From JW Anderson’s casino revue, to Christopher Kane’s comeback, here’s the lowdown on everything that happened at the SS23 edition of London Fashion Week
The SS23 season of London Fashion Week has not been without complications. Staged in the shadows of the Queen’s death (where any parties and non-essential events have been slashed) blockbuster brands like Burberry and Raf Simons suddenly removed themselves from the schedule. Other designers, meanwhile, have quickly had to improvise, rearranging their shows around a state-sanctioned day of mourning. But London is the best of all the fashion weeks, and even despite the organisational chaos, the energy coming off the runways and in the queues – not THAT queue – is “mega”, as they say. From Karoline Vitto’s spectacular debut at Fashion East, to Paolo Carzana’s graceful entrance into NEWGEN, to Simone Rocha’s first ever menswear offering, and JW Anderson’s casino revue, London’s cauldron of creativity is bubbling to a boil. Below, we’re rounding up the best in show, but keep your eyes on Dazed’s Instagram and TikTok for this season’s breaking news.
In the basement of a hollowed-out car park in London’s Kings Cross on Friday night, models stomped. Techno crashing overhead, rakish women with glitter splattered onto their head wore flowery mesh tops, cropped and battered biker jackets, bias-cut dresses, fluttery club-ready slips, and eyelet-strewn mini skirts. Acid wash trench coats, sinuous two pieces, and flared semi-sheer trousers, Charlotte Knowles and Alexandre Arsenault didn’t venture too far from their now-well established staples – where everything comes peek-a-boo, low-slung, shrunken, and held-up by intricate systems of strings – reimagining the Y2K princess as some kind of inner-city savage. Though all eyes zoned-in on Alva Claire when she emerged in a spaghetti-strapped, denim-effect patchwork dress, the KNWLS women rarely went beyond sample size, despite the intimacy with which the label works with the body. Alongside the brand’s signature RAZR bags, came a slew of freakish footwear: square-toed UGG heels, which were the lovechild of Lulu Kennedy’s latest XLNC incubator, which awards Fashion East graduates with investment and mentorship.
When models sloped into the dining room of the St Pancras Hotel – which had been transformed into a pasture fit with grassy knolls and bristling foliage – they bore black capes and lone candles while harmonies of a monastic choir began to resound. It was, some people thought, an image of mourning, or an ode to the Queen. But that felt unlikely. Steven Daley’s SS23 offering was a sapphic romp in the gardens, travelling from the traditional runway spectacle to a theatre show, with actors reading from the love letters between Vita Sackville-West and Violet Trefusis: queer women whose yearning for each another defied the patriarchal standards of the early 20th century. The clothing was seemingly pilfered from their correspondences – there were wide-cut summer shirts, blown-up trousers, and ballooning, strapless gowns. Cotton twill utility sets were emblazoned with flowers, calico shirts were printed with 1920’s seed packet illustrations, while merino sweaters were emblazoned with the image of Vita’s shed at her Sissinghurst escape. The collection felt particularly twee, with easter bunny headpieces and patchwork shirts made from commemorative tea towels, but this belied the kind of social commentary that powers Daley’s work – twisting aristocratic tropes to comment on class, gender, and sexuality.
I’m going to come right out and say it: Molly Goddard’s show blew me away this season. The designer’s Aran knits and bouncy bath-pouffe like confections are always beautiful, but for the most part with her presentations, you know what you’re in for. Not so SS23. The puffed up, cotton blouses matched with scribbled denim jeans and cowboy boots were fab, but toothy grins and delighted whispers spread across the front row as chapter two of her latest offering played out. Cut to a standout edit of enormous tulle gowns, diaphanous slips, cutesy collared cardigans, and covetable striped undies in a kaleidoscope of retina-obliterating neon hues. It was fresh, youthful, and full of fun – and more than enough to blow the cobwebs away on a woozy Saturday afternoon.
The only soundtrack to Dilara Findikoglu’s SS23 collection was that of heels scraping along the wooden floors of a soon-to-be-demolished hotel and the heavy breathing of the front row. This season, Findikoglu looked to the idea of a spiritual renaissance, travelling through four distinct phases – the trapped child, the chained good girl, the funeral of a past self, and rebirth. Perhaps it was the dust being kicked-up off the floor, or all the destroyed corsetry on show, but it was as if each and every model had been inhabited by some kind of Victorian spectre. Wenchy saloon gowns were ravaged in sliced openings and tattered hems, minidresses were covered in whorls of plaited hair, and band t-shirts distended into cut-and-paste lace slips. While feathery, pannier-hipped looks were heavy-handed in their reference to McQueen, bodices were spliced with Union Jacks, and alloyed BBL dresses, strung together with coins and bells, bore the body in confronting cut-outs. “I’m getting rid of my childhood traumas and coming out and being free from my old traumas,” the designer said – topping her looks with sheer slips, suggestive of a shedding of skin, or the ghosts of her past.
The lights go down in the Old Selfridges Hotel and the dismembered voice of Crystal LaBeija explains the definition of a “read” – spliced from Paris is Burning – which no doubt left the fashion set feeling embattled enough to say some horrible little things to each other once the show was over. Suddenly, an optic light floods the room, the front row squints, and Azealia Banks’ “Ima Read” reverbs through the benches, as Feben sends out her SS23 collection. The opening look, a canary yellow Twist dress with pointed hips and beaded trims, gives way to corseted minidresses in PVC-coated tweed, belted tunics, sheer column dresses, and biker jackets festooned in grommets and studs. This season, the Feben woman went beyond her usual borders –“there is no one way to read the cards that life has dealt you,” as the show notes say – with draped, asymmetrical dresses in brush stroke stripes revealing dirty refrains from from Georges Bataille’s perverted novela, Story of the Eye. This point was further embodied by the inclusion of tarot card prints, bearing The Devil, The Chariot, and The Tower. A smattering of menswear looks – vests, double-breasted blazers, shorts, and trousers – came in ripples of bonded jersey, all of which have been beamed across Insta stories like a Bat Signal for fashion-heads.
Not long before Marco Capaldo debuted his latest collection at 16Arlington, the designer gifted a slew of magazine editors one of the label’s Kikka bags – named after his life and business partner who unexpectedly passed away last October. With the misshapen little accoutrements dangling from the laps of the front row, Capaldo travelled back over his memories of Kikka, who’d often slip into his own clothes. Broad-shouldered tailoring emerged in glacial blues, dusky pinks, and satin creams, cut with minimalism and real elegance. Pumped-up blazers were cinched at one side of the waist, while Prince of Wales checks were moulded into high-necked party dresses and cropped vests. Though this was something of a departure for 16Arlington, Capaldo doubled-down on all the glamorous, after-dark personas that he has always catered to. Swollen marabou feather jackets were worn over crystal-embellished mini dresses, python-print skirts were sliced at the thigh, sheer columns just skimmed over the body’s contours, and biker jackets were transformed into collar-bone-baring cocktail dresses. Though Capaldo will forever pay homage to Kikka – “Kikka lives on through this,” he told us last season – this was a brave and meaningful step into the future.
Ancuta Sarca took over the Old Selfridges Hotel’s NEWGEN space for a turbo-fuelled presentation this season – her first since graduating from Fashion East a couple of years back. On the line-up this time around was a series of her Frankenstein-spliced footwear, with signature kitten-heeled mules and elongated, square-toed loafers in bolshy shades of bright orange and electric blue among the styles. Joining them for the new season was a standout pair of clogs, as well as a chunky, Barbie-pink stacked flip-flop, and freakish Vans-heel hybrids – the brand provided sponsorship for SS23. Notably, the cult designer has amped things up in terms of inclusivity as of late. Currently stocking sizes up to a 43 (or a UK 10), she’s intent on expanding to cater to those with size 48 feet. Worn by rebel-girls on motorbikes, there was also a surprising partnership of sorts with SKIMS – after scoring her own pair of Ancuta Sarca originals in 2021, Kim Kardashian provided the designer with a bunch of deadstock from her shapewear label, which Sarca turned into this season’s clothes. Could an official collab be coming in the not too distant future? Watch this space.
Christopher Kane spent much of his lockdown pottering about at home, and getting bang back into painting – past seasons have seen him release smaller, capsule collections featuring his bolshy ‘Brats’, which draw inspiration from the women he surrounds himself with. Not so SS23, when the Scottish designer made his long-awaited runway return, as he took over London’s legendary Roundhouse for a blockbuster show that closed out Sunday night. Needless to say, it was a brilliant return to form. Kane’s always had a penchant for the physical, looking inside the body and its intricate ecosystem for inspiration, and this season he was back at it again. Slinky, silky slips came in fleshy pink, with medical illustration-style printed hands wrapped tightly around their waist, while caged silver corsets wrapped around models’ midriffs like skeletal forms. Satin skirts trimmed with lace that split to the hip evoked scrubs in pale, washed-out shades of baby-blue and pastel turquoise, while glittering pencil dresses matched with off-the-shoulder cardigans were transformed from matronly into something super sexy – no big surprise, in Kane’s hands. Backstage, the designer further demonstrated his propensity for our inner-workings in a t-shirt bearing a brain scan print, and told us he’d been thinking about the adversity women are facing right now. “Things like Roe vs. Wade being overturned, and abortion rights around the world.” This offering, then, was about protecting as well as dissecting, he explained.
Masha Popova is angry. The Ukrainian designer, who made her runway debut this season, explained that the action of turning her car stereo to full blast, putting pedal to the metal, and screaming out of the window as she careens down the road as the inspiration behind her SS23 collection. “There’s so much shit going on in the world, and also in my life,” she told us backstage. These unsurprising emotions played out in her signature ravaged denim, as seen across slashed, spliced, and diced flared jeans, barely-there bikini tops, articulated corset jackets, and bustling gowns, many of which had been run over with tyre prints and oil slick motifs. The cathartic, cohesive collection was a strong entry onto the London Fashion Week landscape, with the designer already finding fans in Bella Hadid and Dua Lipa through the power of social media. No doubt her SS23 debut will score her a few more.
FROWers begin to file into Chet Lo’s show in the designer’s tactile, tropical spikes. Looking like a stretch of coral torn out from the seabed, they make an odd-looking addition to the sparse NEWGEN space of the Old Selfridges Hotel, whooping and hollering as the lights go down on the designer’s first ever standalone offering. Styled by Dazed’s Fashion Director Imruh Asha, models slink down the runway in the designer’s barbed fashions, each one slinkier and more sinuous than the next, in shades of candyfloss pink, baby blue, and verdant green. Though he cemented his pinch-and-twist technique at Fashion East, Lo was clearly thinking how he could expand on a well-honed signature – using the same sweet shop colourways across clingy cut-out dresses with curvaceous cut-outs. At times, huge balloons came covered in the pinch-and-twist fabric, as did Chinese conical hats, and comical barrel bellies. With incense burning throughout the venue, the whole thing was said to have been inspired by Lo’s East Asian heritage – particularly the folk tales that his dad would tell to him as a child. One such story recounts Buddha being shot with a swarm of arrows that become into flowers mid-flight – now embedded into aqueous hair clips, anklets, and sheer white slips.
The moon, according to Di Petsa, tastes of wine. The designer’s SS23 film, titled The Moon Tastes Of Wine, opens on a woman scribbling god knows what onto scraps of paper. Sat atop a driftwood structure on the Greek coast, she desperately claws at her face, before receiving some kind of divine inspiration from the water beneath her. There, she joins a cabal of sirens as they writhe and twist their bodies in draped caftans, beaded minidresses, and nipple-baring swimwear sets. Di Petsa’s signature wet-look gowns are reimagined in floor-trailing pinks and a baby bump-bearing strapless iteration, while the female divine is otherwise channelled in underboob bustiers, sheer columns, asymmetric corsets, and sinuous bell bottoms – all of which leave flashes of hip, stomach, and bust exposed. The whole thing climaxes in an orgasmic moon ceremony, as Di Petsa pays homage to “healing powers and earthly connections – the inspiration you find from letting go, immersing yourself in the nature around you, and grounding in the belief to be present and connected to your body, your vessel – and the water that contains it.”
Back at the Old Selfridges Hotel for Stefan Cooke’s SS23 collection, South Western Railways announcements bleed into a stomach-soaring remix of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Cut To The Feeling”, as Stefan Cooke and Jake Burt introduced their first fully-realised womenswear offering. Pushing the twee – and the cheesy – into something that feels sophisticated, the design duo offered buttock-grazing miniskirts with ruffled hems, long-sleeve polos mangled with skew-whiff buttons, and zip-up tabard dresses worn over ankle-grazing trousers, while taffeta bows made a tactile surface across skin-tight tops and cocktail dresses. It was “ruined preppiness”, “impulsive”, “uptown, made for living,” as the show notes read, but it was the word “value” that came before anything else. The value of a shit gay club anthem, the value of a charity shop t-shirt, which had been decked in in translucent paillettes. Men’s pieces comprised panelled denim skirts, burnt devoré trousers, and heritage scarves stiffened into straps and belts. Ribbon cummerbunds gave a slight peplum effect when worn over jeans, and silk bomber jackets transformed images of the brand’s bags and buttons into equestrian, Hermès-style prints. But this season, the designers abandoned their beloved cut-out knitwear, stamping argyle patterns across penny loafers and creamy zip-up jackets in a new articulation of their signature motif.
Originally scheduled to showcase its SS23 collection during London Fashion Week, as a member of Royal Warrant Holders Association, Burberry was forced to cancel its show following the death of the Queen. That was until Riccardo Tisci managed to slot himself between Paris and Milan, however, taking over a warehouse in Bermondsey with Kanye West, Stormzy, and Griff sat front row. As the soaring vocals of a live aria filled the venue, Naomi Campbell, Bella Hadid, and Erin O’Connor emerged as “goths at the beach” – dressed in swimspired dresses and coats, accented with gothic fonts, lace trims, and netting. Bikinis details appeared across mini dresses and shirts, trousers were transformed into swimsuits, négligées looked as though they had been worn in the sea, crinkled and dried out in the sun, and technical jerseys spilled over models in cut-out evening wear. The eccentricities of Dover goths were made apparent in reconstructed outerwear, which came with spliced hoods and moody sleeves cinched around waists. But this collection will probably be remembered for its more outré pieces, already circulating on newsfeeds, like a crystal bikini embedded onto a baby pink column, or the polka-dot, pantomime chaps that wouldn’t look amiss at the end of Brighton pier.