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Highlights from London Fashion Week: Young design talent takes center stage

Published 22nd September 2021
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01 London Fashion Week 2021
Highlights from London Fashion Week: Young design talent takes center stage
Written by Fiona Sinclair Scott, CNNLondon
Contributors Leah Dolan, CNN
London Fashion Week was back in full-swing, with dozens of designers opting to reveal their Spring-Summer 2022 collections via in-person shows and presentations across the capital this week.
While the pandemic continues to impact life in the UK, the fashion community seemed hell-bent on ignoring it. Proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test were required to attend shows and parties, but masks were rare and, in contrast to previous seasons, themes emerging from the week's shows were mostly focused on subjects beyond the global health crisis.
On Sunday night, South Korean designer Rejina Pyo staged an impressive show at the former Olympic village with the help of three Team GB divers. They delighted guests at the London Aquatics Center, opening and closing the event with a series of acrobatic dives. The collection featured pretty garments perfect for wiling away carefree summer days.
British heavyweight brand Burberry, meanwhile, was conspicuously absent from the schedule along with Christopher Kane. But other London Fashion Week mainstays returned in force: Simone Rocha, Erdem and Roksanda were notable highlights on the schedule alongside Richard Quinn -- the designer behind singer Kim Petras' striking ensemble at the MTV Video Music Awards in New York -- who closed the six-day program with a packed-show on Tuesday evening. Kate Moss and Boy George looked on as models teetered down the runway in high platform heels paired with vibrant jumpsuits and floral gowns in Quinn's usual punk-with-a-twist style.
Kate Moss, Jordan Barrett and Boy George watch as models walk the runway at the Richard Quinn SS22 show & cocktail party at The Londoner Hotel.
Kate Moss, Jordan Barrett and Boy George watch as models walk the runway at the Richard Quinn SS22 show & cocktail party at The Londoner Hotel. Credit: David M. Benett/Getty Images for Richard Quinn
Earlier in the the schedule, American expat Michael Halpern paid tribute to the many performing artists impacted by the pandemic by presenting his new line with a video starring members of London's Royal Ballet. Screened digitally and showcased to editors during a series of in-person appointments on Friday, the short film saw dancers performing on the institution's historic stage dressed in his ultra-glam eveningwear.
Speaking to CNN Style, Halpern said he feels designers now have more freedom than ever to decide how to present fashion. His collection explored ideas of "form versus flow," with garments designed to "move really large and big and shapely on stage," he said, while also incorporating ideas of "restriction" through the likes of one round latticed "orb" dress.
A look from Hapern's SS22 collection.
A look from Hapern's SS22 collection. Credit: Halpern
London's Serpentine Pavilion (an ever-changing temporary structure, most recently designed by South African architectural practice Counterspace) set the stage for two shows. First, Roksanda Ilinčić put on an immersive performance -- choreographed by Holly Blakey -- in which unbridled dancers wove their way through the space draped in lashings of bright colors in a celebration of movement and freedom. Next, rising star Harris Reed showed his latest "demi-couture" collection at the pavilion, opting for a monochrome palette that challenged gender binaries by unpicking traditional "his and hers" wedding attire. Bridal gowns featured elements of tailoring, while his suiting was draped in white lace. Singer Kelsey Lu also performed as part of the show.
Amid an abundance of physical presentations, Victoria Beckham, whose coveted shows are normally filled with celebrity guests, instead released a set of images to mark new collection. JW Anderson took a similarly stripped-back approach with its digital showcase and Matty Bovan, one of 18 designers to receive a "Newgen" bursary from the British Fashion Council in partnership with TikTok, also chose to present virtually via a short film.
"Crochet and hand knitting underpin my work and once I subvert these techniques, I can create worlds in which my collections can flourish," said Bovan via email. "In working with (director) Ruth Hogben, I found my new Hypercraft collection could exist in its own static TV world, and film was the best medium for me to convey this."
Harris Reed hoped to challenge the heteronormative ideology of traditional weddings by melding bridal pieces and groomswear tailoring.
Harris Reed hoped to challenge the heteronormative ideology of traditional weddings by melding bridal pieces and groomswear tailoring. Credit: Harris Reed
Overall, the official scheduled skewed young -- creating space for some of the city's most promising emerging designers and injecting the week with a sense of hope and new beginnings.
On that note, Nensi Dojaka, winner of this year's prestigious LVMH Prize, made her London Fashion Week debut to an already adoring audience. The ultimate antidote to loungey pandemic-wear, her delicate and expertly crafted garments offered a modern take on exposed lingerie.
A model walks the runway at Nensi Dojaka's debut show for her eponymous brand.
A model walks the runway at Nensi Dojaka's debut show for her eponymous brand. Credit: David M. Benett/Getty Images
Elsewhere, 1970s-inspired Rixo, a brand founded in 2015 by young duo Orlagh McCloskey and Henrietta Rix, staged its presentation within the lush surroundings the Barbican's conservatory. Sweet cocktails and floaty dresses were plentiful during an event that bid farewell to summer as the weather cools in Europe.
While London Fashion Week is now officially over until next season, the capital will next month play host to another fashion event that promises to draw attention. After six years in Paris, Alexander McQueen -- a pillar brand of the British fashion industry since the late designer founded the business in the early 1990s -- will return to show its latest collection by Sarah Burton in London on October 12.
Click through the gallery above for my highlights from London Fashion Week.