With the spring/summer 2023 edition of London Fashion Week falling during the national mourning period for Queen Elizabeth II and her funeral, there was uncertainty about how the event would play out, especially after big names Burberry and Raf Simons bowed out. However, the emerging crop of designers in London, from Molly Goddard to Edward Crutchley, rose to the occasion to present their collections while also paying tribute to the Queen, who believed in championing creativity and design.
While fashion has now moved onto Milan, the collections from Molly Goddard, Erdem, Edward Crutchley, Rejina Pyo and Bora Aksu are still making an impact.
The starting point for Molly Goddard’s SS23 collection was red carpets pre-internet, when “dressing felt more for the party and for yourself”. An era, Goddard added was not about “posing” and where people looked like they were having more fun.
The designer also referenced the work of couturier Charles James and the way he played with shape and proportion in her inspiration this season. Goddard added in the show notes that she was interested in “pushing fabrics to their extremes, utilising the qualities of each fabric and letting it do the work”.
The result was a fun, unapologetic explosion of colour and volume that everyone has come to expect from Goddard. Yes, there were colourful tulle dresses and slips, but there were also intricately cut evening dresses in cotton and ball gowns in jersey. These sat alongside sleek tailoring, knitted hoodies, shirred bombers, and kitsch printed ruffle-trimmed tops with matching skirts.
Goddard ended the show with a classic bridal ending with a larger-than-life tulle dress fit for a modern fashion bride that looked magnificent against the backdrop of the Seymour Leisure Centre.
For spring/summer 2023, Erdem explored the restoration of art, spending time with restoration experts at the British Museum, the Tate, the V&A and the National Gallery.
"The knowledge, skill and dedication required in restoration is both a visceral and a technical form of creativity," explained the designer in his show notes. "It requires forensic passion; individual pieces might be worked upon by a sole restorer for up to 20 years. The collection examines the space between care and obsession in the pursuit of preservation."
As part of his research, he witnessed an 18th-century embroidered dress being revived with a complex tulle understructure, and this inspired a collection that examines the space between care and obsession in the pursuit of preservation. This was translated into an exploration of the undone, stages of reconstruction like frayed hems, faded textiles and adding patchwork repairs to gowns. Erdem even covered some looks with tulle veil-like dust bags as if to protect them from the elements.
Erdem also dedicated his SS23 show to Her Majesty the Queen with a series of in-mourning black-veil-covered styles.
Woolmark Prize winner Edward Crutchley referenced the ancient Greek sea god Proteus as the inspiration for his SS23 collection as he explored various states of dress from elaborate gowns to body-con dresses to crystal-adorned thongs and cupless bras.
Crutchley, who has worked with Kim Jones at Dior and Louis Vuitton, also showed why he is a master of fabric manipulation and sourcing with a new shimmering cloqué jacquard. The fabric was developed exclusively for the collection, a new interpretation of cloqué, as a double fabric with a jacquard effect rich in couture sensibility. For some looks, aluminium was woven to create a crinkle, while in others, lurex offered an iridescence sheen to convey the power of the sea.
Throughout the collection, Crutchley highlighted the changing nature of the sea, inspired by waves, jellyfish in motion and aquatic vegetation fluttering under the water to create fluid and ethereal silhouettes. There were body-con knitted dresses with holographic sequin waves, hand embroidered pleats and bead encrustations, and others that looked to trace the sea floor pattern complete with air-bubble cut-out detailing.
There was also a series of deep-sea blue looks, from a frill sleeve mini dress to a maxi-length mac and a bomber jacket crafted in a water effect nylon made using a faceted yarn to refract light. While for the finale, Crutchley sent down couture gowns in a colour-shifting lurex and silk fabrication that shimmered beautifully, even under the harsh lighting of an underground car park.
"I am not trying to pretend I am making couture but have had experience working in it over the last year it has shaped my approach,” explained Crutchley in the show notes. “Couture - for me - is where you can push your ideas to the farthest point. The work gets to the highest level possible, as far as you can imagine. I am less afraid.”
For SS23, Rejina Pyo was inspired by a Tolstoy quote - "One can live magnificently in this world if one knows how to work and how to love," and how as they were written more than 100 years ago, they wouldn’t have applied to women.
With that in mind, Pyo showcased a celebration of women and what it means to love and work, two cornerstones of our humanness according to Freud. The result was a collection filled with feminine tailoring, from short skirts to draped trousers, alongside her signature sculptural shapes and sheer button-up tops, skirts, and dresses, designed to be worn with or without slips.
The collection also introduced white and patchworked two-tone organic denim styles, which were relaxed and finished with hand-frayed detailing, and swimwear made with recycled nylon in double halter straps and one-shouldered styles finished with a signature resin ring.
SS23 also included the new knot bag family, shown in both object box and cross-body bucket sizes, as well as a new handheld chain bag and an updated Banana bag with new strap detailing.
London-based Turkish designer Bora Aksu presented an "anachronistic dreamscape" for spring/summer 2023, inspired by the works of writer Henry Darger and the watercolours of artist Marcel Dzama, in his exploration of the relationship between innocence and perversion. This was showcased in “pieces that toe the line between the delicate and the resolute," explained the designer in the show notes, while also placing femininity at the heart of the creative process.
Aksu also continued to explore ideas of escapism and folkloric storytelling introduced in previous seasons, with military-inspired design elements such as medallions, sashes and tailoring offset against his signature layers of ruffles and tulle, painterly motifs, and the pastel-hued colour palette.
This season, Aksu also continued to incorporate more sustainable design practices into his work, with many of the silks and satins used in the collection coming from rolls of rejected designs and damaged materials.