Men’s – Lovers Rock. Wales Bonner AW20

For her autumn-winter 2020 show in London, Grace Wales Bonner had friends and audience members sitting at tables around a dance floor, joining her celebration of Lovers Rock, the specifically British Afro-Caribbean music scene sprung from underground London house parties in the ’70s. “Lovers Rock was created by second generation Jamaicans in this country, their own kind of sweet mix of reggae and soul,” the designer explained. “It’s a reflection of my family on my father’s side. My grandad came from Jamaica in the 1950s. My dad used to work on Lewisham Road, and I found these documentary photographs by John Goto of teenagers at Lewisham Youth Club in the ’70s.” What fascinated and touched Wales Bonner was how kids of her dad’s generation wore clothes which referenced Jamaican style and Rasta flag colors, woven into a “a fun mix-up” of standard English smartness, “irreverent, but always elegant.” There was a denim tailored coat lined with velvet; a women’s look featuring  a corduroy patchwork matching shirt and skirt color-blocked in red, yellow, green, and black; slim-fit ’70s track pants; and “the kind of Adidas trainers Bob Marley would have worn.” The full repertoire of Wales Bonner’s refined tailoring was on display as well: tweedy suits, separates and coats, worn over body-hugging sweaters and roll-necks, with a stronger representation of womenswear in combinations of blazers and full pleated skirts. The self-knowledge Wales Bonner has gained over the years means she knows who she is and what her brand stands for by now. “It’s coming up for five years,” she summed up to the press. “I’m looking back and consolidating. For me, my approach is elegant, designed, and crafty—about what’s the perfect suit? Now I want to build the business.”

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Ritual. Charles Jeffrey Loverboy AW20

While men’s London fashion week seems to get gradually less and less popular, there are still some labels that shine some hope for the once prospering event. “It was a modern-day Scottish sacrifice,” said Charles Jeffrey backstage of his Loverboy show for autumn-winter 2020 season. There was an installation of a hollowed-out tree hung with CDs and topped by a disco ball silhouetted against the dark on a platform at the end of his runway – a place for the ritual propitiation of the ancient, abused forces of nature. So it seemed, as his characters came and went, some dressed in costumes hung with horse brasses and sporting huge equine quiffs, others in Loverboy tartans, and still more in pannier dresses. Another sect looked like a cult of eco-paganists clinging together in their own dance of lament. But other than theatrics, this line-up was the most accomplished collection from the designer yet, clothes-wise. Jeffrey has traversed that stage of his career where he has presented symbolic statements and reached a point where his tailoring fits impressively (and sexily). His waisted, puff-shouldered jackets, flared asymmetric suits and tartan trousers beat with London’s old school spirit. Fantastic dresses (genderless!) and great coats. Even the “commercial” part of the collection – bold Loverboy merch – feels right.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

The 2010s / Simone Rocha AW19

Believe it or not – I can’t! – but we’re heading towards a new millenium. So, how do you choose the most important collections, designers and labels of the decade? The ones that made an actual impact in the 2010s? Well, it’s not an easy task. It all began in September 2009 with New York’s spring-summer 2010 shows and ended when the autumn-winter 2019 haute couture shows wrapped in Paris. Few thousands of shows, by the way. There will be 19 posts (that’s really the only possible minimum!) reminding about the best – and if not the best, then strongly influencing – moments in fashion.

Simone Rocha‘s woman-for-women AW19 collection.

Talented women with their distinct style rule in London. There’s Molly Goddard, Victoria Beckham, Mary Katrantzou, Roksanda Ilincic, Surpiya Lele. And there’s Simone Rocha, whose autumn-winter 2019 was one of the very best collections I’ve seen that season. Rocha designs for women – and women love her. Seeing her runway graced by women of different ages, colour and body types was a female power moment, yes, but also an ode to the brand’s clients who trust Simone every season. Chloë Sevigny, Tess McMillan, Kristen Owen, Lily Cole, Sara Grace Wallerstedt, Ugbad Abdi… whether models or not, runway veterans or bold newcomers, all those faces are amazing individuals and characters. And, also, it’s an ultimate proof that full-skirted dresses and coats aren’t only meant for 20-somethings, just like organza see-throughs, bras worn over trench coats and opulent headbands. The collection was a study of female eroticism, a debate between being the object of desire and owning it. As the designer put it in her own words, “it was a about intimacy and privacy, security and insecurity”. Rocha looked at Michael Powell’s disturbing films (like ‘Peeping Tom’, the voyeuristic horror), but also returned to her long-time inspiration – Louise Bourgeois. The artist investigates the subject of sex and tenderness in her works, which as well often takes a darker turn. “I found her series of weavings which she’d made with fabric from her own clothes particularly beautiful,” Simone said. The spiderweb embroideries and prints Rocha used for puffball coats and dresses were made in collaboration with the Louise Bourgeois Foundation – could you wish for a more heartwarming artist appreciation moment? Still, while the themes behind the collection might be not exactly joyous and lightweight, the models – we see you, Chloë – were all smiley and visibly proud to be walking that outstanding show. This line-up could not end up in my 2010s favourites!

Collage by Edward Kanarecki. Chloë Sevigny wearing Simone Rocha AW19, photographed by Harley Weir and styled by Robbie Spencer for Dazed & Confused.

Cool Folk. Chopova Lowena SS20

Chopova Lowena is currently one of the most fascinating, emerging labels from London. Emma Chopova and Laura Lowena‘s Central Saint Martins MA graduate collection began with them looking at Bulgaria’s mountain dwellers, particularly the women, and the way they dressed. There, they found all the contrasting elements they felt so intrigued with, like intricate handmade folk costumes worn with secondhand western sneakers and sunglasses. Chopova Lowena is beloved for its juxtapositions, subtly combining modernity and nostalgia, luxury and kitsch, craftsmanship and humour. The same spirit of new and old, rare and mainstream, is reflected in their spring-summer 2020 lookbook. Skin-tight layers of tartan-checks printed mesh are paired with their signature Bulgarian pleats in wool and nylon (they sell out super fast and you’ve surely seen them gracing street style slideshows this fashion month). Big, punk-ish belts double as mini-skirts underneath delicate harnesses made from metal hardware. The folky, peasant dresses and blouses with theatrical sleeves are another highlights. Chopova Lowena has an anthropological approach to design, observing traditional customs and revisiting them through a contemporary lens – often through collaborating with craftsmen in small Eastern European and English communities.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Spectacle. Richard Quinn SS20

Richard Quinn‘s spring-summer 2020 collection was LFW’s theatrical finale that consisted of extremely dramatic gowns, Erin O’Connor’s appearance, and even more of signature floral prints the designer is so loved for. Quinn’s show also featured a gaggle of schoolgirls adorned in fantastical white feathers. The baby-birds walked the runway alongside a matching bridal look (Richard’s new venture) at the show’s close. The designer’s aim was for the show to be “a fashion sanctuary, where we can all come and celebrate”. While majority of the looks felt like a grand déjà vu of his previous collections, the entire spectacle was impressive. But then, do we need constant newness from designers like Quinn, who already have their well-established style and continue to thrive?

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.