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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Dark Couture. Richard Quinn AW22

Richard Quinn’s autumn-winter 2022 show celebrates the golden age of haute couture. “Dark couture”, as he calls it, has informed the collection which includes oversized vinyl hats, cocoon-shaped separates and majestic feather dresses. Accordingly, Quinn explored styles that were more synonymous with fashion in the 1950s and ’60s than today. But with Richard, it’s never all prim and saccharine. The voluminous and ultra-glamorous florals were contrasted with the entry of a latex-encased dominatrix leading a human dog on a leash. The balance of lady-like and kinky is the label’s key signature. This season, one of Quinn’s most intricate designs this season is an embroidered hooded dress. Upon closer inspection, you’ll see that it’s actually engulfed in tiny feathers. Consider it Quinn’s love letter to those who adore the vivaciousness of his technicolour evening gowns. “It’s essential that we offer our bespoke clients something special,” asserts Quinn. After-dark dresses have also been fashioned from beautiful silks and 3D embroidery. “Setting an almost impossible task, then making it happen is what drives the team and I,” he adds. Still, it seems to me that Quinn got stuck in a loop. The latest collection is pretty much the same thing we’ve seen in his previous seasons. The untamed glamour is highly Insta-grammable and impresses the eye, yes, but I think the designer should try out some different directions in the near future.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Fetish Couture & Big Dreams. Richard Quinn AW21

After a two season hiatus, Richard Quinn came back yesterday, and pulled off a mega-production collection, with a sort of badass Cruella energy. The autumn-winter 2021 line-up was released through a 25 minute long video fairy-tale, “an ode to Hollywood Technicolour”, full of haute fetish couture. “It’s bigger, a lot bigger than anything we’ve done before. I wanted to do something that was really creative, that was not a catwalk show, the usual“, the designer explained in the press notes. Latex gimp-suited cats and dogs, ballerinas and ballgowns, a story that spiralled from a red-light, nightlife London Soho-on-steroids scene through manic Alice in Wonderland and Cinderella-ish twists and turns – it had it all. All it took was a hundred people on a movie set – sets which were entirely printed by Quinn, including a blue-and-white flower-printed grand piano and three London black cabs printed with psychedelic ’70s daisies. The Lilies Cole and McMenamy and U.K. Drag Race’s favorite star Bimini Bon-Boulash made cameo appearances. “Because I wanted it to be a showcase of what we can do in London, even in a pandemic,” he said. The clothes? Well, the clothes appeared to be costumes, really, all the recognizable, blown-up Richard Quinn vintage haute couture pastiche shapes “with everything crafted to within an inch of its life,” as he put it. There were embroideries laden with pearls, bugle beads, sequins, and gemstones. A mini bride’s dress and matching groom’s bell-bottomed suit were sewn with gold crucifixes, padded love hearts, and tiny turtledoves. And on top of all that, he showed acres of printed pouf dresses, a whole wedding-turned-disco party packed with guys dancing in flowery suits among ball-gowned women. Quinn dreams big.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

The House. Richard Quinn AW20

I want it to be London-centric, but looking out towards the world,Richard Quinn declared after his autumn-winter 2020 show. The set – a house facade with his name above the door – was right there. And then the doors opened and the inhabitants, smothered head to foot in crystal and pearl from gimp masks to shoes, began to walk out. The first two were a bedazzling haute-couture beaded sublimation of a London king and queen. GOD SAVE THE QUIN was embroidered amongst their insanely armored finery. Yes, Quinn debuted menswear. That was a surprise. “If we’re building a house, we need men and women in it,” said Quinn. “I’m imagining a house with rooms that have all these different people living in these interiors, whether they’re the harsh, dark and sexy S&M ones, or the more romantic ones.” The idea – and a very Yves-Saint-Laurent-meets-Christian-Lacroix execution – feels appealing. But I just can’t get why Quinn, whose label is so young, does nearly the same thing over and over again. I understand that he wants to establish the brand’s codes, but isn’t it too early to be so retrospective? The dresses come in identical silhouettes every season, while his prints – which are also his house-made signature! – always end on big florals. He’s a big talent, but I really want to see his creativity go elsewhere from time to time.

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.