From dainty Welsh faeries, to alien, virtual reality experiences, these were the top moments from London’s SS22 season
It’s been less than a week since the final collections of AW21 landed and yet, here we are, gazing up at the craggy rock face of SS22. Fashion week is back, baby! Almost. And not really in London, which is where our (virtual) ascent into the next season of menswear begins. Between Ahluwalia, Bethany Williams, and newcomers like Paolo Carzana and Auroboros, this season is truly a young designer’s game. It would seem the capital’s beloved old timers are saving themselves for the womenswear shows, which take place a little later on in the year. Though, that being said, designers are technically showing womenswear this time around, too. Look, it doesn’t have to make sense – fashion transcended the need for logic a long time ago. So, as we clamber, clammy-palmed, over the precipice of the summer season, here are the moments you won’t want to have missed from London’s SS22 edition of menswear (but also womenswear).
Kicking off this weekend’s events was Bethany Williams, who presented her SS22 offering in collaboration with the Magpie Project, a temporary accommodation service for women and young children in Newham. The collection, which is full of matisse-style knitwear, nimble tailoring, and amply-cut smock dresses, had been directly inspired by the stories that Magpie families would tell during creative workshops. Williams took these yarns and wove them into her own narrative. Even the prints were forged from leftover book covers, appearing throughout the collection in bright swathes of colour, as if garments had been lovingly flecked with a giant paintbrush. It meant, this season, production came in line with inspiration – making Williams’ outing one swooping statement of circular storytelling.
The biomimicking Auroboros got its fashion week debut on Saturday, marking the first time a label had presented a purely digital collection. Forged in partnership with the Institute of Digital Fashion, the 14-piece collection was rendered on a real life model and presented via video, which simulated a virtual character creator. Think The Sims or that rude booth from Snog, Marry, Avoid. To dovetail with the show, the IoDF plastered QR codes on billboards around the city – a scan of which took you to an instantly wearable version of the label’s Venus dress. “We wanted to amplify the Auroboros collection and start the discourse that’s been surrounding digital fashion and fashion weeks. How does it actually get to the consumer and become an experience IRL?,” the institute’s co-founder Leanne Elliot-Young said of this season’s sorcery.
The weekend also saw current Dazed 100 nominee Paolo Carzana’s first turn on the fashion week runway. His collection, Another World, was just that. Crumpled, organic fabrics came twisted and sculpted around the body as seen across flimsy shirts, hosiery, and some more bulbous jackets – transforming Carzana’s models into miniature sprites and dreamy nymphs. Delicate whorls of wadding, fray tendrils, and gaping holes spoke to a sense of vulnerability, while intricate systems of pulleys and ribbons gestured to the ancient mythologies which Carzana took reference from. The entire collection was handmade and hand-dyed from the designer’s dockside studio in Cardiff, proving that the most creative of fashion need not be confined to London.
In 2019, Chloe Baines sent out a graduate collection made entirely from tents left behind at festivals. And the London College of Fashion alumnus mined that same ingenuity this past weekend, presenting Pegged, her fashion week debut, from the neon-lit back rooms of a warehouse club. The collection was a ragtag mashup of upcycled high-vis jackets, one-legged patchwork jeans, crochet bibs, and skirts tightly woven from scraps of denim and performance fabrics. It was a chaotic, gender-fluid, techno-infused outing, which spoke to both sustainability and sex – or pegging, to be precise.
To celebrate one of fashion week’s only in-person shows, Reuben Selby plopped Bimini Bon Boulash, Sigrid, and Griff along his front row, while enlisting girlfriend and actor Maisie Williams to DJ and Headie One to perform. Backdropped by the brutality of The Truman Brewery, this was a more emotive, if not violent, collection from Selby compared to his previous, slightly more pastelle, outing in Paris last season. Sinuous second-skin tops clashed against heavy, billowing trousers, while the odd spare sleeve was attached onto bare arms with military effect. Throughout the collection, garments had been forged from sweeping, asymmetrical, and patchworked pattern cuts – but perhaps the most striking, off-kilter, detail came via the huge reels of fabric which gushed out of randomly placed portholes.
Having just bagged the Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design, Priya Ahluwalia was yesterday (June 15) announced as the winner of the BFC/GQ designer menswear fund. Not long after, the designer presented her presentation for SS22 in partnership with Mulberry – a twilight-hued film by Akinola Davies, dubbed Parts of Me. The video explored “the transcendental embodiments surrounding Black and Brown hair”, and its connection to identity, protest, and creative expression. The clothing itself plumbed Ahluwalia’s heritage through a number of graphic sportswear pieces, which had been spliced together with artisanal cloth, while seam lines took inspiration from tresses of braided hair. Beyond her recent Ganni collaboration, this collection was also the first of Ahluwalia’s to include womenswear, which translated to club-ready silky slips, half-zip mini dresses, and curve-careening knits.
UNIVERSITY OF WESTMINSTER
The University of Westminster showcased all 31 students within its graduating BA cohort via three distinct fashion films: Soft Focus, Modernist, and Utopia/Dystopia. Soft Focus is a woozy presentation filmed in the bowels of a Roman Catholic church, featuring the romantic designs of Nicole Zerbini Melo and Christine Ha. Modernist takes on the more contemporary of collections, with work from Michael John Kirby, Toby Vernon and Felicity Lumley. Utopia/Dystopia is by far the most whacky of the three, spotlighting the weird, wonderful pieces of Kristin Sigus, Yihui Li, and a knitted sweater from Everette Bullen, which reads “straight is great” – during pride month (!) “They adapted. They pushed their creativity to greater achievement,” said course leader Rosie Wallin, reflecting on the obstacles these designer’s faced with corona. “They used their solitude to dig deep and find out what they were capable of.”
Plunging us into the barren belly of a scrapyard, were Jordan Bowen and Luca Marchetto, who chose to present their SS22 collection amongst a heap of decaying cars, piles of tires, and lots of heavy machinery. This season’s outing emerged from the wasteland with a near ascetic use of white, which gradually bled into sage, then burnt orange, before closing in dense, weighted blacks. Needless to say, there were many moods to this collection – pinballing between distended, punkish knits, silk suits, and monastic, cloaking skirts. The designers affixed scarlet red brooches to garments as if they were bloody gashes, speaking to the wounds of addiction, while scant Jesus skirts were emblematic of the inherent potential for rebirth. It was, as per the designers’ statement, a reflection of the multitudes we hold within ourselves: anger, grief, joy, and jubilation.
The JORDANLUCA duo were not the only designers toying with themes of renewal, though. Hoor Al-Qasimi’s collection, Between Ashes and Roses, dealt explicitly with the concept of rebirth. Filmed at the breezy St. Anne’s court in Surrey, Qasimi delivered on both colour and craft. Hot pinks, aubergines, and teals were put through traditional Middle Eastern craftwork, including tarboushas – long tassels associated with Emerati menswear – which swung from various pieces. Accessories, too, were forged from artisanal techniques, like safeefah, a weaving method which infiltrated the collection’s fringed bags.