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London Fashion Week for an On Demand Yet Considered Generation


Another lockdown and another fully digital London Fashion Week, with close contact restricted designers have once again rethought the presentation process opting for short films, pre-recorded catwalks, interviews and behind-the-scenes insights.

The entire Fashion Week event has been completely turned on its head for what was an exclusive and one-off show for a privileged few is now available to all and readily on-demand via the press of a button.

So what was on show for Autumn/Winter 2021/22? Former awardee of the Queen Elizabeth II Award for Design 2019 Bethany Williams introduced us to her capsule coat collection created exclusively for Selfridges. ‘Considered design’ being very much at the heart of the latest collections Bethany’s coats have reworked antique wool blankets sourced from across the UK. Steeped in history, each durable blanket sourced tells a story from the textile and weaving techniques, to the county, town or village it was made in. One of her favourite pieces sourced for the collection was found at Sunbury Antiques Market at Kempton Racecourse. With her phone torch as her only source of light she came across a rare and usually very expensive Welsh, patterned wool blanket with brightly coloured pink and orange patches.

This image and the leading image: Bethany Williams capsule coat collection for Selfridges

On the capsule collection Bethany said: “This particular project was inspired by our ongoing work with The Magpie Project, a charity that supports women and children under five in temporary, unsuitable or no accommodation. The Women’s Institute community creates a personal blanket for every baby born into the Magpie Family. A blanket is so much more than a piece of fabric, it is a feeling of comfort and shelter and I wanted that feeling to be at the heart of this capsule collection.”

Each coat is a one-off bespoke piece, exaggerated collars and pockets feature on cropped jackets and trench shapes.

The norm at London Fashion Week would be to focus on the highly photogenic finished design often on the back of a glamorous model. It was therefore refreshing to see Edward Crutchley combine both finished garment with behind-the-scenes production insight within his FLORIZEL short film.

Edward Crutchley – fabric in production and on the model

Inspired by the unique richness of northern glamour Edward was adamant to work with ethical sourcing partners close to home. For his wovens and knitwear he worked with Johnstons of Elgin creating designs that are vibrant, modern and yet luxurious and classic.

Edward Crutchley – behind the scenes

In his film presentation Edward takes you through each design element, from silk printers in Manchester and the South East to textile producers in Italy, maintaining his European contacts. The overall effect is one of top-notch tailoring combined with watery leopard jacquard, marble printed silks, streetwear inspired knits along with some oversized headscarves and gold bling jewellery.

Milliner Stephen Jones, another of Edward Crutchley’s sources, presented his A/W collection entitled ‘French Kiss.’ Inspired by his long-lasting love affair with France, he thought about the ultimate in French hat styles and the collection poured out of him. He describes the hats as kitsch, very French, combined with his own point of view. Shapes include top hats, berets, bicorns, oversized brims, sculptural fascinators in black, pink and red. To make the hats Stephen uses top-end luxurious materials with old-master millinery techniques, foregoing new technology. As Stephen mentions in the film: “I’m really the last generation of people who is trained to make hats in that mid-century way.”

Bora Aksu

Established designer brands such as Burberry and Bora Aksu showcased their collections with a more traditional offering of a short film catwalk show. Maintaining a ‘purely about the clothes’ ethos the general gist was a strong lean towards a fluid silhouette; pleated skirts, wider leg cuts, smock and A-line shapes. Elsewhere the likes of Simone Rocha and Mark Fast merged feminine layers with punk-esque styling, all of which were reminiscent of fashion during the recession in the 1970’s. 

On the fifth and final day of London Fashion Week the 2021 Queen Elizabeth Award II was announced. The award went to Priya Ahluwalia presented by Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex, on behalf of Her Majesty The Queen, during a virtual event. Ahluwalia is recognised for her active contribution to changing the industry for the better, her work in pioneering responsible sourcing and manufacturing techniques, while telling the stories of those who make her clothes and the communities she works with.

Ahluwalia’s sustainably minded menswear collections, made of dead stock and repurposed locally sourced vintage materials, combine elements and influences from her Nigerian and Indian heritage, making her designs truly unique. She is a progressive thinking leader and agent for change who has used her platform to raise awareness around the challenges of the Black community, especially in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Top left: Priya Ahluwalia, below: the Countess of Wessex and Caroline Rush

Caroline Rush CBE, Chief Executive British Fashion Council (BFC) commented: “We are delighted to announce Priya Ahluwalia as the fourth recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design. Ahluwalia’s unique and ethical design process combined with her ability and passion to give back to communities around London and the globe make her an inspiration for many young British designers. We are incredibly proud to recognise Priya and look forward to seeing her business grow.”

To view the A/W 21/22 collections go to: https://londonfashionweek.co.uk/

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