London Fashion Week: British identity in majesty



Brexit, Covid… For several years, British fashion has lived through turbulence. In September 2022, thinking it was back on track, London fashion week was hit by the funeral of Elizabeth II, which forced some brands to cancel or postpone their shows. “All of this has collectively forced us to hold back an energy that can finally be released today”, welcomes Caroline Rush. The director general of the British Fashion Council is now delighted to see American and Japanese journalists and buyers return, and to welcome the heavyweight Burberry to its latest edition, which took place from February 17 to 21. A mixed fashion week, in tribute to Vivienne Westwood, who died on December 29, 2022, and focused on the British national story, mixing typical references from across the Channel, like a reflection on the common identity.

The most anticipated fashion show was undoubtedly that of Burberry. The label, precipitated by Britishness, changes artistic direction. After five years of often tedious collections by Riccardo Tisci, here comes Daniel Lee, appointed in September 2022. The native of Bradford, West Yorkshire, cut his teeth at Bottega Veneta between 2018 and 2021. He is revealed there capable of a singular ready-to-wear and, above all, a skilful designer of bags. The mission now entrusted to it by Burberry is to continue to upgrade its image and boost its sales (about 3 billion euros in annual turnover).

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For his first collection, in front of five hundred guests under a tent erected on the outskirts of Kennington Park, he relies on British references. The trench coat is there, but discreetly, in fir green gabardine. And these are especially the tartan patterns which multiply in abundance, on turtleneck T-shirts, trousers with zipped pockets, suits, tights and even kilts, in combinations of acid tones (lemon and electric blue; raspberry and wine-red ). The prints, sometimes psychedelic, reproduce roses or ducks.

“London has always been the epicenter of unbridled creativity. I in turn wanted to show the world the positive side of Great Britain.assures Daniel Lee, ” happy ” of his return home. The silhouettes, uneven but sometimes giving a punk thrill to the house founded in 1856, insist on functional and photogenic accessories, from sandals lined with faux fur, fitting with voluminous trapper headdresses, to rain boots.

Materials and ancestral traditions

“After a year like this, we realize how anxious this country is”, notes Jonathan Anderson. By way of appeasement, he plunges back into his admiration for Michael Clark, choreographer of the London scene of the 1980s, renowned for his pop performances. “I wanted to offer a real fan collection. Going to see a musician or performer and leaving with the tour t-shirt is something we Brits like to do. »

JW Anderson.

Fan T-shirts at JW Anderson take up the aesthetics of Clark’s posters or flyers: here, the diversion of a Coca-Cola logo; there, the drawing of a penis, echoing the one who combined modern dance and nudity. To this Anderson adds Instagrammable mules imitating animal paws and revamped archive pieces: cubist coats and pants, faux fur crop tops…

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It was the Celtic religious festival of Lugnasad, celebrated in Scotland and Ireland, which fed Simone Rocha. Held on 1er August, during the harvest season, this festival is the occasion for dances, poems or popular songs. “I had in mind the earthy and rough West Ireland”, explains the designer. In the grandiose enclosure of the Central Hall Westminster, it uses ancestral materials and traditions, from the raffia that bulges or covers the muslin dresses to the elaborate pieces in macramé. Puffy sleeves, noble scarves in crystals or pearls, candid girl’s dresses dotted with bows… Simone Rocha succeeds, with scope, in modeling an ambiguous character in each silhouette.

Simone Rocha.

Erdem Moralioglu took his inspiration from a London house: his own. “After the acquisition, we discovered documents explaining that the building was connected to the neighboring dwellings, and that it had been transformed in 1860 into a refuge for single women”, he says. From there, he fantasized garments that echoed this house of Georgian architecture, pulling dresses with puffed sleeves in pure Victorian style, pieces with crinkled effect and purplish tones of the walls, floral double-breasted coats that seem to fraying, suggesting threadbare tapestries.

SS Daley.

It is a poet of the same period that calls Steven Stokey Daley. In a dark room in Soho, actor Ian McKellen reads prose by Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892) about the power of the waves. The sea and the Navy, a national institution, are at the center of the subject. “Recently, I was able to recover property from my great-grandfather, who was in it”says the winner of the LVMH 2022 prize. He draws an ode to the open sea traversed by eroticism, inevitably dominated by navy blue: headdresses and sailor bags, striped knits with a knot at the collar and large coats for the days of storm. “As a good sailor, my grandfather had quite a collection of pin-up pictures! », laughs Daley. And to reimagine them, since the United Kingdom is no longer that of yesterday, in its own way, in a masculine way, adorning shirts and caftans with the print of an adonis in the simplest device.

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