“I’ve just seen a man wearing a pink bowler hat; what’s all this about?”. As a volunteer at Somerset House during Fashion Week, I’m there to help visitors navigate around the venue but this was the first question that faced me, from a slightly perplexed gentleman who had come to visit one of the art exhibitions.
My answer to him was that its all about exports: £26bn to be precise (2013 annual value) but though that number is impressive – it’s a higher value than that delivered by the automotive sector – its not the full story. As a fashion fan, the truly impressive thing for me was to witness the extraordinary range of creativity around me. From the big names showing on the catwalks or the young designers in the showcases to the mind blowing array of street style on show in the Somerset House courtyard, LFW stands as beacon of creativity, design and passion.
First the street-style. Instagram will be buzzing with the images but for me, two things really stood out. One was seeing a succession of young, super-stylish Japanese gents leading the charge back into sleek formalwear for day as a welcome reaction to the normcore trend that seems to have run its course. The other was a hyper-chic French lady wearing head-to-toe black leather: a skinny, funnel-necked fencing jacket (Rick Owens?) topped off with a fur snood and paired with skin-tight bell bottoms. She looked like the incarnation of a Giacometti sculpture.
Thanks to internet live streaming we can all watch the catwalk shows, but more exciting for me was to see the designs and young designers up close in the showcases, spread throughout the East and West Wings. The Rock Vault is an impressive jewellery exhibit, taking up one-third of the show space, and there’s a diverse range on show. Two stands particularly drew my eye: Imogen Belfield’s highly tactile, larva-esque designs and Phoebe Coleman’s delicate egg-yolk yellow gold stacking rings in granulated or filigree designs, highly reminiscent of ancient Minoan and Mycenaean styles. Both designers hand-make their pieces in London.
Perhaps it was the freezing weather but millinery was also catching my eye, especially that of Lisa Tan. Her designs are highly wearable, taking familiar styles like boaters and pillboxes but elevating them above the ordinary with colour or flourishes of net. My favourite was a bowler hat, subtly feminised by sculpting the sides of the brim higher to echo high cheek bones and draw the eye down the wearer’s face. It was just begging to be perched at a jaunty angle over one eye.
And perhaps that is really what its all about: the passion, creativity and design talent that enables London designers to draw inspiration from centuries of heritage to continue creating the new, the fresh and the highly desirable. If you are lucky enough to be attending London Fashion Weekend don’t miss these designers.