Expectations were high for London Fashion Week 2023, after last season’s cancelled shows in the wake of Queen Elizabeth II’s death and subsequent mourning period. In contrast, the AW23 shows did not hold back on the revelries, featuring plenty of TikTok viral moments, celebrity appearances and standout looks. Here’s what all the editors were talking about on the front row.
London Fashion Week 2023
Anna Wintour, hot toddies, Skepta, vegan hot chocolate, duck prints and a lot of chequered clothing – the Burberry show, the first under its new creative director Daniel Lee, and arguably the most talked about on the London Fashion Week 2023 calendar, was bold and very punk. There were nods to British archetypes and tropes (T-shirts were printed with British roses) as well as punk elements (a distinct homage to the late Vivienne Westwood) with slouchy tailoring and checked tights.
Lee reinterpreted beloved classics from the Burberry archive in the form of trench coats, scarves and suiting but all with a fresh new spin. Gigantic faux fur lapels came in slick petrol green, blown-up chequered prints were splashed across dresses, duck prints were everywhere (even a knitted kitsch hat) and saddlebags had ‘B’ clip fastenings with multiple dangling faux fur tails.
If Rihanna has given womankind one thing (aside from making brilliant music), it’s the gift of salacious baby bump dressing. Shows were embracing pregnant models at every turn, wrapping their bumps in sheer and mesh fabrics or simply leaving them out in all their glory. A heavily pregnant Daisy Lowe opened London Fashion Week walking for Bay Garnett’s Oxfam show (which also got credence for other forms of inclusive casting), Sinead O’Dwyer had her model in a shibari-inspired bodysuit and Di Petsa portrayed her model as a 2023 Madonna figure, with a bump shrouded in barely-there chiffon.
Collaborating with the Scottish ‘enfant terrible’ of modern dance Michael Clark, JW Anderson’s AW23 collection was all about “reconciling his past”. In a nod to Clark, this meant recreating his iconic dance show posters in the form of giant penises, Coca Cola motifs and Tesco bags splashed across T-shirts and knitwear or reimagined into dresses. “We all have posters on our walls and we get starstruck,” Anderson said. “In Britain we go to the West End, we see performances and musicians, we buy the tour T-shirt bedsheet we want to be part of it.”
From Sir Ian Mckellen’s surprise appearance at the S.S Daley show and Florence Pugh’s monologue at Harris Reed, to singer Jorja Smith walking for Feben and Lisa Rinna’s FROW appearance at Dilara Findikoglu, our iPhones could hardly keep up with the celebrity appearances throughout the week. McKellen’s poetry reading of ‘Coming of Arthur’ by Alfred Tennyson dressed in a jauntily angled sailor-inspired hat and an oversized suit was a particular highlight, and, after the show, Stokey Daley revealed the revered actor had actually reached out to him personally – “and you don’t say no to Sir Ian McKellen.”
Christopher Kane loves to make an unexpected statement – this is the man who brought us ‘More Joy’, based on the cult 70s book ‘The Joy of Sex’ – after all. And, whilst he showcased the very best of his arsenal in the form of latex pencil skirts with ruched panniers, classic grey suits and dramatic necklines, he also designed a series of jersey dresses printed with hyper realistic images of rats, squealing piglets and chicks. It was later revealed the prints had all been made using AI technology.
To quote the words splashed across one of Mowalola’s tees: “Sue me.” Following on from her Paris debut last June, Mowalola Ogunlesi returned to London to present her AW23 collection and directly confronted the notion of Americana throughout. The Yankees logo was printed on bomber jackets, sweatshirts, Timberlands (a new collaboration reveal) and even belt buckles, which wrapped around models’ thighs to take baggy jeans to a whole new level). A dancing figure was the designer’s own take on Air Jordan, and she even re-created the MoMa logo to read MoWa.
Adaptive fashion has arrived as part of the Fashion Week diaspora – and rightly so. Victoria Jenkins, founder of Unhidden and a garment technologist, made a London Fashion Week first, with a catwalk show consisting entirely of 30 models with disabilities or visible differences. The show was aimed at encouraging fellow designers and the wider fashion community to create clothing with disability in mind. Jenkins showcased shirts with pop-snap buttons at the arms to make them easier to open, dresses became layered to accommodate stoma bags or designed with handy ties, while for those in wheelchairs, she offered shirts with extra-long backs to create a simple solution to clothing lengths when seated.
Whilst Peckham-based Richard Quinn is synonymous with his floral print dresses and spectacular garden sets, it was his bridal looks, which comprised nearly half of his collection, that really turned heads at London Fashion Week 2023. The looks were a magical mixture of traditional tulle, lace and glamorous column dresses, but there was also a lingerie-inspired corset with crystal trimming to add a little je ne sais quoi. Why this hyper focus on bridalwear? Simply put, his bridal business is blooming (pun intended).
Anger, feminism and politics – a potent mix at Dilara Findikoglu’s show, which was entitled “Not a Man’s Territory” and intended as a direct response to the arrest and death of Mahsa Amini in Iran late last year. The closing dress was perhaps her most poignant statement, with Findikoglu sticking 200 Victorian Knives onto a black ankle-skimming structured dress, creating an armoured effect (she even put knives into the model’s hair). As the model slowly walked by, the cutlery clinked together to create a haunting cacophony. “She’s coming back for revenge, dresses as she wants. And she has her knives,” said Findikoglu backstage.
London street style usually offers a few trends of note – perhaps oversized car coats are back in fashion, or head-to-toe print. This season, however, saw the arrival of the globally viral ‘Big Red Boot’. Created by art collective MSCHF and already worn by the likes of Sarah Snyder, Iggy Azalea, Coi Leray and Wisdom Kaye, the cartoon-style boot has caused equal delight and pain amongst the TikTok community. According to the collective it’s designed as a “cartoon boot for a cool 3D world,” but whatever your feelings about the gargantuan item of footwear, it’s now made its way to London as seen on influencer @sausagelord, AKA Mrs Sauce.