Gender fluidity. Hybrid identities. Creative political expression. These could all read as a strategically curated reel of dumped millennial buzzwords if not handled with the right level of consciousness, integrity and heart. For terms that can mean for much for so many, they can feel so impersonal when carelessly brandished without meaning, particularly by me-too brands and the media. Luckily, when it comes to Tolu Coker’s collection - this season’s Merit Award winning showcase - there is heart, there is meaning and, above all else, it is deeply personal.
As a unisex fashion brand centred around inclusivity, diversity and social responsibility, Tolu Coker’s ethos and ambition couldn’t be more relevant to now if it tried. But it’s genuine too, informed especially by her own dual identity as a Nigerian Londoner. This collection focused on reimagining black identity within a western context, and fuses icons of her heritage– think old family photographs, cultural prints and designs inspired by own father’s diary – with contemporary fabrics, youthful colour schemes and modern design.
It was loud, it was bold and it was vibrant. The collection felt like the wearer was able to carve out their own unique identity, without the enforced constraints of gender or politics. It was carefree as it clashed naval-exposed crop tops and 90s denim with Nigerian prints and braided hair. Recycled leather in vibrant colours, along with reused scraps of fabric and plastic on both male and female bodies, blurred lines and provided unexpected combinations that spoke to the endless possibilities and juxtapositions that make up each and every one of us.
The Ones to Watch show is always a treat! Hosted by Fashion Scout in Freemasons Hall, it is when the four winners of The Ones to Watch award for London Fashion Week AW19 showcase their winning collections – 1x1 Studio, Aurélie Fontan, Bowen Hu and Shie Lyu.
The panel for this prestigious award includes names such as Martyn Roberts – Fashion Scout’s Founder and Director, Costanze Lombardi – Next Gen Buyer at Browns, Kendal Robbins – Senior Programme Manager at British Council, Lizzy Bowring – Catwalk Director at WGSN and Scarlett Conlon – Deputy Fashion Editor at The Guardian. Gathering in November 2018 to make their selections, you can be assured they know what they are talking about.
A luxury menswear brand established in 2017, 1x1 Studio creates playful 3D textures in knitwear, focusing on craftmanship and creative knitting techniques. The label is currently working with Wei Yao Lin, who has an innate sensibility of materials and focuses on the visuals and silhouettes in the design.
Founded and lead by Taiwan born, London based Yi-Ling Kuo, a London College of Fashion graduate, 1x1 uses recycled materials and specialist yarn as well as their crafted knitting techniques in the hope of raising awareness of undiscovered territories. Priding themselves on rethinking strategies to reduce waste while designing and producing.
This AW19 collection looks back at the state-of-the-art technology from present to the 80s combined with the legend of Icarus to explain the relationship between human and technology. Not sure how they connect? Well, I’ll tell you! The idea of “don’t fly too close to the sun” from the story of Icarus, corresponds with the human attitude towards science and technology in real life situations. No matter if its now or in the 80s, people are always being reminded to not rely too much on the convenience brought by technology in daily life.
Aurélie Fontan is a Paris born, London based designer who launched her label in 2018. A sustainable fashion designer who focuses on bio-design and the circular economy. Fontan’s work represents the “techno-craft”concept, where eco-friendly luxury womenswear is produced from the latest technology and unconventional techniques.
Graduating from the Edinburgh College of Art, Fontan went on to have 6 nominations at Graduate Fashion Week, including three main awards in Womenswear, Sustainable and Ethical Catwalk Textiles and getting an additional award for the Micheal Kors Accessory Design Competition. The collection was engineered in a science lab with the help of grown yeast and bacteria, 100% biodegradable Kombucha - which she grew herself!
This AW19 collection stands as a utopia for fashion of the future. Bringing in her passion for sustainability into the core, to create ethical and luxury clothing. Including a bio-designed dress made from bacteria and recycled material — linked together not through sewing but re-usable products that can be easily recycled!
Bowen Hu is a New York based designer strongly influenced by her understanding of personality and psychology. Her collections are unisex with an innovative approach to texture, colour and silhouettes — with her ideas of design tending to psychologically or physically support the wearer and environment, and its interaction with the garment itself.
Her AW19 collection ‘Lucid Dream’ is inspired by the world of the subconscious mind and brainwave patterns. For each design a dream analysis was taken, meaning each one represents the story of a personal dream. How beautiful is that?
Hu is from China and studied at both Central Saint Martens and Parsons in New York. Her work has been seen in Vogue Italia, Paper Magazine, Trend Prive, Document Journal and more!
Shie Lyu was born in China and has lived in Sydney, Tokyo, New York and London which has all inspired her work, just as much as her 12 years travelling around the world. With a background in finance and accounting, she has a passion for meticulous construction and sculptural silhouettes— reminding her of the financial charts and mathematical models.
In this collection Lyn plays the mathematician, using ‘formulas’ and ‘tools’ to create a new modern and romantic couture collection. Asking herself ‘what can a mathematician innovate in fashion?’ Using this to inspire her whole collection.
Graduating from Parsons in New York, her graduate collection went on to showcase a NYFW and her collections have been featured in publications like Vogue Runway.
Perhaps the most sophisticated show of the weekend, Rohmir not only showcased the weeks youngest fashion stars, welcoming three adorable child models to the catwalk, but was stepped out to a live operatic performance.
Setting out to capture the passion of classic Italian beauty, Rohmir’s SS18 prom dress collection entitled “Sparkling”, boasts yet another line of timeless ready-to-wear pieces which scream out nobility and class.
The SS18 colour palette remained simple, yet sophisticated; with navy and cream, meeting midnight and sky blues. Rohmir favours v-neck or crew-cut necklines, her dresses classically tailored to create a sleek finish which compliments the female silhouette.
Adding to the aura of elegance and glamour, Rohmir’s SS collection keeps its “Sparkling” promise, with beads and sequins studding the gowns and decorating the hemlines, while side-slit skirts and open backs give the collection a touch of risqué.
A stand-out piece came in the form a beautiful white wrap-around gown, one of two pieces decorated from top to toe in delicate applique flowers.
Ruffled collars and flared sleeves were just a couple more standout features of the collection, which was not simply walked, but theatrically performed by its talented cast of models, beautifully made up with 30s inspired hair and classic smoky eyes credit to Kryolan UK and Tony and Guy.
Confidently showcased, designer Olga Roh put on a truly outstanding showcase on every level of detail, earning herself a celebratory walk of the runway in one of her own stunning designs.
Sidharth Singhis's,contemporary womenswear label, grew out of a remote Village in North East India.
Eponymous to its principles, N&S GAIA prides itself on its sustainable use of fabrics, specialising in natural fibres and pioneering the exploration into upcycling techniques, the ‘N’ and ‘S’ of its name, standing for Nature and Sustainability.
The SS18 collection further develops the designers signature style; free-flowing fabrics and long hems, tapestry-esque motifs and the incorporation and modernisation of traditional Indian embroidery technique, Dakamanda.
Turning from the vibrant shades of rouge, cherry and yellow from his AW17 collection Hybrid, Singhis’s SS palette introduces more delicate pastel colourings in tie-dye effect, the earthy tones of autumn replaced by camel and sand.
The lightness of the fabrics gives the collection an air of fluidity and movement; wide-legged trousers, shift dresses and wrap-around jackets which billow at the hems and create a sense of airiness and serenity which perfectly embodies the multi-cultural expression of the collections home-country, while further encapsulating the romantic connotations of spring.
To contrast the relaxed sentiment of the silk, the pieces come embellished with black-beads and sequins, wide embroidered collars and oversized statement jewellery, which grant the collection a flair of expense and oriental richness.
In anticipation of upcoming trends, we can see in this collection the common threads of pink, yellow and pastel blues which have been favourites across the fashion weekend. Side slits, wide sleeves and exaggerated ruffles can also be recognised as common features of next years’ SS collections.
Overall the SS18 N&S GAIA collection presents itself as an expression of multiculturalism, nature and the calming nature of femininity, from North East India, to South East England, may Singhis's designs sustain you through the summer.
By the end of a busy day of shows, the crowd outside Freemasons’ Hall are usually ready to get a bit of a Friday wiggle on in the last shows of the day. And Michaela Frankova did not disappoint them.
The beat of the music echoed through the showspace as her beautiful young things oozed down the catwalk, almost in slow-motion, showing off every indulgence that the designer had woven into the pieces.
Decadent headdresses, designed by Della Reed at Velvet Eccentric, sat atop marcel-waved hair, dripping in beads and glittering jewels that scattered themselves down the faces of the models. Necks were cuffed with velvet collars in rich tones, some created exclusively for the collection by Reed, each one adorned with different neckpieces that drew the audience’s attention.
And then we get to the clothes themselves. Inspired by the classic Hollywood glamour of the 1940s, the collection mostly consisted of dresses; long, shimmering gowns made up of delicate beading and layers of tulle walked alongside sultry slips made of delicate silks.
Silvers, lilacs and golds gave the designs a sophistication, while stronger, bolder colours and eye-catching prints from digital artist T-Mo Bauer added a feisty kick.
For more of a day-to-day style, there were tight trousers in black and white, featuring intricate lace and fur cut-outs that were emulated in the sheer tops and jackets that they were paired with.
As the music reached a crescendo, Frankova’s ultimate Golden Age woman arrived on the catwalk, wearing a decadent evening dress in cornflower blue and silver shades. Shoeless and clutching a venetian eye mask, she laughed and spun down the catwalk, flanked by two models in white leotard dresses, covered in jewels. And it was this that summed up Frankova’s collection perfectly; opulent and dramatic pieces that emphasise the individual, enigmatic character of anyone who wears them.