A day at London Fashion Week. What makes the city so special?

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So London Fashion Week has been and gone, the celebrities touched down and have since moved on to other fashion hotspots. Yet what was seen and worn will dictate what many of us will wear this and next year.

Whether some of us are buying couture, diffusion collections, from department stores or high-street shops, we are influenced by the flair of the designers that were on display in London this past September. So like it or not, all of us, from oil barons to out of work students, are influenced by the fashion industry. Where its yearly focus on London provides arguably the most eclectic and exciting fashion festivals of them all.

At Sant, we were lucky enough to explore the London fashion event this year. In the bustling heart of Soho, we saw the young and the fashion brave line the streets outside with a post-concert intensity, making us determined to find out what makes our city’s fashion week so iconic. The young designer’s showroom is where we sought to find the answers, and what a diverse space it was. From style to age, gender and ethnicity, the uniqueness of each designer and their designs were clear. From those that are new to the London fashion scene to those that are ‘old hat’, London Fashion Week, can be read as an extension of London life itself, in all its diverse, metropolitan and multicultural glory.

 

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First on our list was Xu Zhi, a male twenty-something hailing from the Central St Martins generation of millennial London-based Chinese talent. His brand is only two years old, which he started devising during his final year at university. This school of designers have taken influence from their adopted city and have exacted their unique style onto the London scene, producing a fusion of characteristic Asian delicacy in terms of material and movement, with the clean lines appropriate for urban living.

For Xu Zhi, the collection is just as influenced by his surroundings in the west as it is by his own background. “ This collection was inspired by Monet’s paintings”, Zhi’s agent tells Sant. “ It’s quite colourful, we wanted to make the collection feel lighter, we used water braids, which we feel is a distinctive style of our brand”.

Zhi’s vision of the ideal woman for his brand follows the idea of a fusion that his style predicates, that she can be both “beautiful and soft, yet strong”. This is seen through the craftsmanship of his collection, where the use of braids and intricate brush work balances with the structured outline of the pieces that make it wearable in metropolitan cities like London.

For Zhi, it is no contradiction that “our woman is both strong and independent yet still able to be feminine”. In this way, his collection can be read as an extension of his generation, of the movement of Chinese talent to our capital that has brought about an iconic fusion of cultures and looks. This is Xu Zhi’s first time at London Fashion Week, and you can feel and see the freshness in his collection.

 

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Next up was Caine, a brand from yet another overseas designer, this time an Australian female stylist, Hailey Caine. We got to chat to her Assistant.When asked if there is, if at all, an ideal woman for the brand, Caine believes that there shouldn’t be.

“ Our brand is so open to interpretation that it can suit anyone, we have a lot of different inspirational women that we use to represent the brand, we have a lot of icons, yet any and everyday women can definitely wear these clothes”.

This is Caine’s second stint at London Fashion Week. The collection on show consisted of buttery black leather and starchy denim jackets featuring Caine’s female Hollywood ‘icons’, with the likes of Winona Ryder and Patricia Arquette embellished on their backs.

Looking around at the talent on show this year, Sant felt that there seemed to be a resurgence of a feminine edge to the clothes this season when this was put to Caine, they seemed to agree and believed that their brand promoted this look.

“ We have a nice mix of the feminine, yet we still have the boxy jackets, it’s relaxed and casual at the same time”. It seemed that from the start, its head designer, Hailey wanted to mix the tomboy, with a sense of fun feminine kitsch.

Hailey wanted to start her brand in London, for her, it was the logical choice.

“ Coming from Australia she felt there was so much here, it’s such a big city, you cannot compare the creative scene here to any other place in the world, it is the place to start a fashion label”.

For Hailey, it was not just the multicultural mix and influence to be found in the London fashion scene, but its friendly atmosphere for fashion start-ups.

“ It’s the mix, it brings everyone together, everyone thinks that the fashion industry is like the Devil Wears Prada, but I’ve found that the small businesses here try to help each other, that’s really important”.

Caine is a brand for every type of female body, large, small and everything in-between, and their philosophy is the same for men too.

“ A lot of our pieces are unisex as well, our collection as its expanding it’s for guys and girls also, our jackets are quite oversized too, so they suit all body shapes”.

If there is no ideal woman for the brand, there is, however, a new muse on the horizon. They have collaboration in the works with no other than Miley Cyrus.

“ She’s a modern day icon for our brand, she represents what we are about, that out there confidence, she is our type of girl, she is real, crazy and true to herself”.

 

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After chatting with the Caine team, Sant thought we should mix our LFW selection up a little with a foray into the world of accessories, and most specifically hats. There was only one designer to look for, Stephen Jones. A stalwart in the British ‘hat’ industry, Jones has been at the forefront of British headwear for thirty years.

In the wake of young fresh talents such as Xu Zhi and Caine, we wanted to ask the team if Stephen Jones had anything new to offer the increasingly globalised fashion industry after so many years at centre stage.

For Stephen Jones, there is both an ideal man and ideal woman for the brand.

He is more focused on how the hat looks on the person, rather than what their gender is, “ Jones’s agent told us. “He is very conscious about the way a hat, when you wear it, what sort of shadows overcast on your face, this is where the name of the collection came from, Shade”. “This collection is more romantic and more dramatic than his previous collection, where how the face will look is at the forefront of his designs this season.”

For a while, it seemed that the wearing of hats, head -pieces and fascinators have been designated a risky move by our generation, something that many of us still don’t feel brave enough to do, however, the Stephen Jones team believe that headwear is having a comeback.

“ I think from the 60s to the 90s, hats stopped being big for women, you had the beehive and then the textured hair of the 70s, 80s and 90s, but since 2010, we feel that hairstyles are more accommodating to hats again”. “ They are also practical as well, in England it rains a lot, the era of big statement hair is over, it’s time for hats again”.

If bright young designers from Australia and China are adding their talents to the British fashion pool, the team at Stephen Jones believe that their very Britishness adds to the flair of the fashion world internationally.

“ Especially in Britain hats are so part of our culture, it about weddings, the races, and people love that across the world, from America to Japan, we export globally, there is really a demand for it”.

The resurgence of the Royal Family, in the form of Kate Middleton and the two princes, William and Harry have also played a part, the team believe, “ they are very present and that has definitely boosted interest in hats, Kate wears them amazingly”. “ I think it’s brought back confidence amongst the British public and people further afield that wearing hats is great”.

So when did Stephen begin the journey? The Soho-born designer seemed to have friends in high places, and he used them as models when he was starting out.

“ Stephens Jones has been here since the beginning, he started making hats for his friends like Boy George, he then started making hats for Diana, literally from rock stars to royalty”.

For the Stephen Jones team, London Fashion Week stands out amongst the other fashion festivals as the golden ticket to win.

“ New York Fashion Week is very commercial, in Milan it’s very tailored and formal, in Paris it’s very localised, very Parisian. In London we are so international, we are a melting pot. China Town is right next to where we are standing, yet have Mayfair and Piccadilly Circus down the road. We are all squashed together. In London anything goes, we are unafraid to experiment, people come here to know what is happening next.

 

It seems that it is the variety and grit to London Fashion Week that makes it stand apart from the rest. It seems to be something that cannot quite be put into words but it’s nicely summarised in feeling by the Stephen Jones team, “ We are in a car park right now, there is nothing more London than that, and opposite us is a sex shop, that is London in a nutshell, you would never get anything like this in New York, Paris or Milan”.

So from the bright young things, who are emerging as the global citizens of the fashion industry to British legends, London Fashion Week is home to them all.

Most importantly this season, both designers, their teams and their collections seemed to propose a refreshingly shared philosophy, of womanly confidence, of a combination of strength and style, without the compromise of femininity, whatever that may be to the individual.

 

 

Don’t forget to tweet us @santmagazine

 

Words: Annie May Byrne-Noonan

 

Tags: #fashion #art #women

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