Night-Time. Simone Rocha SS22

Spoiler alert: Simone Rocha‘s phenomenal spring-summer 2022 line-up is my favourite collection of this London Fashion Week. It had me feel actual feelings. My first thoughts seeing these looks, put in a cinematic language: an intriguing clash of Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides and Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula. Yes, it’s a rollercoaster comparison. But Rocha’s collections are always deeply personal and are based on her own experiences. The designer gathered her guests at the medieval church of St Bartholomew the Great to attend a processional show spun from the rituals and reality of bringing a baby into into the world. New life, new beginnings, tenderness – it seemed like a touching metaphor for the reunion of people at physical shows in London for the first time since February 2020. Out of the darkness of the ancient setting came Rocha’s women, dressed in layers of white broderie anglaise, lace and tulle. Their shoulders were swathed in christening shawls, their voluminous skirts trailed satin ribbons and their heads were crowned with pearls. “A lot of this obviously came from a very maternal place,” said Rocha. She has recently given birth to her second daughter, Noah Roses, a sister for five-year old Valentine, who sat in one of the front pews between her maternal grandparents Odette and John and delighted in every split second of her mother’s show. The sense of occasion motivated Rocha to concentrate a super-sensual sensory overload of detail into her clothes. “I wanted there to be a lot of texture, because it’s an in-person show, and everyone will be quite close to the garments for the first time,” she explained at a preview in her studio. “I was looking a lot into the way children interpret and wear clothes, but then also birth, the ceremony of christening and communion gowns. And baby pointelle knits, the ribbon threaded through the eyelets. And mohair baby cardigans. And Swaddling. And…” – she laughed – “at the out-of-control body dislocation that going through the whole process causes…” Among the post-natally inspired details were nursing bras – some of them inset with jewels – and the idea of bedclothes and nighties becoming fused. “So there’s kind of a funny, deranged negligee night-time sort of spooky, deranged insomnia theme running through, too,” said Rocha. It might be the first time that post-natal sleep-deprivation and the demands of night feeds have been the inspiration behind a collection. Rocha ended up making lovely coats out of fabrics that looked like antique eiderdowns, one in lavender, another in rose-bud strewn brocade. Gigantic white cotton collars with scalloped edges seemed like bedlinen and ecclesiastical altar-cloths or surplices all at the same time. “I also made a lot of dresses which open at the front and back, which you do need when you’re nursing,” she remarked. “I wanted to support the breasts with corseting, and to release the hips.” The red and black vinyl jackets and laced-up boots represented something darker about giving birth. Among the baby-proportioned tutus were a couple of red geometric bags “shaped like drips of blood.” In the long-awaited event her “come-back” collection was superbly herself – and maybe even more so, if that’s possible.

Collages by Edward Kanarecki.

Transfixing. Roksanda SS22

Roksanda‘s spring-summer 2022 collection is a release of pure endorphin! Roksanda Ilincic staged her fashion show at the Serpentine Pavilion, which was designed this year by Johannesburg-based practice Counterspace, directed by Sumayya Vally. Vally is the youngest architect ever to be commissioned for the project, and she sat front row. “I went to the Serpentine and I met Sumayya, who is a woman who loves and appreciates fashion – and she was super keen that I have my show there,” recalled Ilincic during a preview at her studio in East London. “I loved the space,” she said, referring to the structure, designed to reference London’s informal meeting spaces significant to migrant communities, from the Fazl Mosque to Mangrove, Notting Hill’s Caribbean restaurant. “I also loved that her color scheme was inspired by the many shades of London’s sky, from light pinks and grays through to black. It has a serenity and a calmness – it almost makes you want to meditate.” But there was no meditating here as Ilincic transformed the pavilion into a stage, enlisting a dance troupe to perform an emotive piece about the narratives of women and their relationships, tensions, and power struggles – the kind of human interactions that have been heightened after 18 months of on/off lockdown. She managed to whittle her 50-look collection down to just 16. “I think the pandemic has pushed me to be freer and to approach my show differently; it’s given me the guts to do that and perhaps be a little more nonconformist,” said Ilincic. “Also we have been so deprived of theater and performance of any kind, so I wanted to do something special.” Choreographed by Holly Blakey, the show was an immersive performance – it made the clothes really move. Her vividly colored voluminous silk dresses inflated with every rigorous movement, ballooning with air before gently collapsing like parachutes. Some were printed with extracts from a selection of Joan Didion’s work; others were painted in big, broad, “almost angry” brushstrokes. More artsy pieces, like a plasticized full skirt and mac, were created in fil coupe organza and then machine bonded, so what looked like paint scribbles were actually loose threads sandwiched. Other designs boasted boned hemlines and cuffs that curled, twisted, and bounced around the body. They seemed to defy all gravity, taking on a life of their own. The effect was beautifully chaotic. It had everything: drama, passion, and creativity in abundance. It was transfixing.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Precious & Humble. Richard Malone SS22

Richard Malone‘s spring-summer 2022 garments, made in part using fragments of materials, including scrap leather provided by Mulberry, were presented among Raphael cartoons at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. These artworks, intended to hang in the Vatican, are Renaissance treasures; within the usual hierarchy of art, they are more highly valued than fashion design. Who and what “counts” and/or is represented in art and fashion is a subject that preoccupies Malone, who became increasingly interested in Irish craft heritage and its relationship to place and language during lockdown. “I’ve really been thinking about being an immigrant in this country, coming here on my own and building this business, and then what gets to be celebrated and what we get to talk about,” the designer said in a pre-show chat. Without the possibility to engage in person with his team, spring’s collection was not built on conversations or a moodboard but out of nostalgia. The circular forms that appear throughout the collection were specifically inspired by the celebratory, decorative rosettes (resembling scrunchies, observed Malone) and armbands that the designer’s grandmother would carefully assemble by hand to commemorate horse meets and wins by the Gaelic Athletic Association. Home crafted with care, these happy, colorful rounds commemorate quotidian, humble joys. As such they stood in contrast to the monumental and classical narratives of the Raphael cartoons, which, to Malone, represent “good taste,” and perhaps also social class. “It fascinates me that my starting point was that very simple thing,” he said. During lockdown “I really got to assess what the meaning of making those things is, and what putting them in a space like the V&A and trying to make them elevated and interesting could mean. I think sometimes when you go to museums or you go to fashion stores, you can feel quite ashamed of your upbringing not being very conversationally valuable. Now I’m like, ‘Oh no, that’s the most valuable thing that I have.’” As an outsider, Malone brings a sense of realness and proportion (in the sense that he is committed to keeping his production runs small) to the smoke and mirrors world of fashion. The setting of his show, the designer noted, “really heightened the fact that a lot of fashion is imitation, or it isn’t real life.” But that’s a dichotomy that also plays out in his own work: “There’s one side of what I do that’s quite theatrical and abstract, but then there’s also the real women that buy clothes from me, and men, and they’re such two different conversations,” he observed. “There is more than one truth in everything.” Malone delivered on the drama with his finale looks, which might be described as “window dressing” as they seemed to frame the models as curtains do a window. These seemed to pay homage to the drapery-heavy campaign the designer created for Mulberry, with whom he is collaborating this season as the company celebrates its 50th anniversary. In addition to putting his own spin on classic Mulberry bag silhouettes, Malone used traceable leather provided by the company in his collection, and much of the jersey was salvaged from the above-mentioned ad. Old and new, precious and humble, these dichotomies were present throughout the collection. Materials usually reserved for sampling, like horsehair, were retained for the finished garments. Malone introduced menswear for spring, with a focus on bolero jackets and apron pants. Rounds predominated, and Malone brought his designs full circle, as it were, via different paths. Some looks, like the cutout jackets, considered the circle as a negative space, for example; in contrast, draping built out and gave dimensionality to the shape. “I work like a builder in a corner of my studio,” said Malone. He finds joy in making; in the set of a sleeve, the importance of cut, the language of fabric. “All I’m trying to do,” he said, “is build something that is personal and real.”

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Blooming Garden. Erdem SS22

Ever since Erdem Moralioglu moved into his new house in Bloomsbury during the pandemic, his work has taken on a more demure and sober character. Somehow, the fusion between that sensibility and the old-world glamour that underpins his oeuvre feels appropriate for now. Dramatic, but with balance. Erdem’s 15th-anniversary collection – and first runway show since the pandemic – captured that dichotomy in a purified and clarified ode to his own body of work. Presented in the colonnade of the British Museum (in Bloomsbury), he envisioned it through the wardrobes of Bloomsbury’s best: Edith Sitwell and Ottoline Morrell, whose spirits he could easily have come across on one of his evening strolls across Bedford Square. “I was really fascinated with these two women – both six foot – who knew each other, and donated to the British Museum,” Moralioglu said backstage, highlighting their independent and formidable approaches to life in the early- and mid-20th century. “Both women lived outside of the time that they actually lived in: Ottoline Morrell dressed in kind of Edwardian dress in the 1930s, and Edith Sitwell would wear something kind of medieval. They were displaced and disjointed in terms of time and pace,” he observed, with words that could have described the last 15 years of Erdem collections just as well. Throughout his own history, he has freely and defiantly traveled the annals of fashion history at large, spinning fantastical narratives around characters and events drawing on fact and fiction, and brought those looks into contemporary contexts. This collection was no different. While its silhouettes were carved from the first half of the previous century, Moralioglu twisted them out of their prim lines and switched opulent fabrics for “poor” ones, using instead embellishment as his richness factor. A delicate floral embroidery curled around dresses looked almost like an industrial chain print, quilted floral skirts were kind of wrong but cool, and lace dresses transformed into knitwear de-prettified that girly trope. Styled consistently with unfussy brogues – and showed alongside the terrific sturdy-romantic menswear he launched this summer – those tactics created a sense and sensibility that spoke to that post-pandemic appetite for the gentle grand gesture.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Be My Baby. Molly Goddard SS22

It’s a baby-boom among fashion designers in London! Both Molly Goddard and Simone Rocha have returned to the new season with infants. Molly’s Frank was charming visitors with appointments at her studio this morning, while his mother was explaining how being pregnant made her “think about baby clothes” for the spring-summer 2022 season. In fact, it’s intrinsic to her origin-story as a Central Saint Martins fashion student: “My graduation collection was all based on blowing up the dresses I had when I was a child,” she said. That’s where her obsession with smocking grew. This was a woman-centric staring down, laughing at and toying with whatever toxicity might be meant by “Lolita.” The multiple meters of pink net which typically explode from this designer’s little baby-smocked bodices are definitely not for women who simper. There’s one of those dresses in her spring collection: a classic Molly Goddard party frock. More noticeable, though, is her diversification from full-on going-out clothes. Instead of a show, she shot a video in her studio which demonstrates what Molly Goddard people can wear all of the time. Excellent wide-leg jeans. Neon-bright Guernsey sweaters and Aran knit cardigans. Smocks to layer over track pants. Menswear – including flared trench coats, stripy sweaters and ballet flats. Next season, Goddard is aiming for a full runway show again. In the meantime, her baby-time has generated as much joy as ever, and possibly even more clothes that a lot of people will want to have in their lives.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.