Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 25 September 2020

From the front row at London Fashion Week

Standout collections aside, London Fashion Week epitomised the unity in diversity philosophy this year

Voluminous tulle dresses by Molly Goddard and Simone Rocha, a city-chic vibe at Burberry and maximalist flower prints by Richard Quinn illustrate the diversity and appeal of London Fashion Week. Home of traditional British brands yet boasting a vibrant creative scene, it draws designers from all over the world, from Warsaw to Shanghai to Dubai.

The mantra of Caroline Rush, who has helmed the British Fashion Council for the past decade, has always been “London is open” to international and European creativity – despite Brexit. “Industries such as fashion show we are great collaborators and we need to show we want to continue to work and trade with nations,” she said at the official opening.

The five-day event, which concluded on Tuesday, has coincided with the slow-moving crisis that is Brexit. The British Fashion Council released research by the UK Fashion & Textile Association showing that a no-deal Brexit will cost the fashion industry £850 million to £900m (Dh3.89 billion to Dh4.12bn) if it crashed out of the EU. The UK fashion industry is worth £32bn to UK GDP. Smaller brands, in particular, have had an uphill struggle to prepare for the split.

Nevertheless, Stephanie Phair, BFC chairwoman, is optimistic. “The one thing the UK isn’t short of is talent,” she says, and the BFC has done much this week to raise its profile with international buyers and media. The team threw open the doors to fashion shows from Alexa Chung, House of Holland, Self-­Portrait and Naomi Campbell’s Fashion for Relief fundraiser show for the ticket-buying public. Meanwhile, brands and retailers, including Mulberry, Anya Hindmarch, Rixo, Dover Street Market, MatchesFashion and Browns, have been hosting fun consumer events. Rixo had King’s Road swinging like it was the ’60s again, with a Woodstock-themed party for customers in a see-now, buy-now presentation, while Anya Hindmarch built a maze for people to get lost in.

UAE designers at London Fashion Week

Khyeli by Ahmed Alkhyeli
Khyeli by Ahmed Alkhyeli

The “London is open” mantra is best expressed by Ahmed Alkhyeli, the Sharjah-born designer who established his fashion label Khyeli in London two years ago. “London is such a great place to get things done. We work with a lot of young people who are amazing at what they do in terms of everything related to the brand,” he says. Alkhyeli hosted an intimate presentation of his spring / summer collection, called the Age of Innocence, which explored new techniques of mushroom pleating and crystal embroidery on swathed evening dresses. There was also tulle galore, as a voluminous black dress and as a tightly ruched white cocktail dress.

Also showing in London as part of the Stories of Arabia fashion platform was House of Zuhra from Dubai, helmed by Mousa Al Awfi. Last season she presented glamorous eveningwear; this time London saw the launch of a luxurious denim street-style collection, heavily embellished with gold metal butterflies and mirror mosaic.

Of the many other beautiful and memorable shows, here are a few highlights.

Molly Goddard

Big dresses are having a moment, which we can thank Molly Goddard for. Her airy volumes of layered tulle have given energy to this trend, along with a memorable appearance on Villanelle in Killing Eve. It’s five years since Goddard arrived on the scene with her singular romantic aesthetic of tulle dresses. Now, she’s moving her design prowess along by adding print and daywear pieces, including a nipped-waist denim jacket, knitwear, tucked and draped cotton skirts, and more tulle – this time frilled. She even modestly slipped a frilled white poplin skirt under a blue ruched tulle dress with enchanting results.


A ballroom and two vast chandeliers lowered to floor level formed the backdrop to a sophisticated collection from New York-born Michael Halpern, based on his adoration of Barbra Streisand and the extravaganza of the Ziegfeld Follies showgirls of Broadway. Streisand starred in a film in the 1960s about the Follies, which inspired this display of liquid metal gowns, bubble dresses, sequinned trouser suits and pale shimmering asymmetric sheath dresses. This is old-school glamour, which plays well to Halpern’s American and Middle Eastern clients, who love his dazzling dresses.


There is so much romance on the runway that it is refreshing to see a collection that provides the essential women’s working wardrobe. Riccardo Tisci created some refined – rather than formal – business clothes with a swish of fringing and elegant silk scarf prints. High-waisted trousers tapered to the ankle, neat skirt-suits cut to the knee and, of course, there were plenty of trench coats, floor-grazing and open at the back to show a shocking pink facing for the slick executive. The Hadid sisters and Kendall Jenner (with a new bleach blonde look) were working the polished looks, but there was a flip side to the collection with plenty of streetwear to appeal to the Gen Z Burberry customer. For them, Tisci produced oversized rugby shirts with optic print miniskirts, oversized jackets over corseted tops and white lace dresses emblazoned with the words “I Am a Unicorn”.


Who can pull off a show that brings the colour and exoticism of Mexico together with the history of Victorian England? The answer, in a word, is Erdem, for he loves to find an obscure muse and then spin a collection based on her, which becomes a collision of different worlds. This time it was an Italian silent movie actress who became a photographer and revolutionary in communist Mexico until her suspicious death in 1942. Tina Modotti loved to dress up, and her experimentalism with historic dress and the Mexican culture lay at the root of the Erdem collection. Voluminous tiered Victoriana dresses with yoked tops featured Mexican embroidery, while the layering of vivid prints on dresses, trousers and shawls in several looks were finished with an elegant sombrero hat tied neatly under the chin.

Roland Mouret

Diversity features strongly on the London runways these days, and not in ethnicity alone. Roland Mouret, famous for the silhouette-defining Galaxy dress, can cut a beautifully swishy dress for curvy gals, too. Lovely asymmetric panelled dresses were slipped into a collection of fresh and breezy summer dresses and kaftan tops with sparkly skirts, inspired by 1980s New York. “I am attracted to simplicity this season: showing less about what you own, perhaps even about who you are,” says Mouret. So his clothes had an easy undone appeal to them, gently coloured and mixing print with check, and pulling the collection together with rope belts.

JW Anderson

As Jonathan Anderson’s tenure at Loewe spins on, there is a growing confidence and elegant refinement to the collections he produces for his eponymous label. The collections are gentle and romantic with his love of crafted accessories and fluid silhouettes infusing his fashion with an air of bohemianism. There were knitted and shimmery capes, and plenty of easy asymmetric dresses with Arabian princess-style draping, some featuring silver infinity symbol jewellery. Harem pants were fused to the ankles by the ties of espadrille sandals – a bit of a street-style trope at the moment, but fitting the mood well.

Updated: September 18, 2019 05:49 PM

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