trousers came oversized in flared, fluid forms: Howell’s an androgynous chestnut cotton linen gabardine sailor trouser and Arlington’s giant ballooning pleat-fronted brown leather. “The idea behind these oversized trousers was to create a silhouette that integrated and grounded the body with the earth,” explains 16Arlington co-founder Kikka Cavenati. “The exaggerated length was intended to spill and gather as it hit the floor like pools of water.”
Hot about the collar
The trend that began last year with the frilly, oversize-collared white Ganni shirt, went mainstream with the embroidered sailor collars seen at Miu Miu’s resort 2020 show and was cemented by the nun-like pilgrim collars on Chanel’s Spring 2020 couture runway is, judging by the next-level neck trimmings seen at LFW, set to retain hegemony for spring 2021. At Emilia Wickstead, whose collection was inspired by her homeland of New Zealand and the South Seas, large layered cotton collars wrapped around shoulders and adorned long-sleeved crop tops; an exaggerated and modern take on romantic colonial shirt collars. While at RIXO, ever-so wearable aquatic-theme printed silk shirts came in varying neon pastels with contrasting collar trims. Whether churchly, cutesy or fabulously formal, if there’s one trend that’s got staying power, you can bet your bottom dollar it’s the collar.
Grown-up crop tops
For those of us for whom the thought of bearing our midriffs post-lockdown brings us out in a cold sweat, the super sophisticated crop tops on offer for summer 21 should provide excellent motivation for that second lockdown workout regime. The trick to nailing svelte not nineties starlet is to keep the bottom half demure with high-waisted, wide leg trousers or below-the-knee skirts. At Paul Costelloe, itty-bitty poppy print Bardot crops were paired with matching midi skirts for a look that positively begs to be taken to Wimbledon or Henley (fingers crossed), while at Osman a wooden and glass bead-fringed, square-necked mustard crop crafted from upcycled fabric came with voluminous trousers for a grown up look “that doesn’t feel so matchy matchy,” said the designer. “It’s an easy piece to feel effortless and dressed up at the same time.”
That lockdown firmly cemented loungewear in the fashion lexicon is not news. The LFW surprise however, was the number of spangle-loving partywear labels adding silky, slouchy silhouettes to their line up. “During this time, versatility and comfort is key,” said ultra feminine, ethereal gown pro Temperley, who launched her debut loungewear collection this season: a 12-strong capsule of silk PJ shirts, trousers and camisoles, night slips and floor-length kimonos in archive prints that starts at a very tempting £150 and drops in November. Flamboyant red carpet favourite 16 Arlington meanwhile revised their entire modus operandi, switching the out the event garb in favour of “an all-new satiny slouch” while disco-fabulous Halpern has extended his offering of red carpet-ready feather trim kaftans and jewel-coloured silk pyjamas: “it’s loungewear but it’s still colourful and still fabulous,” says the designer. “I don’t need to make normal pyjamas, there are lots of other companies who do that really well.”
Pistachio and sage may have been the hues of last summer, but a zingier green is rolling in for 2021. Less lemony than lime and peppier than pear, apple is the uplifting, spirited shade we’ll be craving come spring. Ever the bold colourist, Molly Goddard did pomme with aplomb, in square neck maxis, ruffled midi skirts and cardigans and even a bold apple-toned hot pants and crop top set, styled with matching knee-high socks and apple coloured slip-on platform UGGs that came as part of her collaboration with the Californian footwear label debuted in the show. Victoria Beckham paired her apple green lightweight belted trench and straight leg split hem apple trousers with rich caramel browns, to develop a sophisticated, toffee-apple take on the hue. Trust me, they’ll all want a bite.
Socially distanced dressing
We have every faith we’ll be shimmying and shaking at fabulous parties by next summer, but should restrictions still be in place, LFW offered socially distanced dressing options that by their very proportions ensured two metres were maintained. Halpern’s giant orb mini dresses in green polka dot and pink feathers would be perfect for keeping bores at arms length at cocktail parties – and several of his top clients have already placed orders – while the exaggerated Elizabethan-style bustles embraced at Simone Rocha and Richard Malone and Matty Bovan’s oversized interpretations of the 16th century couplet, which came with peaked shoulders and giant fan waists, would helpfully ensure no one could sit next to you on the tube.