The eight style lessons to take away from London Fashion Week

When the going gets tough, the tough dress up. Always have. Always will. It’s an atavistic human reflex. When battle looms you literally slap on your war paint. Maxed-out glamour during the 1930s. Lipstick duties during the 1940s. Solar bursts of yellow, body-caressing, stretchy knits, grown-up knee-length skirts, the crispest of shirts, plush coats and a whole lot of dress-up kit at London Fashion Week, February 2023.

This is not a balmy climate, particularly if you’re an independent designer without the cushion of perfumes, sunglasses and make-up to prop you up through the lean times and the occasional global pandemic.

And yet… this is the first time since Covid closed everything down that London Fashion Week has seemed close to recovering its old sparky spirit – both on the catwalk and the line up of A-listers in attendance, from Vanessa Redgrave to Florence Pugh and Stormzy, all proving that British fashion is still a draw.

It helped that Burberry is back here, with a new designer, 37-year-old Daniel Lee, who combines a rugged Yorkshire sensibility with the impeccable Milanese savoir-faire he learned during his spectacularly successful tenure at Bottega Veneta. Of special note: the cosy coats and functional trenches, trimmed with a mix of sheepskin and fake fur – and the deluxe saddle and gardener’s bags. 

Then there are the smaller but long-lived labels such as Roksanda, Erdem, Christopher Kane and Emilia Wickstead whose loyal fan bases have focused their designer minds on the kind of clothes that work for real life. Add in the pipeline of younger talent such as Tove, the label founded in 2019 by two Topshop veterans, and Richard Quinn, who won the first Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design in 2018 and has subsequently finessed his exuberant glamour into a supremely sophisticated

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Lagos designer creates zero-waste fashion brand

A Lagos-based fashion designer is producing zero-waste garments made out of doilies, duvets, sheets and textile waste as raw materials, using environmentally friendly techniques such as smock, embroidery and crochet.

Jéssica António, 28, handmakes fashion pieces in her studio in Praia da Luz. Some with fabrics she buys, others with material she receives from people and a second-hand shop in Lagos, which donates clothing that is too large or cannot be sold.

“Some pieces are 100% zero waste, made using techniques, such as ‘smock’, which is an English technique that I use in many of my pieces”, she says. It is a “very delicate” technique she learned in Denmark, in which a small manual machine with curved needles produces details for parts and accessories.

Using the name J-ANT – the ‘slow fashion’ brand Jessica began developing in 2020 – the designer sells pieces on her website and international platforms. Her clients are mostly foreigners, American or Japanese, or residents in Portugal, such as Brits and Russians, since “it has been difficult, for now, to reach the national market”.

“Most of my customers are foreigners. The Portuguese show interest, but we have to be realistic: they might nothave the money to spend on a piece like this”, notes the designer, defining the style of her creations as “raw” and “relaxed luxury”, in which neutral tones predominate, with a romantic and traditional touch.

J-ANT dress
Photo // Marinka Grondel @marinkagrondel

Her collection – for which she only uses natural fabrics such as cotton, linen, wool or silk – includes coats, tops and bustiers and, soon, bags made with reused duvets, doilies converted into tops and other pieces made from sheets.

“We also use a lot of men’s suits, which are deconstructed to recreate new pieces”, like the blazer that Carolina Deslandes recently wore

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Fashion designers are doing workwear again

Workday frustration can strike before your first sip of coffee, opening an email that hopes it “finds you well” or hitting the one-hour mark of a 15-minute meeting. Decision paralysis descends the moment you look at your wardrobe. Will your boss take you seriously in an organic cotton T-shirt? Does the print blouse match your red tartan trousers? Is the peasant blouse too flamboyant?

The international runway adds to the confusion with lion headdresses, provocative cutouts and sheer fabrics, but this season designers were thinking of 9am to 5pm, rather than 9pm to 5am.

Back to work on the Milan runway. Fendi, Prada, Max Mara and Emporio Armani.

Back to work on the Milan runway. Fendi, Prada, Max Mara and Emporio Armani.Credit:AP, Getty, Supplied

At the Prada show in Milan, luminous white shirts were tucked into sensible slim trousers while other models borrowed from designer Miuccia Prada’s signature look of grey knitwear with a skirt.

“Beauty here is determined not by aesthetic, but by action – garments are signs, representations of the beauty of care, of love, of reality,” Prada and co-designer Raf Simons wrote in the notes accompanying the show. Translation? Basics are back.

On the Fendi runway, a reality check also took place, with designer Kim Jones drawing inspiration from the business wardrobe of jeweller Delfina Delettrez Fendi, with bias-cut trousers in grey menswear fabrics worn with mackintoshes and ice blue shirts. The sequin lining of bone coats offered a surprisingly subtle style promotion.

“It all started with Delfina,” Jones says. “There’s a chicness but a perversity to the way she twists Fendi, which is what I love.”

While some trends take years to travel from Europe, a more practical approach to dressing is already evident in Australia – sequins optional.

At Bassike, co-founders Deborah Sams and Mary Lou Ryan launched a capsule collection called Uniform this month, comprising essential

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