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