What is fashion to be in the 2020s? London’s designers on this list, for the most part independent voices in their 20s to early 40s, came up with a variety of proposals. “Nouveau chic” is the way Jonathan Anderson expressed it—a term that might cover the grown-up but still innovative ways of dressing offered by Victoria Beckham and Roksanda. Individuality is alive and kicking, with a breadth of the spectrum encompassing Christopher Kane, Simone Rocha, and Erdem. The optimism and problem-solving creativity of the young in difficult times shone, if anything, brighter and stronger—be that in Richard Quinn’s ambitious show or in the lead being taken by Phoebe English and Richard Malone in normalizing cooperative, climate-aware good practice.
“Where some designers pay lip service to sustainable and ethical fashion, Richard Malone is fully committed. Alongside the show notes for his new collection was a mission statement outlining the details of his practices with full transparency, right down to the hourly rates (25 pounds an hour minimum) for the local cutters and tailors he employs. He certainly doesn’t do things by halves: When Malone isn’t repurposing or recycling fabric, the designer works exclusively with weavers or mills that have regenerative initiatives, using only organic, plant-derived, and azo-free dyes. Factor in the one-of-a-kind nature of his custom pieces and what you get is a truly considered rebuttal to throwaway fashion.” —Chioma Nnadi
“Quinn might not have been consciously making a point about the interconnectedness of European fashion history, since he’s been working to imprint his own English-cabbage-rose-tinted surreal imagination on Dioresque shapes since he was in his third year at Central Saint Martins. They’re the templates across which he’s been exuberantly painting his ambition to create a world of color, print, and glamour for at least six years. And now he wants to transfer it to men. They too can now revel in beaded rose couture corsets and flaunt ‘pinstripes’ or ‘dogtooth tweed’ created by a million black and silver beads. ‘Masculine and sexy,’ as Quinn said.” —S.M.
“Victoria Beckham’s confident wardrobe-building streak has become a calming inspiration for frazzled women. After London storms blew a rain-drenched crowd into the Banqueting House in Whitehall, she sat them down and showed clothes for winter that people only wished they’d been able to pull out of their closets that morning.” —S.M.
“…What’s seriously obvious here is how much [Roksanda] Ilincic is now an original and compelling designer on London’s landscape: someone whose signatures have been in place ever since she first started back in 2005, offering up the likes of caped and cocooning shapes and duskily romantic and ‘off’ colors before they entered the mainstream fashion lexicon. On a day when the London schedule was chock-full of strong female voices—Simone Rocha, Margaret Howell, and Victoria Beckham among them—Ilincic’s work is singularly distinctive. And what’s been heartening, and was in full force with this fall collection, is how much she has recently been drawing on the art world, particularly and usually female practitioners, to enter into some creative and cultural dialogue.” —Mark Holgate
“To run your eyes over Rocha’s show was to see a beautiful tonal sequence of white cotton, blanket-y off-white wool, pieces of Aran knitting, and fluid oyster satin. ‘So here are fisherman’s bags, nets, pearls, and the birthing dresses with fat babies on them,’ she said. Allusions lead naturally from one thing to another and become products in Rocha’s head. Her Alice bands acquired dripping pearly extensions; her wildly successful line of earrings turned into a haul of broken seashells and ‘foggy’ chandeliers. But then, something darker began to flow in. There’s always a shadow side lurking in the familiar folds and layers of Rocha’s narratives. Women in mourning, church rituals, priests, legends, and the Virgin Mary all became wound into this one.” —S.M.
“Comparisons between the 1920s and the 2020s are beginning to surface in fashion—the Deco geometrics, the glitter. For Erdem, the resonances were personal, lodged in the knowledge of how Cecil Beaton first photographed his sisters Baba and Nancy, dressing them, rigging up sets at home, and making his fantasies come true. ‘It spoke to me, because in his early years he created who he would become. He wasn’t born into that family of aristocracy. He wasn’t a socialite; he was a middle-class kid with parents who had boring middle-class backgrounds,’ said [Erdem] Moralioglu. ‘It reminded me of how I photographed my sister, Sara, up against the wall in our basement, with a disposable camera, and then had those pictures printed to make up my portfolio application for Ryerson University.’” —S.M.
“Nouveau chic was the perfectly crisp term Jonathan Anderson coined for his eponymous collection. It garnered a vigorous nodding of heads backstage. Amid all the confusion of the times we’re living in at the turn of the new decade, women’s fashion needs definitive signposts. This collection offered them with clarity and variety—an answer to the complex desires and needs that sharp-eyed, sophisticated women factor into the business of getting dressed today.” —S.M.
“There was also something slightly darker and more intense about it all this season; Kane surmised that the models looked as if they might be members of “some kind of cult.” Still, it’s a collection that touched on the wide span of Kane signatures, which encompass white shirts with isosceles triangles of black patent inserts, animal prints, substantial duffel coats, and loads of oversize knitwear. Plenty to buy, and plenty to keep people staring at the oddness that lies within.” —S.M.
“If Burberry is contributing to modernizing the world’s impression of Britishness, the staid image of an English gent in a trench coat and a rolled umbrella with a headscarf-wearing lady from the shires is thankfully long gone. What [Riccardo] Tisci serves is sophisticated tailoring (this season sometimes inset with zones of ribbed knit) and innovation in the form of cuts and details like looped collars on trenches and double-layered coats. There was a woman’s trench with a trailing chiffon sash instead of a regular belt, and outerwear softened by caped shapes; and for a man, a generous oversized inside-out duffel coat.” —S.M.