Naked dresses, bumblebee chic and bejewelled cigarettes: Everything we saw on day two of LFW
Another day, another realisation I’ve left it far too late to get ready. An outfit is hastily pulled together – vintage Moschino skirt, black bodysuit, Alexander McQueen cape rented from My Wardrobe HQ – and my day begins by doing makeup in the back of the car; I forgo the eyeliner after one attempt sees a line drawn halfway down my cheek.
In all honesty, I ended yesterday feeling somewhat under-stimulated by everything I’d seen on the runways. There were some standouts, like Harris Reed and his delectable harlequin sequins and whiskey cocktails, but generally speaking, few designers seemed keen on breaking boundaries in ways that have come to define this industry. Everything seemed more pared back than usual, which makes me wonder whether LFW is becoming a slave to European minimalism, or if we’re starting to see just how hard Covid-19 has been tugging on the industry’s purse strings.
Anyway, here is what Joseph and I saw today in what was a packed schedule.
Oxo Tower, SE1 9PH
Watching the fash pack scale a gridded staircase is always a sight – especially when the show in question is located on the second storey of London’s Oxo Tower. Chic this was not. Fortunately, Eudon Choi’s latest collection was. Backdropped, quite aptly, with panoramic views of the Thames, it transposed 15th- and 16th-century tropes onto contemporary tailored suits in tweed and boiled wool. True to the Korean-born designer’s USP – menswear archetypes for women – the collection balanced all the elegance of a modern female careerist with curious Tudor and old-England touches. Think studded details, exquisitely darted overcoats and denim dresses pleated in the same way original workwear once was.
As a sartorial proposition, the clothing felt commercial, but this was wholly intended. In fact, the option for the pieces to swap in and out of a working wardrobe without clashing against stuffy workplace dress codes made the details all the more enchanting. Here, kissing buttons extended up a suit jacket cuff for a taste of London’s forgotten past, while waists were cinched and rendered in cool ecru hues for today’s customer.
In what is a natural continuation in the designer’s journey, the strictures of womenswear and menswear have all but dissolved, replaced instead with a capsule of gender-neutral classics. “Do you know what, I don’t like to define my woman. It’s just an attitude towards clothes,” says Choi, who stops talking to hug one of his hotchpotch models. “I don’t think it’s modern to define anymore. It’s for anyone who appreciates tailoring and well-made clothes.” JB
Yeomanry House, WC1N
I was in desperate need of a coffee, so it came as a surprise when I stepped right into some as I walked through the entrance to the 16Arlington show. “Sorry, mind your feet,” said one of the poor people tasked with making sure people like me don’t walk straight into the freshly ground coffee-covered catwalk in front of us. Unlike model Jourdan Dunn, though – who trips and almost tumbles straight into said coffee – I managed to avoid it and take my seat.
Titled “Wake”, the collection is in line with the caffeinated runway on which it’s displayed. Everything 16Arlington produces is simply spellbinding. Fans of the cult Italian brand will be thrilled to hear that its signature sequins are here in droves, whether they’re buried deep into sheer bodices or on full display covering silver frocks. Flesh featured heavily, too, with plunging necklines, micro-shorts, backless everything, and a flimsy Catholic lace fabric that exposed the entire body.
The collection’s mood was one of fragile femininity. Moments of modesty were offset by way of long pleated skirts with thigh-high slits and lace underskirts, while oversized knits were worn with bare legs and nothing underneath. In all, a gloriously gothic collection from one of the most exciting brands on LFW’s lineup. OP
The Old Selfridges Hotel, W1H
Inside the Old Selfridge’s building, rising start Chet Lo presented a very different vision of beauty, taking his signatures – laser-cut woollen spikes and ombré effect dye – down a darker root. “I think I wanted to say F you to everyone that thought I’m such a happy-go-lucky person,” Chet says with a tongue-dyed toxic blue in reference to the show’s bioluminescent theme. “I don’t want people to know what’s coming next.”
Granted, the American-Asian designer has a strong aesthetic identity, but this insatiable need to switch things up only a few seasons into his career is promising. Rather than opting for his usual palette of aqua blue, sea green and fluorescent pink, Lo anchored this season in black, allowing pops of indigo or crimson to creep through sliced-and-diced leathers like creatures from the deep. Lapels were missing in action, and silhouettes were reduced, training the eye towards detail.
It worked. For all the excitement Lo’s clothes garner among Gen-Z audiences, his garment design is far richer than Tik-Tok fodder. Look closer, and you can see his bizarre experiments in fabric merging: black wool is bonded seamlessly with suede; silk slips into leather; denim appears spraypainted. Such illusions demand inspection, often bringing more where that came from. Thought fashion was all about drama and racking views? Think again. The meticulous intricacies that patterned leather trouser thighs were best seen IRL. Little wonder, then, that even the most insouciant frowers were squinting in awe as they slipped by on the catwalk. JB
Designer’s studio, E2
It was starting to drizzle outside, meaning it was a quick dash from the car to the door so as not to ruin the hair I fastidiously straightened this morning. This was key considering the last time I went to a Molly Goddard show the rain was torrential and I couldn’t find the entrance, which meant I arrived so soaking wet that the street style photographers burst out laughing when they saw me. Not ideal.
What was quite pleasing this time, though, was once inside the venue – Goddard’s paint-scented studio – I discovered a fashion show unicorn: the humble chair. This might sound odd to most but actual seats are fleetingly rare at LFW. Usually, everyone is squashed up next to each other on stupidly small benches made by someone who hates bottoms. The surprisingly narrow runway raised eyebrows among Molly Goddard fans – the designer is known for her voluminous frothy tulle skirts. But it transpired that this season the Londoner’s silhouettes weren’t quite as outsized.
Skirts came in more modest shapes that just about tickled the toes of the FROW – though they still packed a punch with their eye-popping shades of fuchsia, vermilion and lemon yellow. Most notable was the strapless frock in leopard print, a pattern that also found its way onto blue straight-leg jeans. Bumblebee chic made an appearance, too, with velvet black piping on several of the yellow pieces. This season’s collection was, much like the space, “not about drama or optics”, explained Goddard, “but wearabillity and the joy of dressing”. OP
Wood Street, EC2V
None of us can resist a little drama, especially when diva-dresser par excellence, David Koma, is involved. For this affair, throngs of influencers, Kardashian lookalikes, geeky reporters, and drag queens were ferried in groups of 10 to the 11th floor of a commercial skyscraper. Naturally, conversation was stilted.
Logistics aside, Koma put on one serious performance, sending femme fatales down a blood-red carpet in higher-than-high knee highs, glass-cut heels and diamanté-dipped lipstick. Somewhere between a dominatrix’s closet and an Oscar’s fashion cupboard, the collection displayed his colourist skills, pulling on canary yellows and electric purples. Here, his penchant for marabou trims and duchesse satin reached peak decadence, one overcoat so tuffeted it moved of its own accord. The message? Go all out.
When people are paring back economically, it’s only natural to blow off steam. Looking expensive: in. Old-money modesty: out. Sure, patent leather and bejewelled neckties can’t save us from economic doom, nor are they cheaper than therapy, but they do feel great.
Certainly, glamour was the fil rouge. “One of the most iconic women of the 20th century was Marlene Dietrich,” Koma said post show. “I wanted to pull combinations from the heyday of the Thirties, and my favourite era, the Sixties. Two revolutionary eras.” That explained the bejewelled cigarettes models brandished with exquisite languor. As for the polished flowers that decorated bralettes and skirts, these were made from leather, finished with a lacquer akin to nail varnish. Oh so opulent! And quite right, too. Life’s short: get the fillers, buy the boots. JB
Central Westminster Hall, SW1H
You know you’re in for a treat when there’s an actual organ in front of you. Such was the greeting at Simone Rocha, which took place inside a lavish Westminster venue opposite the Houses of Parliament. There was also an orchestra featuring a violin and an accordion.
There is always an air of exasperation by this time of the day, but the guests showed no signs of abating, with many dressed head-to-toe in Rocha’s signature grown-up-yet-girlish designs.
All the tropes were there: bulbous pearls lining smocks, balloon sleeves adding volume on either side of blouses and frocks, and a lot of lace. Notable were the white doiley-like creations, including a sheer nightgown-slash-bridal creation and a co-ord comprising an oversized T-shirt and wide-leg trousers. Then there were puffy-skirted ball gowns covered in floral embellishments that came in dusky pinks and pale yellows. Shoes are always a highlight here, and this time around didn’t disappoint. Standout pairs included platform Mary-Janes and scarlet ballet slippers straight out of Oz.
Culottes came as a surprise; as did the bows that perched beneath models’ eyes, falling down their faces like tears. Rocha is one of the few designers to regularly cast models of a range of ages in her shows, with several older faces featuring this time around, proving just how ageless her designs truly are.
A terrific way to close the day. Things are looking up after all. OP