International buyers flock to London’s womenswear designers for a balance between creativity and commerciality.
It was early evening on day four of London Fashion Week and the light was fading as a large crowd huddled around the entrance of a nondescript leisure centre in grubby Bethnal Green, east London – well off the usual beaten track for catwalk shows in the city.
The show was running 45 minutes later than billed, yet top-level buyers from some of fashion’s leading luxury retailers, including Browns, Matchesfashion, Ireland’s Brown Thomas and America’s Bergdorf Goodman, were waiting patiently in line.
They were queuing to see rising star Richard Quinn’s spring 20 collection. This was his fourth official show since graduating from Central Saint Martins less than three years ago.
Once inside, guests were treated to another of Quinn’s memorable spectacles. At this season’s extravaganza a dramatic catwalk presentation of dreamy dresses and other-worldly gowns was accompanied by a performance by London’s Philharmonia Orchestra and the Bach Choir.
The industry’s biggest buyers sat alongside women dressed head to toe in the young Londoner’s opulent designs – clients shopping for £1,000-plus dresses straight from the front row.
The Richard Quinn show summed up the current healthy state of LFW. The city has established itself as the fashion world’s epicentre of creativity, ideas and talent, and Quinn proved that with the creations he sent down his catwalk. And while the city’s designers can certainly put on a show – once again, illustrated by Quinn – they are also successfully parlaying their unique selling points into highly commercial products, for which buyers are eager to write orders.
This made for a busy and buzzy five days that pulled in influential international names from across the industry.
And despite the looming uncertainty of Brexit, political upheaval and numerous other challenges facing the fashion and retail sector, there was positivity in the air and on the catwalks. Colour, print and pattern cocooned models in uplifting and inspiring collections.
The city’s biggest brand, Burberry, which once tent-poled LFW, was joined once again by headline-grabbing international attraction Victoria Beckham, which showed in London for the third time since moving from New York Fashion Week last year. Nevertheless, it was LFW’s new generation of big businesses that stole the show this season.
London’s up and comers also evolved for spring 20. Molly Goddard continued to expand her signatures into covetable creations, Halpern shone for another season, Matty Bovan remained a riot of creativity balanced with new commercial elements, while Richard Malone excelled with his personal take on sophistication.
And there were other strings to LFW’s bow.
The growing contemporary clique – including Rejina Pyo, who debuted menswear this season, Awake and Preen by Thornton Bregazzi – were just as much of a talking point as the luxury names.
A new generation of luxe eveningwear businesses also sparkled. Richard Quinn was joined by a stand-out presentation from 16 Arlington, while Huishan Zhang and Paula Knorr also delivered a glittering array of gowns and dresses.
Finally, this season delivered welcome newness. Eftychia’s smart take on tailoring caught Drapers’ eye, while catwalk debuts from Charlotte Knowles, graduate of the Fashion East incubator, and Supriya Lele, also impressed.
The latter’s busy show at 9am on Monday attracted Holli Rogers, CEO at Browns and chief brand officer at Farfetch – not bad for her first full LFW catwalk show. This demonstrates unequivocally that – big or small, new or established – London’s designers are ones to watch.