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  • AW19, Matty Bovan. Photo Matty Bovan

Sex, witchcraft & Italian nobility: designers tell stories through craft at London Fashion Week

by Sara Khan

This week we saw the return of London Fashion Week, with designers across the city showing their Autumn/Winter 2019 womenswear collections. We saw a number of designers – from the emerging to the established – innovating with lace, embroidery and knitwear across the runways. Now that the curtain has closed on the final show, we bring you our highlights.

AW19, JW Anderson. Photo JW Anderson

JW Anderson

JW Anderson’s womenswear collection featured examples of chunky, colourful knitwear and tailored coats, some with woollen detailing, worn in layers and brought in tight around the waist by wide belts to create billowing silhouettes. Embroidered sequins appeared in details around the shoulders for tops, paired with matching skirts. The more delicate evening dresses were draped with silky, ruched materials over the shoulders to create contrasting shapes to flatter the wearer's figure. Hovering above the models’ heads were leather baseball caps that were also made into matching handbags to continue the sports-luxe look for this season.  

AW19, Asai. Photo Asai

Asai

A graduate of Central St Martins and alumnus of emerging designers’ platform Fashion East, Asai showed his debut ready-to-wear collection at London Fashion Week. He has worked with Kanye West’s brand Yeezy and at American luxury label The Row, known for its pared down aesthetic, and the influence of both these was clear in the designer’s use of a neutral colour palette. As a whole, the collection was a move away from the aesthetic he demonstrated while at Fashion East, which involved more experimentation with fabrics, textures and processes, and more vibrant colours. Nonetheless, his craft skills were still on show – for example, in the way he patched together leather and lace in some of his long coats. Materials-wise, wool was the star of the show – mixed in with other fabrics or on its own on cosy jumpers, hats and legwarmers. Asai also continued to explore his British-Chinese-Vietnamese identity, incorporating stylistic flourishes such as a slit in the skirt, echoing the Vietnamese fashion trait.

AW19, Christopher Kane. Photo Christopher Kane

Christopher Kane

Like with his previous collections, Christopher Kane had been thinking about materialism, beauty, sexuality and secrecy when putting together his AW19 offering, which features fetishistic materials such as leather, lace and embellishments such as pinned broaches to clench dresses or scarves attached to knitted tops. A similar theme continued with a range of skirts with cupcake-shaped hems, sheer body suits, coats with rubber lapels, jumper dresses, colourful block printed dresses and crystal detailing on shirts. Boldly coloured sequin tops and skirts completed the collection.

AW19, Vivienne Westwood. Photo Vivienne Westwood

Vivienne Westwood

For her return to the catwalk in London after presenting digitally for two years, Vivienne Westwood showed signature pieces that incorporated crafts skills, including check and tartan tailoring, draped gowns, protest T-shirts and knitted shorts. Echoing the atmosphere of protest surrounding the event – action by groups against fast-fashion, for example – many of the outfits were adorned with slogans opposing the politics of the moment, lack of action on climate change and consumerism.

AW19, Matty Bovan. Photo Matty Bovan

Matty Bovan

Matty Bovan collaborated with Liberty London, as well as working with mills in the north of England, on a collection inspired by six months of research into the dark history of witchcraft in Britain – such gruesome events as the 1612 witch trials in Pendle Hill in Lancashire. The result is a bewitching selection of gender-fluid outfits that takes lavish lengths of contrasting patterned fabrics and ties them together in dramatic, loose drapes – a look completed by top hats and pagan-esque accessories. 'I hid symbols in everything – if you look closely you can see that the entire collection is just made of codes and messages,' Bovan told the FT, adding that his own face is even knitted into one of the garments.

AW19, Erdem. Photo Erdem

Erdem

Erdem Moralıoğlu’s luxurious AW19 collection was shown off in the opulent surroundings of the National Portrait Gallery, with an equally appropriate inspiration behind the designs – a singular, compelling individual. Princess Orietta Doria Pamphilj, a legendary figure in 1960s Rome, has been something of a fixation for the designer ever since he visited her family’s palatial former residence – now a gallery – in Italy. The story goes that she was expected to become a nun, but that those plans were scuppered when she returned from a trip to London inspired by the city’s liberalism and with an adopted child in tow. Erdem’s latest design draw on both these influences: the cuts and volumes of the dresses nod to 1960s Britain, while feathers, bows, veils and shimmering embroidery is full-on Italian nobility.

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