Much like for New York, establishing a grasp on what “London fashion” is, can be tricky. It was always punk-inspired, highly creative and subversive, and yet, many of the heavy-hitters that have come out of London but making global waves the past decade have been distinctly grown-up and elegant. Most of them have come from elsewhere, including Serbia and New Zealand, and settled in the British capital. One such designer is Mary Katrantzou, who celebrated 10 years in the business this season with a knockout anniversary collection. Here are the top collections from London Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2019:
1. SIMONE ROCHA
Captivating headwear has become an almost foolproof way to create an interesting collection. Seeing as that we don’t actually cover our heads too much in the everyday, adorning our face and crown immediately brings an otherworldly quality to a look. But without context, it can also have us scratching our heads. Not in Simone Rocha’s case. At Lancaster House, the Central Saint Martins alumni looked to the East, to the Hong Kong side of her heritage (she’s half Irish), for inspiration, in particular the Tang dynasty. Rocha also told Vogue.com: “I was also thinking about Qingming, the Chinese equivalent of the Day of the Dead, when everyone goes up the mountain in Hong Kong to clean their family’s gravestones. I was there this Easter when we went up to visit our grandparents.” There is definitely something somber about these (mostly black) lace veils that evokes a funeral feel, and the subject of death rears itself a lot in fashion lately. Why? A sense and acceptance of our mortality is key for good psychological health. It’s perhaps the only way to appreciate life, and maybe by adopting a darker aesthetic, we paradoxically struggle less with life's darker forces.
Roksanda’s collection was chosen for the same reasons it was chosen last season as among London’s best. Consistently, it’s very pretty without being saccharine, and highly architectural yet remains fluid and wearable. Using a palette of fuchsia, pale lemon, coral and cotton-candy pink, floaty gowns were embellished with tactile velvet ribbon straps, while some hung from grosgrain ribbon. Roksanda’s collections appeal to a particular type of intellectual woman, one who owns her beauty without needing to prove that she’s sexy or prove anything else, and reads real literature. And don’t we all want to be that woman?
3. MARY KATRANTZOU
With this “collection about collections” Greek-born London-based Mary Katrantzou marked ten years in the industry with an emotionally charged SS19 show. Held at the Roundhouse in Camden, the show was, she said in the notes, “A collection about collections.” Reflecting on the threads that connected her work, the collection wasn’t a retrospective, but rather took the codes she had developed over the last decade and transformed them into a new set of designs. She used previous inspiration, including perfume bottles, stamps and banknotes, Fabergé eggs, and elaborate cocktail rings. Ironically, many of these items are things that people collect, which begs the question - why do we collect at all?
For people who accumulate belongings, the value of their collections is emotional. The collections allow them to relive their childhood, connect themselves to a period they feel strongly about. The collections help them ease insecurity and anxiety about losing a part of themselves and to keep the past to continue to exist. According to Mark McKinley, author of The Psychology of Collecting, (2005), some people collect for the thrill of the hunt, making it a quest, a pursuit which can never be completed. Collecting may provide psychological security by filling a part of the self one feels is missing or is void of meaning. When one collects, one experiments with arranging, organizing, and presenting a part of the world which may serve to provide a safety zone, a place of refuge where fears are calmed and insecurity is managed. Whether it’s stamps, or a closet full of designs as strong as Katrantzou’s, it seems we have much to psychologically reap from collecting after all.
Built on architectural codes, Josep Font’s Delpozo never fails to deliver highly imaginative designs that elevate one’s mindset to an entirely new level, simply at a glance. Like works of art, Font’s highly languid, diaphanous designs always draw inspiration from a variety of surprising yet high-brow sources. For SS19, it was the the work of Murano glass artist Fulvio Bianconi to bring elements of transparency to the pieces. A melange of 80% feminine and 20% avant-garde, this seductive aesthetic seen at Delpozo is sure to appeal to women wanting to wear something truly beautiful yet cerebral.
5. EMILIA WICKSTEAD
Despite there being an unusual amount of pantsuits in this Emilia Wickstead collection, much of it was still very grand, a quality that singlehandedly put her on London high society’s fashion map. Admittedly an old soul, Wickstead once told Matches.com: “I’m fascinated with how people used to shop and dress. I love that sense of occasion and I love the fact that I’m designing for a woman who really wants to dress up every day and not just in the evening.” Being old-fashioned in an increasingly modern world can cause a certain amount of dissonance. It can feel hard to fit in. But with such elevated takes on old classic, a pop of color and a bit of new-world volume, Wickstead transmutes the old into the new.