Labour Of Love. Richard Quinn SS23

Richard Quinn offered and very fitting a moving show as for London Fashion Week’s finale – an unprecedented kind of fashion week, done during national mourning. The designer’s response to Queen Elizabeth II’s death pushed him of colorful, multi-floral prints to prove, in tribute to her, that he can also make as elaborately and extensively in black. The first 22 looks, many heavily veiled in black lace, were made by Quinn and his core team of six, and 20 show-time helpers, day and night, in the 10 days since the Queen died. “It was almost cathartic for us to put all of our emotions of mourning into it,” he said. “We wanted it to have that kind of real craftsmanship, the beauty of royalty, and to try to turn all of the shapes and embroidery that we do into that kind of that idea of uniform dressing up they did when her father [King George VI] died.” Quinn, of course, owes more of a debt to the late Monarch than any other designer in London fashion history, since she came to his debut show in 2018 and presented him with the first annual Queen Elizabeth II Award for Design, her legacy for emerging fashion designers in Britain. He changed the set he’d planned, draping the walls in black and playing fragments of video footage of her young days on screens inset on a suspended central installation. Quinn pulled out all the stops on multiple silhouettes for that section: black swing coats, his translations of fitted 1950s formal dresses, vast capes in lurex, a velvet tunic dress with a big glittering jeweled brooch. All the model’s faces were either completely obscured in floor length lace veils, or masked in point d’esprit netting. Under one, a tiny black crown was visible.

And then, well, it was on with part two: the show that should have been. That had been intended by Quinn to be spun around a concept about public surveillance. There were CCTV cameras bristling from the central ‘chandelier.’ The Queen video screens switched to live footage of the audience. Then came renderings of multi-colored bulbous-topped bodysuits, his signature floral coats, feathered polka-dot embroideries, a pair of short bejeweled capes. Understandable if that part didn’t have the chance, or the atelier-power to fully make its point. All the young minds and hands at Richard Quinn had been devoted to proving they were equal to showing up for an historic moment. The black put it in the shade, in a good way. The finale however, brought back the lace veil in a hopeful way: a bride, in white, with a huge spray of flowers. Weddings have become a mainstay of his business since Elizabeth II gave him his first boost. He can thank her for that, too.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Queenie. Richard Quinn AW18

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Some young designers appear on everyone’s lips thanks to their strikingly unique talent. Some luckily get to the mainstream by dressing a celeb, or rather an Insta-girl. Meanwhile, Richard Quinn‘s phenomenon got elevated through an exceptional combination: the guy has the talent. And, the guy had Queen Elisabeth II in his show’s f-row. I suppose the biggest names in the industry would be life-fulfilled after such an honour. For Richard, it’s just the beginning.

Quinn is the first recipient of Her Majesty’s British Design Award that is here to raise and support UK’s emerging fashion stars. With his knack for collage-ing and manufacturing prints in the most fantastic ways, there’s no wonder why the designer won. “It all feels a bit surreal,” Quinn exclaimed backstage of the show. “I only found out a few days ago that I’d won. When I saw the blue cushion on the front row, I knew it was real; I knew she was coming.” The emphasis that Richard puts on prints and patterns is impressive not only because he does wonderful ball gowns with a modern twist or floral-shocker puffas. It’s the sense of unity he builds among young designers and fashion students in London with his print studio in Peckham – it’s there, where he shares and lets for an open-access to printwork. And who would have thought that he has graduated with a master’s from Central Saint Martins just a few years ago? A bright, bright way future is there for Quinn, I believe.

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Collage by Edward Kanarecki.