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Comment: London Fashion Week autumn 18, a royally memorable season

Graeme Moran

Between Christopher Bailey bowing out at Burberry and Queen Elizabeth II’s surprise appearance, designers shone at a strong autumn 18 edition of London Fashion Week (16 – 20 February).

Burberry spring 18 feb 2018 show (9)

Burberry spring 18 feb 2018 show (9)

Burberry spring 18 at London Fashion Week

The autumn 18 edition of London Fashion Week (LFW) will be a memorable one for several reasons, not least the unexpected attendance of the Queen.

On Saturday 17 February, the king of London’s catwalks Christopher Bailey stole the show with the buzzy unveiling of his final collection for Burberry, the brand he took from “chav” status to the top of British luxury.

While anti-fur protestors demonstrated outside the venue, inside the vast warehouse, the president and chief creative officer unveiled a riotous collection full of colour and print, focusing on youthful, streetwear-inspired graffitied puffa jackets, logo-heavy hoodies and retro track suits reminiscent of the overtly branded products Bailey was brought in to eliminate.

While not the strongest collection from Bailey’s 17-year tenure, the rainbow motifs he infused throughout, particularly those introduced to the brand’s classic check in support of a number of LGBTQ+ charities, made for a joyous, touching swansong. Bailey took his final Burberry bow to a much-deserved standing ovation.

In an unexpected coup for LFW and its organisers, the British Fashion Council (BFC), on the fifth and final day, her majesty Queen Elizabeth II made a surprise appearance at its base at The Store, 180 Strand, marking her first time at the event.

She toured the Designer Showrooms, sat front row next to US Vogue editor Anna Wintour at emerging designer Richard Quinn’s catwalk show, and went on to present the young British designer, who graduated from London’s Central Saint Martins in 2016, with the inaugural Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design.

The queen london fashion week 1

The queen london fashion week 1

The Queen presenting the inaugural Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design to Richard Quinn at London Fashion Week

The prize was launched in recognition of the “role the fashion industry plays in society and diplomacy”, and will be awarded annually by a member of the royal family. The attention this brings not only to LFW but also the designers and businesses it will champion is an exciting achievement.

Though headline-grabbing, these events did not overshadow the rest of the week. The princes and princesses of LFW were on top form for autumn 18, as the last generation of London’s rising stars to blossom into strong businesses balanced their creative prowess and originality with commercial skill – Erdem, Simone Rocha, Christopher Kane, Roksanda, JW Anderson and Mary Katrantzou were all highlights.

Bova rtw fw18 0421

Bova rtw fw18 0421

Matty Bovan autumn 18

London’s reputation as a hotbed for new talent, thanks in part to these designers’ ascent from the city’s universities, through London’s various support schemes and into the international spotlight, has undergone a slight lull in recent seasons as buyers waited for the next generation. But for autumn 18, new names stepped up. Richard Quinn’s exceptional print-heavy floral dresses stood out, particularly for an LFW debut. Similarly, Matty Bovan and Richard Malone were boundary-pushing favourites full of commercial potential.

Away from the directional exuberance of these emerging talents, London has also appointed a new breed of LFW courtiers. Wearable, modern womenswear brands that are creating covetable clothes at keen, competitive price points. These ”contemporary” businesses are led by Rejina Pyo and include the likes of Eudon Choi, Palmer Harding, Mother of Pearl, Teatum Jones and Isa Arfen, who showed on schedule at LFW for the first time this season.

LFW’s strong shows and packed schedule created a bustling atmosphere that carried across the five days. Solidifying London’s must-visit status, for this edition many of the industry’s leading lights descended on the capital, adding to its buzz. At one show Drapers spotted industry big names such as Bergdorf Goodman’s senior vice-president Linda Fargo, Yoox Net-a-Porter Group’s president of in season Alison Loehnis and CEO Federico Marchetti, Harrods chief merchant Helen David and Matchesfashion founders Tom and Ruth Chapman all sat just seats apart.

The industry still wants to see what London has to offer and this season, its brands and designers did not disappoint.

Rpyo rtw fw18 0705

Rpyo rtw fw18 0705

Rejina Pyo autumn 18

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