As the curtain falls on LFW AW22, we’ve rounded up our must-sees – from Ahluwalia’s clash of Nollywood and Bollywood, to Conner Ives’ party girls, to Maximilian’s incredible Fashion East swan song
London Fashion Week is here again, and if you’re under any assumption that big bad Storm Eunice was going to steal any of her thunder, you’re v much mistaken. This season, LFW will play host to a bunch of firsts – including Priya Ahluwalia and Conner Ives’ debut runway shows – and lasts, as Maximilian reaches the end of his time clutched in the bosom of the Fashion East fam, as well as appearances by KNWLS, Supriya Lele, Nensi Dojaka, and loads, loads more. As usual, we’ll be rounding up what’s going down right here across the weekend – so switch off Big Jet TV Live (or at least minimise it for five minutes) and get involved.
Saul Nash was going it alone for the second time this season, and unsurprisingly the former Dazed 100er continues to go from strength to strength. For AW22, Nash debuted a short film alongside his runway show, which paid tribute to legendary Kensal Rise figure Gee Artery – one of London’s first Black barbers, who passed away in January. The collection itself, RITUAL, was a deep dive into Nash’s Guyanese heritage and British Afro-Caribbean culture, all set against the backdrop of Gee’s barber shop. That translated to a study of what kids want to wear in 2022, as Nash turned out dynamic, adaptable outerwear, logo-emblazoned baseball tees, and lightweight mesh pieces which incorporated his skewed and adjustable seams. Punctuating the collection were a series of mermaid prints which drew on folkloric tales told across Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America, and Nash dipped his toe into tailoring, too – a series of merino jackets and trousers “with the ease of track pants” were dotted throughout.
Oh, we’d been waiting for this one! Given his massive cult following and the fact Queen Ri herself hand-picked him to help start up Fenty, it’s hard to believe Conner Ives has never staged a runway show (leave it to the pancetta to put a pin in that one). This season saw all that change. The rising designer debuted his AW22 collection in the bowels of Selfridges’ Old Hotel, where he reworked and remixed all-American archetypes – each of his girls had a whole backstory, as he drew inspo from the likes of Carolyn Bessette-Kenedy, Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl, past contestants from America’s Next Top Model, and Andy from The Devil Wears Prada (are you wearing the… Conner Ives boots? Yeah, I am). The clothes themselves were slinky and sexy, with glittering mini-dresses, tasselled sarongs, pithy logo tees, and neon-hued butterfly hair clips evoking the wild mish-mash style of the early 00s. Club kids and party girls: Conner has you covered.
Matty Bovan was looking in the direction of the US of A this season, sending a troupe of bold-shouldered American footballers through the belly of St. Martin-in-the-Fields’ crypt. Having spent last summer in Connecticut with his boyfriend’s family, Bovan had a whole lot of fun subverting some of the country’s most famous iconography. The stars and stripes, for example, were slashed, spliced, and diced, and turned into flowing skirts and pinafores with ragged hems, or else strewn garishly across gowns of outlandish proportions, while Varsity-style jackets were transformed through clashing panelling and painted slogans reading ‘Bad Dreams’ and ‘Hopeful’. Closing the show was a big surprise: Irina Shayk strutted down the catwalk in a pouffy scarlet and pink number. Didn’t have her down as a Matty Bovan kind of girl tbh, but who wouldn’t want to be transformed by the brilliant designer’s fair hand? We rest our case.
After a pretty magnificent debut last season, Steven Stokey Daley was back for AW22 with yet another avant-garde, out of the box runway show. Employing members of the National Youth Theatre to model once more, this time the class-dismantling designer set out to queer the traditionally English stately home: think a debauched dance party at Downton Abbey and you’ve just about got the idea. With a four-poster bed, a chaise-longue, and a picturesque picnic taking centre stage, Stokey Daley’s cast of couples and throuples twisted and writhed around each other, in a selection of his dynamic tailored pieces. On the menu for next winter? Ultra wide-legged trousers and matching jackets in tactile velvet and tweeds, button-down vests with bare chests beneath, wafting silk and cotton shirts bearing delicate floral prints, and a stand-out coat bearing motifs of birds of the British Isles.
There was big news at Nensi Dojaka this season, as the former Fashion East designer and LVMH Prize recipient sent a series of larger models down the runway – and honestly, the show was so much richer for it. Now a few years into her career post-CSM, Dojaka is really honing what she does, with her signature cobwebby dresses accompanied by louche tailored suits and a bunch of slinky knitted dresses designed to kit out the kind of women whose lives don’t involve a regular step-and-repeat moment (ie; us normies). Making a fair few appearances this season, Paloma Elsesser strutted Dojaka’s runway in a sexy LBD that demonstrated the designer’s skill at dressing bodies beyond a size eight, while Schiaparelli muse – she of the most regal, incredible face – Maggie Maurer also showed up, debuting a tiny baby bump encased in glittering diaphanous chiffon. Big congrats to both her and the woman who dressed her.
As with Conner Ives, Priya Ahluwalia has been chipping away at fashion across the course of the last few years, but up until now hasn’t had her own runway show. The good news is that she’s finally ticked that off her to-do list, taking over 180 The Strand with a standout presentation barely anyone’s stopped talking about. Like basically everyone else on the planet locked indoors due to the pandemic, Ahluwalia spent a vast amount of her time vegging out in front of the TV, which is where the inspo for her AW22 collection came from. A clash of Nollywood and Bollywood, Ahluwalia sent a strong collection of printed denim sets, psychedelic tracksuits in tactile fabrics, and slinky little party dresses ideal for the dancefloor down a petal-strewn catwalk. “I’m making the kind of things me and my friends want to wear,” she explained ahead of the show. Elsewhere, silky shirts were emblazoned with poppy film posters, and there was also a selection of standout hats – as worn by a cast largely made up of Black and Brown models.
Foday Dumbuya made his London Fashion Week debut last season, presenting a collection that seemingly whet the appetite of the entire industry – everyone was out in force at Labrum’s second coming, including a huge number of the blossoming designer’s friends and family who cheered him on from the front row. This time around, the show opened with a moving poem by Julian Knox, who led the choir that provided its soundtrack. Looking to his West African and British heritage for inspiration once more, Dumbuya revealed he’d been thinking about the role of a refugee for AW22, tackling feelings of displacement within his new offering. Styled by Dazed’s own IB Kamara, this translated to slick tailoring in the form of boxy jackets and slim trousers bearing embroidered florals, sharp-shouldered coats, and neat knitwear, all crafted in an understated palette with pops of citrus bright using fabrics sourced from his hometown of Freetown, Sierra Leone.
This season, Jake Burt and Stefan Cooke presented the menswear equivalent of Vivienne Westwood’s knockback skirt, which saw the designers take trims of coloured tulle and sling them beneath bomber jackets and above smart trousers as if they were bristling mini skirts. Though the collection relied on plenty of these titillating styling tricks, with bare torsos poking beneath diamond-cut knitwear and tailoring slashed at the lapel, AW22 was the result of handicraft techniques learnt from ancient textile manuals and costume stores. Mediaeval chainmail tops were inspired by an old tabard found in a theatre archive, while trompe l’oeil denim embroideries were constructed with rope inserts, and one pleated shirt took a particularly painstaking week to construct. By applying those methods to a youth-driven wardrobe, comprising jewel-capped vests, intricately-knitted bombers, and bright, decorticated cardigans, Stefan Cooke produced a realistic collection bolstered by craft.
Set in the gallows of a Shadwell nightclub, Lulu Kennedy’s cohort of prodigies, Jawara Alleyne, Chet Lo, and Maximilian, maintained Fashion East’s reputation as a proving ground for cool, with each designer pressing at the borders of their own little worlds. Alleyne, who’s slashed-up approach won him entry into the non-profit, presented a newly elegant look, inspired by a sunbaked childhood in the Caribbean. While he doubled down on his signature safety-pinned creations, fastening squares of fabric across the body like punkish bunting, he also draped jersey into smart, strapless columns and inverted men’s tailoring to subversive effect. Elsewhere, Lo continued his exploration of aleinoid spikes, which he fashioned into sherbet-hued halter-neck dresses, asymmetric mini skirts, and moon boots. The designer also introduced fur, with a cyber goth agenda, in trailing hats and knee-high boots, alongside silken, snow bunny puffer jackets and matching minis. But the star in Fashion East’s crown was Maximilian, who took his final bow on the incubator’s runway. Tipped to win this year’s LVMH Prize, the designer combined his religious upbringing in rural Shropshire with the svelte, sensual touch that has scored him fans in Rihanna and Kim Kardashian, proffering Christ-like thorns on sinuous white gowns, nunnish habits whipped sensually around the body in lilaz gauze, chocolate cocktail dresses, and wipe-clean, nipped-in bombers.
Beneath Simone Rocha’s crisp ruffles, girly, hooped skirts, voluminous, layered dresses, and saccharine lace trims, lies a world of darkness and yearning. This season, the designer retold The Children of Lir, a popular Irish fable which sees a jealous stepmother transform four royal children into swans. Set in a moody, mediaeval hall, the tale emerged in both blunt and symbolic motifs with swans embroidered on gauzy tabards, white feathers springing from beneath crinoline skirts, while abstracted wings were spliced into biker jackets. The designer let beauty come to the fore without being fanatical about the theme, though, exposing the torso in sheer panel cut-outs across a slew of sexed-up Tudor dresses and pannier-hipped velvet gowns, which felt appropriately regal.
Thoughts go out to Julia Fox who’s no doubt desperate to get her hands on a pair of Supriya Lele’s AW22 low-slung leather pants. Perhaps low-slung is a modest descriptor, though, given that these waistbands cut well into the pubic region – which Lele artfully protected with a pair of heart-shaped, lace knickers. As always, sheer and silken dresses were pulled taut around the body’s contours, exposing hips, sternums, and clavicle with suggestive portholes. At the other end of the spectrum, shapeless, floor-skimming leather coats completly covered the body as if it were made to look deliberately frumpy. The designer riffed on her signature, punchy colour palettes, too, producing chocolatey mini skirts cut on the square, scarlet slips, and electric blue bralettes. It all amounted to a vision of killer femininity.
While not technically on the London roster, Marc Jacobs presented his AW22 collection as Storm Eunice was whipping its way around the Old Selfridges’ Hotel. The collection looked as though it had been torn apart and reconstituted by gail force winds, though, with models rooted, imposing and statuesque, in skirts forged from multiple pairs of frayed cargo pants while the designer’s new monogram had been shredded and latticed across the body. If, last season, Jacobs had swaddled his muses in giant puffers as a metaphor for post-COVID protection, then AW22 saw them absolutely swallowed in fabric – like they had been consumed by fear. With tribal, kohl-slashed eyes and giant sequins strapped across the body like chainmail, the collection stirred an apocalyptic if not dystopian spirit.
While many of us are emerging, cautiously, from the days of hardcore lockdowns, and the catwalks are awash with skimpy, uber-glam looks designed with nights of partying in mind, Martine Rose is having none of it. The North London designer is still very happy cocooned up at home, thank you very much, and so will her legions of devoted fans when they see her latest offering, Somewhere Between Work and Sleep. Calling her clan “happily, proudly, TOTALLY unprofessional” (lol, mood), Martine is kitting us out for days spent ‘working’ in bed, and clandestine skiving sessions on the sofa in front of Cash in the Attic – think slouchy PJ sets in super soft fabrics, big, slobby granny pants, stretched out jersey pieces in ditsy prints, and scarves designed to be piled high and worn like blankets against the world.
A sure fire way to ensure your show gets rave reviews is surely the inclusion of a cute animal, so this season, Yuhan Wang did exactly that. As part of her collection Venus in Furs – which *spoiler* comprised more than a few shaggy faux fur looks – the former Fashion Easter sent her extremely adorable ragdoll cat Misty down the runway, clutching in the arms of a model in full snow leopard print. Perhaps slightly worrying for the feline in question? Elsewhere, though the offering was full of kitsch kitty prints and fluffy, floor-polishing shoes, the Yuhan Wang girl felt far more grown up this season, with her wispy, light-as-air sets out and something a bit more substantial – think leather corsets and bustle skirts, picnic blanket tailoring, and more than a few standout coats.
Vivienne Westwood’s design team has spent the last six months rifling through the archives, forging a self-referential collection that reads like a Greatest Hits. Alongside leopard spots and panther-inspired silhouettes, the jagged tiger print from Westwood’s AW01 collection made a comeback for AW22, reappearing across dresses, silk shirts, velvet blazers, and voluminous tunics, acknowledging the Chinese New Year. Much like her now-iconic Boucher corsets, Kronthaler and co spliced Pieter Bruegel’s 1559 painting The Fight Between Carnival and Lent into quilted coats, bags, and shoes. Elsewhere, the designer’s notorious ‘FUCK’ messaging was embazoned across corsets, as if pilfered from Westwood and Malcom McLaren’s Kings Road outpost in the 1970s. And although the designer devotes most of her time to climate activism these days, she still managed to emblazon hand-drawn eye motifs across stark white denim, inspired by her own, those in paintings by Mattise, and Middle Eastern talismans – perhaps a knowing wink to her unwavering vision.
As models emerged from beneath a chandelier in a grand, stately interior, there was a palpable shift in Raf Simons’ mood this season. Gone are the revolutionaries, ravers, and rioting teens, as the designer made way for a slew of eery, elegant protagonists cloaked in wraps, billowing trousers, and overblown blouson bombers, while backpacks and caps tumbled into long, silken trains, reminiscent of Prada’s SS22 offering. Simons was less reliant on graphics for AW22, too. Used sparingly and splashed across chunky blazers in purple and tangerine block letters, they were one of a few realistic pieces. The rest of the collection was weird, and brilliantly so, comprising vinyl prairie dresses, furry and slit-eyed military caps, and high-shine jumpsuits.
When designers speak of their work as something autobiographical, that often means they translate the facts of their lives onto cloth. Be that their heritage, the places they’ve encountered, or the people they’ve come into contact with. FEBEN, on the other hand, blends these details with something more abstract. Like the intangible and emotional experience of personal growth, love, and rooting out the light, even when immersed in darkness. Though that may sound inaccessible, the designer’s clothing is much the opposite, grounded in off-kilter textures and an artisan’s touch. For her second season on the LFW runway, FEBEN proffered puckered ‘Twist’ dresses, webbed skirts which had been embroidered with tiny glass tubes, and funnel-necked satin LBDs. The designer inhabited the collection in more obvious ways, too, in a pair of fused jersey trousers inspired by packs of hair extensions and hand-crocheted beaded totes bearing the letter ‘F’, created with a community of Ghanaian artisans.