Tracking all the standouts from this season’s top collections.
London is the city of unbridled creativity, and the second stop on the Fashion Month circuit. See what the city’s designers have to offer for spring 2021 with the five best looks from each standout collection.
If you’re not quite sure of your answer to one of the great questions of our work from home age—to get dressed, or not to get dressed?—consider Toga for your spring 2021 wardrobing needs. The cult Japanese label splits the difference with such intriguing propositions as a cut away gathered jersey dress worn with relaxed athletic shorts or a gauzy maxi skirt paired with a performance bodysuit and matching swim cap. The later were made in collaboration with swimwear giant Speedo, an unlikely partnership that also yielded Speedo jackets wrapped tied around the waist and worn as a skirt. Peeking out from cut-away trench coats and thick knit dresses with strategically placed holes, cobalt and scarlet jumpsuits and swim pants are considerably more polished than your average Lycra look. —Alison S. Cohn
Erdem Moralioglu’s romantic heroines often look as though they’ve stepped out of the pre-industrial world described in the pages of an 18th-century novel. So in some sense things came full circle when he showed his gorgeous spring 2021 collection in ancient Epping Forest outside of London, with an avenue of oak and birch trees serving as both runway and audience. Striding down that path in the woods in Moralioglu’s signature Toile de Jouy print separates and puff-sleeved empire waist gowns, these were women blissfully unaware of the burgeoning Sweatpants Forever movement. However, that’s not to say they’re averse to comfort: soft mohair cardigans were casually thrown over evening dresses and eagle-eyed observers will spot jeans styled under skirts. —Alison S. Cohn
Victoria Beckham has carved a niche in the fashion space for tailored, smart workwear. Going into spring 2021, her starting point, Beckham said via a release, was simply that, “Limitations can be liberating…Working remotely, for this collection we reacted spontaneously. We were instinctive. We asked ourselves what has changed? Who do we want to be?” The answer, it seems, continues to be found in easy tailored pieces, including slim suiting with extra long flared trousers, mixed with coordinating sets, and approachable but sexy cut-out dresses done up in louche stretch fabrics. All of it is wearable, cool, and very Victoria Beckham. There is, after all, no world in which we imagine her pushing the sweatpants life. —Kerry Pieri
Designer and curator Duro Olowu works at the intersection of fashion, art, and culture. He took a break last season to launch an exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, so it was pleasure to see him show a new collection at London Fashion Week this time around. (That stellar exhibit, “Duro Olowu Seeing Chicago,” placed Olowu’s own fashion designs alongside works from disparate mediums such as Simone Leigh’s sculptures using elements of traditional African art and Lorraine O’Grady’s black-and-white portraiture. It’s still accessible via an online audio tour.) For spring 2021 Olowu drew inspiration for his painterly stripes and color-blocked rooster prints from the work of the late Emma Amos, who passed away earlier this year. Through vivid paintings and collages featuring scenes of Black domestic life—often with fabric borders—Amos challenged racism, sexism, and hierarchies of art and craft, much like Olowu himself. —Alison S. Cohn
Kim Jones, Jonathan Anderson, and Martine Rose are just a few of the names who got their start in Fashion East, the legendary London young designer incubator. September marks the program’s 20th anniversary, and these being COVID-19 times, to celebrate, founder Lulu Kennedy opted to host a virtual fashion film premiere in lieu of the traditional group runway show. Maximilian Davis made his debut, joining three returning designers: Nensi Dojaka, who Bella Hadid wore to the VMAs, and menswear designers Goom Heo and Saul Nash. Since graduating from the London College of Fashion in 2017, the Trinidadian-British designer has honed his tailoring chops working under Grace Wales Bonner (herself a Fashion East alum) and it shows. Drawing inspiration from Carnival costumes, Davis put a distinctive body-con spin on tailoring—think keyhole halter-top dresses and micro miniskirts paired with princess seamed frock coats. —Alison S. Cohn
While the intersection of fantasy and minimalism might seem like a tricky spot to find, Emilia Wickstead had her GPS perfectly tuned for spring 2021. Inspired by a dreamy early 20th century travelogue found on her daughter’s bedside table, the designer turned out romantic-yet-simple silhouettes in cotton that could be styled for day or night (a call-out in the show notes, furthering the idea that versatility will become increasingly important for how we dress—and shop). From voluminous takes on the little white dress to oversized collars that wrapped cape-like around the shoulders, there was a wardrobe’s worth of refined dresses. It wasn’t all prim, either. Structured bralettes are the chicest of crop tops and sizzle when poking out from under a collared capelet. —Leah Melby Clinton
Another welcome addition to the September show schedule is Edward Crutchley, Kim Jones’s longtime right-hand and a rising star on the London men’s wear scene. Crutchley’s spring 2021 collection, titled “Something gritty, something pretty,” was an homage to “the flawless sang-froid of avenging female Yakuza bosses” in Japanese director Hideo Gosha’s 1986 gangster film Yakuza Wives, Crutchley said in his show notes. Or, more simply put, it was about “the thrill of daring to dress.” Crutchley’s design practice marries global craftsmanship with British textile heritage, and that was evident here through his flounced tailoring which expertly mashed up kimono ribbon patterns and Hawaiian prints with gingham, Prince of Wales check, and houndstooth. While it is hard to imagine a Zoom occasion to which you might wear the towering bow headpiece by Stephen Jones that topped a jacquard dress with larger-than-life sleeves—or how you would fit it all in the camera frame—the dauntless fashion effort was appreciated. —Alison S. Cohn
If there’s a silver lining to fashion weeks going digital in both New York and London this season, it’s that a number of designers who previously showed during the June men’s weeks have opted to show in September, traditionally the month of women’s shows. One such welcome addition to the calendar is the gender fluid label Art School, helmed by Eden Loweth, whose audience-less show titled “Therapy” had a live soundtrack by Brits Rising Star award winner Celeste. Loweth’s 54-look lineup—running the gamut from deconstructed silk maxi skirts to military outerwear and Saville Row-inspired tailoring—was as inclusive as their casting, which featured a number of young trans and nonbinary creatives, disability advocates, and a local UK politician. The through-line is bias-cut, a construction technique used in flou silhouettes to create natural stretch, which Loweth also applies to suiting—to brilliant effect. —Alison S. Cohn
While we’re all looking forward, parsing the meaning of the “new normal,” it seems Simone Rocha was looking back in history, as she often does. Rocha’s work blends Victorian and Edwardian inspiration with an ample dose of romance—all with a downtown, boyish bend. Spring 2021 had all that in droves, along with Rocha’s staple floral and pearl adornments, but there was something extra this time around. This collection celebrated the female form, corseting busts, at times cinching waists (a rarity for Rocha), and turning bows into hips. The collection felt ultra-luxe, almost like ultra-femme armor. To protect against what, we wondered? Rocha answered that in her poetic show notes: “Sobering and exploding. Pragmatic and foreboding … looking for comfort and security in the extreme.” Whatever lies ahead, it appears Rocha’s woman will be prepared for it—clad in embroidered breastplates, with mother of pearl and faceted gem evening clutches the size of medieval wartime ball and chains, and “ergonomic shoes and souls.” —Carrie Goldberg
Bold brights; stripes and checks; ruffles on ruffles on ruffles. Sounds like a classic Molly Goddard collection, does it not? But Goddard wasn’t in the mood for her standard smile-inducing, frothy frocks when she first came out of lockdown. Per her show notes, the designer was feeling down, as we all were, and set out to design a more subdued collection, something “pared down” in all “neutral tones.” Until, that was, she understood the role she plays in making the fashion industry (and herself) smile, even in tough times. “As we returned slowly to the studio, after months of working as a team over Zoom, I realized how dark and depressing the last few months had been and more and more color crept in…” More color indeed—in clashing colors and patterns inspired by the Villa Menafoglio and Guiseppe and Giovanna Panza’s art collection, which features textured and messy Claus Oldenburg papier-mache dresses alongside sleek and simple Robert Morris sculptures. While fashion lovers have always gravitated to Goddard’s designs, this collection will surely win her new fans ready to try dopamine dressing. —Carrie Goldberg
Michael Halpern made his name with Studio 54-inspired eveningwear. So what’s a disco-loving designer to do about his spring 2021 collection, shown in the time of COVID-19 when there’s absolutely nothing on the social calendar for the foreseeable future? While there were fewer sequins overall, Halpern created his most exuberant, couture-like silhouettes to date. (An emerald and black polka-dot silk draped orb dress and tea-length dress melding leopard jacquard with an explosion of ombré pink-to-black plumes were particular standouts.) Then, he invited eight “frontline heroines”—AKA essential workers including an ICU nurse, an OB/GYN, and a night bus station manager—to model in his lookbook. And he turned the shoot into a full fledged dance party (socially distanced, of course). “This collection was created in celebration of the women on the frontline, and for anyone it may inspire and uplift,” the designer explained in his show notes. —Alison S. Cohn
The draping, tucking, and folding at Matty Bovan was so exuberantly over the top that it was hard to identify where one layer ended and another began—it’s Mad Max in technicolor. His focus on craft means materials and accents look as if they are churned out by a knitting circle rather than sleek industrial machines—which is a major pro for Bovan’s young fans, to whom rabid consumerism continues to look more and more evil. The show’s theme of “Future Olde England” was perhaps seen most clearly in the grand silhouettes, whose peplums, panniers, and heaven-bound shoulders signify that the wearer is worthy of notice. In olde olde England, that privilege would have belonged to the few, but in the future? We all deserve clothes that announce our presence. —Leah Melby Clinton
Although there were no actual mermaid tail dresses or seashell bras in Rixo’s “Ariel” collection, the theme wasn’t hidden in murky symbolism either. The sea sirens were swimming through the colorful prints, bringing the sort of cheeky, playful attitude that devotees of the British brand’s hyper-wearable dresses know and love. Designers Henrietta Rix and Orlagh McCloskey continued to print-block with aplomb, but visual variety also sang out with oversized collars, keyhole backs, and a new focus on separates. Rixo has always been about fun, and this collection doesn’t disappoint. —Leah Melby Clinton
The show must go on: That seemed to be the message of Burberry Chief Creative Officer Ricardo Tisci’s fashion-show-as-performance-art spectacular that kicked off London Fashion Week. Together, Tisci and performance artist Anne Imhof sought to tell their own contemporary fairy tale, reflecting the juxtaposition of the mystical and the natural. Models emerged from the woods wearing Tisci’s signature tailoring-meets-streetwear staples, which came in classic Burberry beige and a spectrum of blue tones, accented with fisherman’s hats in mariner orange. In a one-line synopsis, Tisci called the scene “a love affair between a mermaid and a shark, set against the ocean, then brought to land,” according to his inspiration notes. What looked like portholes—small, round openings based on the handle of Burberry’s new signature Pocket bag—featured prominently across Tisci’s spring 2021 accessories and garments. This added to the dystopian sense that he was prepping his followers for life on a new Atlantis. —Alison S. Cohn