Fashion’s a weird one, isn’t it? At times, it’s the most important, most creative and most vibrant part of culture, and at others it’s quivering at the hands of environmental impact and varying relevance in a world full of blossoming existentialists. You only had to take a few steps out of Molly Goddard’s SS23 show this season, down the road and around the corner, to find a portable billboard posing the (flashing in bright lights) question: Do we really need more clothes? But minutes before, crowds of journalists, PRs, creatives, friends and family, and blaggers, had lined the walls of the Seymour Leisure Centre in London, rightly applauding the silhouettes and meticulous designs that the designer has become known for.
What you learn, on your third or fourth show, is that fashion week – maybe even fashion in general – isn’t really about the clothes. It’s about creating worlds, building a narrative and delivering a story, cementing your style as a designer and throwing curve balls at people’s expectations. At the best of times, it’s like watching a short film or play which entices you as soon as the music begins or the first look descends down the runway, and leaves you with an eternal imprint on your creative memory or as a page in your mind with the corner turned down for your own future inspiration. Whilst of course, the environment doesn’t need heaps and heaps of new clothes, fashion week isn’t about filling landfills as much as Venice film festival isn’t a conference about air mileage. The creativity is what sits at the heart, and creativity, again and again, we have seen at London Fashion Week.
From David Koma’s marriage of inner-city clubwear with oceanic designs, to Susan Fang’s exploration of the variables of love and peace, and NOKI’s deconstruction/reconstruction pieces, the SS23 shows across the city are testament to the effervescence of fashion in the capital – all packaged up within commitments to making sure we can enjoy these moments for as long as possible with ethics and morality at the fore.
WHAT: DILARA SS23
WHERE: An abandoned building in Lancaster Gate, London
THE VIBE: House of Horrors
What could make an abandoned house just a tad creepier? Well, models draped in raggedy get-ups snaking through the rooms, eyes fixated on something behind you as their heels clack on the floor through the unsettling silence. It was sinister, but in a good way, and nothing can stay that scary when you spot Amelia Gray, Lisa Rinna’s daughter, as part of the lineup.
The situational nightmare but visual creative dream was the recent product of the weird but totally wonderful mind of Dilara Findikoglu, who has made a deserved name for herself on the back of unconventional designs and finding fans in the likes of Bella Hadid and Dua Lipa. For the collection, the 32-year-old Turkish designer centred around feeling both trapped and liberated – a rumination upon her emotions during lockdown in Istanbul.
“To me this comes from that feeling of being trapped,” the designer explained. “I want to take my burdens off: I feel strangled with modesty, I hate modesty, I want to destroy it.”
Taking this vision with her throughout, what Dilara sent down the untraditional runway was a spectacle of twisted beauty that was felt throughout. Printed pelmet skirts sat high up legs, models wrapped themselves in voile sheer as if it could keep them warm, black and cinched corsets were cut open at the chest, and see-through floor-length dresses skimmed the floor – both restricting as a fitted outfit but revealing in its translucence. And what hit the theme home were the models themselves, who wore deathly makeup, like ghosts trapped in a dilapidated building. For Dilara, expressing the feeling of being restricted between places, a feeling that seems eternal, was successfully laid bare.
WHAT: SUSAN FANG SS23
WHERE: Marshall Street Leisure Centre, Soho
THE VIBE: Bring your (tulle) trunks!
Maybe it was just the chlorine making me delirious, but Susan Fang’s SS23 show stands out as one of this season’s greatest presentations. For her debut London runway, Fang managed to turn a swimming pool, often known for its stray plasters floating about the place and aged genitals in your peripheral vision, into a flotation spectacle full of colour, delicate details and wispy silhouettes. Bordering the inside of the pool were (relatively) sturdy floats that each look travelled around, circling several round, floating balls bobbing on the water.
After the show, Fang took to Instagram to share the footage and inspiration that helped build the collection:
“The outside world, the world, is colourful and loud.
Inner peace feels unattainable, blurry like lights to the astigmatic eye.
We were shouting our yearning for peace in the midst of trouble and conflict,
Ironically, it was love that came instead.”
The show, entitled “Air•Light”, explored “the variables of peace and love” and showcased handmade ruffled, tulle dresses accessorised with oversized, transparent blue lotus flower pendants. There were tulle, almost schoolboy shorts (a staple trend of the season), matched with cropped shirts with ruffled shoulder pads, macramé dresses (of a similar almost fishnet style to that of David Koma’s) and beaded crop tops – all displaying the meticulous detail of Fang’s creations.
WHAT: DAVID KOMA
WHERE: A backstreet in Shoreditch
THE VIBE: The city meets the sea
Halfway through London Fashion Week, crowds gathered at the edges of the impending David Koma show in the heart of Shoreditch, under a hot September sun and even brighter runway spotlights. After the rows were filled, and the likes of Bimini Bon-Boulash had taken their seats, the looks, which called upon clubwear and near-nautical designs could kick start a show that no doubt meant a lot to Koma; the location being right outside of his studio, and the very first place where William Shakespeare put on his first play: the Theatre Courtyard Gallery.
There were some Koma staples apparent in Koma’s SS23 collection, like new iterations of his biker influences. In Koma’s Pre Fall 22 show, we saw leather biker jackets in red and leather tyre track mini skirts. This time round, he sent out black and boxy leather jackets with fish hook shape, sparkly designs – a nod to the direction of the show. And whilst a lot of what we saw was rooted in the clubwear, more urban separates, there was a continued nod to the ocean.
Yes there were graphic tees with ‘Ocean City’ printed on the front, but there were also golden seashell dangling charm necklaces, hand-knotted fishnet dresses in ultramarine blue, and individual crystal-covered starfish pieces over nipples.
All together, Koma created a modern underwater city where nightlife and bustling contemporary fashion clashed with a languid aquatic fantasy.
WHAT: JW ANDERSON
WHERE: The Las Vegas Casino, Soho
THE VIBE: Winner, winner, funfair-won-goldfish-dress dinner…
Designers throughout fashion week have all paid their respects to the passing of Queen Elizabeth II in their different ways. LFW attendees have become naturals at reflecting for 60 seconds before each show, or rather spending the minute rigorously cleaning their phone cameras, checking emails and trying to make eye contact with literally anyone they know to make the pain of sitting in silence almost every hour of the day slightly more bearable. One of the statements of mourning in JW Anderson’s SS23 show came in the form of a black top with stitched writing: Her Majesty The Queen, 1926 – 2022, Thank You. But mourning aside, Anderson’s show was full of gloriously exaggerated, oddity pieces that felt like a breath of fresh air during fashion week.
A few favourites from the LFW stick-out show were pieces like the goldfish bag dress, tied up at the shoulder, showing a swimming fish within the crumpled plastic. Keyboard warriors could rejoice in Anderson’s keyboard key designs, which pulled out letters (JWA) and stuck them on crushed dresses. Bulbous, disco ball-like dresses bobbed down the runway, with the very much on-trend netted, floor-skimming dresses following close behind. It was weird, kooky, but fun through and through. And what was even more enjoyable was watching The 1975’s Matty Healy attempt to film all of the looks going down the runway on his Instagram.