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London Fashion Week: Designers champion sensuality and Hollywood glamour in the eye of the storm

As the fashion pack brace extreme conditions to make it to the Frow, Olivia Petter rounds up her highlights on the runway

Saturday 19 February 2022 12:12 GMT
(Bora Aksu)

The show must go on.

Never has the phrase been more accurate than during this season at London Fashion Week, which took place amid the raging winds of Storm Eunice – said to be one of the UK’s worst storms in 30 years.

And yet, despite the rare red warning issued by the Met Office, which urged the public to stay indoors, proceedings seemed to continue on the catwalk as normal. Well, almost.

Gone were the gossip sessions and impromptu street style photoshoots that usually take place outside show venues among guests.

This time around, LFW attendees wasted no time getting inside to safety, clinging on to their coats and clips that had been strategically employed to keep their hairdos in place.

Of course, if there was ever a crowd better suited to such dramatic conditions, it’s the fashion pack.

Bora Aksu’s autumn/winter 2022 collection was showcased at St James The Less Church in Pimlico (Bora Aksu)

After all, this is an industry that has somehow sustained its biannual showcase throughout a pandemic, adapting its schedule accordingly and, for one season, taking everything entirely online.

This marks the first season since the coronavirus outbreak began that the schedule comprises so many real-life shows.

Highlights on the autumn/winter 2022 lineup include Molly Goddard, who is returning to the runway for the first time since before the pandemic, Halpern, who also hasn’t staged a catwalk since pre-Covid times, and Newgen talent Conner Ives, who is making his LFW debut.

First up, though, was Bora Aksu, the Turkish designer famed for his flouncy frocks, and feminist influences.

Taking place in the lavish St James The Less Church, the show saw a windswept style set migrate to Pimlico, where they lined church pews kitted out with goodie bags containing lipsticks from Uoma Beauty – the make-up brand used on models in the show.

Like many designers, Aksu is prone to a muse, and this season drew on the life of 14th-century writer and historian Christine de Pizan.

Often hailed as Europe’s first feminist, Pizan spent most of her life in the court of King Charles VI of France and overcame countless hurdles to become the first woman to earn a living purely from writing.

Championing Pizan’s ambition and beauty, Aksu’s collection took its cues from Renaissance clothing but reimagined them with contemporary flair.

Smocks were lined with purple taffeta, for example, and paired with white lace tights and Peter Pan collars.

Peter Pan collars and berets featured prominently in the collection (Bora Aksu)

Blue was a key colour, too, drawing on the most famous portrait of Pizan, in which she is depicted at her writing table wearing a long, deep-blue gown.

For Aksu, the same shade found its way on to cropped jackets, taffeta gowns, and checked tailored coats. As is always the case for Aksu, the collection consisted of an abundance of tulle, with full skirts coming in vibrant hues of bubblegum, lilac and peach.

Tailoring was key, too, with crisp shirting and structured two-pieces evoking Pizan’s literary acumen. Offsetting the feminine aesthetic, however, were Aksu’s accessories: heavy-duty boots and berets.

A sustainable motive undercuts the entire collection, too, with Aksu having sourced old, damaged, and unwanted fabrics to incorporate into his looks.

“The discolouration and imperfections are brought to life, displaying beauty that can only be found in the unwanted and lost, reflecting Aksu’s own desire to showcase beauty in all its forms,” explain the show notes.

One of the standout pieces in the Rixo autumn/winter 2022 collection. (Rixo)

Next, it was on to Rixo, the British brand famed for its playful, hand-painted prints and cult celebrity following, with Holly Willoughby and Sandra Bullock among its fans.

This season, Rixo’s founders Orlagh McCloskey and Henrietta Rix staged their presentation at Goldsmith’s Hall in St Paul’s. Titled “The Golden Age”, Rixo’s autumn/winter 2022 collection was inspired by the decadence of 1930’s Hollywood.

Kitted out with champagne towers and chandeliers, the setting was just as opulent as the clothes themselves. Red poppy prints found their way onto long-sleeved smocks and feather-trimmed frocks, while halter-neck dresses came in sheen jacquard mint and buttercup shades.

Standout pieces included a strapless gold lamé dress that featured a slow-slung skirt and a one-shoulder dress in midnight blue that boasted silver firework embellishments.

There were fur trims aplenty, too, adding further joy to this uplifting collection, with other rich textures found in velvet and sequin pieces.

As has become a tradition for Rixo, who last season installed three cocktail bars at the Barbican Conservatory, for its LFW display, the presentation itself was its own 1930s bash, with models dancing on stages either side of the crowd as a live band played classic jazz tunes.

Models getting into the party spirit at Rixo’s presentation (Rixo)

On one end, guests were served Campari cocktails and on the other were offered a glass of bubbly from Rixo’s very own champagne tower.

Speaking about the theme, McCloskey explained how she and Rix were looking for ways to mark a “celebratory moment”.

“We just wanted to honour dressing up and having fun, and I think it’s been one of our favourite eras in terms of shapes and silhouettes,” she added.

“We’ve still got our classic Rixo looks but we’ve added that 1930s aesthetic and mixed the sexy with the demure.”

Elevating the collection further, though, is the fact that its sizes range from six to 24 – a first for the brand, and a rarity among its competitors. “This collection is our first extended sizing range, after years of perfecting the fit, it’s such a proud moment for us to be able to offer this,” adds Rix.

Finally it was on to Nensi Dojaka, the acclaimed Albanian designer (and winner of last year’s prestigious LVMH prize for young designers).

Dojaka founded her eponymous label in 2017 while studying at the London College of Fashion and has gone on to become a cult favourite among the likes of Dua Lipa and Bella Hadid.

Renowned for her sheer, layered fabrics, and exposed seams, she draws on surrealism and traditions in the lingerie sector to create delicate asymmetric dresses, tops, flares, and more.

Model on the runway at Nensi Dojaka (Nensi Dojaka)

With proceedings beginning at 10am on Saturday, Dojaka’s show was an early start for the fashion crowd, many of whom arrived at the BFC show space clutching caffeinated drinks, sunglasses in tow.

The collection stayed true to Dojaka’s signature aesthetic – clingy mesh bodysuits, barely-there mini dresses held together with draping and string, and hosiery with cut-outs at the thigh – but there were elevated twists.

For example, said bodysuits were worn underneath tapered trousers and occasionally matching blazers.

Meanwhile, her famous mesh panels were given a modest twist, finding their way onto knee-length cable-knit dresses that occasionally came with long sleeves.

Elsewhere we saw Dojaka’s flair manifest via leather pencil skirts with cutouts at the hip and plenty of exposed back, waist, and thigh across the collection.

One of the models on the runway at Nensi Dojaka was pregnant (Nensi Dojaka)

Comprising a neutral palette of taupe, raspberry and burnt orange, the line also saw the introduction of new textures, including velvet (the panelled dresses will be a staple for party season) and sequins.

Models walked the runway in several two-piece sequin looks, including one completely sheer cream suit worn by a pregnant model.

It was refreshing to see some of Dojaka’s trademark looks on models of varying body shapes with plus-size pioneer Paloma Elsesser walking the runway in one of her low-back slinky frocks.

Such diverse casting is still fleetingly rare in London. But this is certainly a step in the right direction. Let’s hope it continues.

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