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Real Connection and Bright Optimism at London Fashion Week AW21

Thu 25 Feb

At the beginning of the pandemic-induced fashion weeks, we were sceptical and bemused; at being homebound, locked down, at the lack of physical fashion. At this point, we’re used to facing the screen for our fashion and are - for the most part- convinced that the introduction of digital is long overdue. We’ve adjusted to films, animations and lookbooks; you could say we’re a little fatigued. And so, it’s a real showcase of skill to shine amidst the scrolling schedule. But at London Fashion Week, designers and creatives did just that; they shone. Simone Rocha, in particular, was one of the week’s highlights. Her relatively simple fashion film was a perfect showing of an exceptional collection. Rocha’s move to almost Junya-esque leather bodices, biker jackets and beading was a brilliant way to reinvent her signature frills and pearls. Similarly, Molly Goddard played with her signatures - tulle, clashing pinks and fair isle sweaters - by layering and clashing more and more. Menswear was better than ever. Both used their fashion films as if shows, no overt tricks, just runway with the occasional zoom-in on a sleeve.

Simone Rocha AW21

On the other side of the coin were designers such as Bianca Saunders, Ahluwalia and Saul Nash who presented beautifully engaging and moving films that showcased not just their collections but also their brand ethos and community and style. We know that the pandemic-brained population is hungry for connection; we want that empathetic visual amidst the news of Texas freezing over or Kim Kardashian’s divorce, but these felt different, better, more real. Bianca Saunders brought elevated tailoring, Saul Nash showed intimacy with his performancewear and Ahluwalia - who just won the Queen Elizabeth II Award For British Design - had cinematic appeal amongst her brilliant upcycled looks.

Ahluwalia AW21

”What worked this season was what pierced through the noise, collections and presentations that would have succeeded had we not been locked indoors.”

Likewise, both Pronounce and Art School portrayed truth and power in their collections and presentations. Pronounce’s patchwork-like blazers and sharp-shouldered coats were enticingly sartorial, with their accompanying film reflective and emotive. Art School, Eden Loweth’s first solo show, was hair-raisingly strong - the silhouettes and fabrications were decidedly luxurious, and the cast, as usual, set a new inclusivity standard.

Art School AW21

A few didn't translate as powerfully as others; Riccardo Tisci's offering at Burberry, while a size improvement, was still a little off-kilter. Despite the effervescent group of designers and the engaging showcase of creativity, Fashion East made one yearn for tangibility. What worked this season was what pierced through the noise, collections and presentations that would have succeeded had we not been locked indoors. Overall, London Fashion Week felt like a much-needed pep-talk in what makes this city so great.