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Against a backdrop of challenging times, young designers triumph at London Fashion Week

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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Chet Lo LFW AW24 Credits: Courtesy Chet Lo

Since its inception in a Kensington car park in 1984, London Fashion Week has undergone significant transformations. In those early days, with established fashion calendars in New York, Milan, and Paris, British designers, particularly those fresh out of school, found themselves lacking both outlets and budgets to showcase their collections.

While London is now renowned as a hotbed of young creative talent, financial struggles persist for many designers trying to afford shows or events. Last year, designers such as SS Daley, Robyn Lynch, and Dilara Findikoğlu faced financial constraints, leading them to opt-out of showcasing. The current season sees Nensi Dojaka and KWK by Kay Kwok absent from the calendar, forgoing shows due to financial challenges. Notably, emerging designer Feben chose to showcase in Milan as part of Dolce & Gabbana's new talent incubator, which is sponsored.

Caroline Rush, the chief executive of London Fashion Week, conveyed to Euromonitor that the current cost-of-living crisis poses an incredibly challenging situation for young brands. Despite London's reputation as a hub for creative expression, financial hurdles persist, impacting the ability of emerging designers to participate fully in the industry’s market.

Financial hurdles persist for London’s young designers

Amid the downturn in consumer spending, many retailers find their budgets for acquiring new brands shrinking. In times past, online retail destinations like Net-a-Porter, Matches, Ssense, MyTheresa, Machine-A, and department stores such as Selfridges and Harvey Nichols were pivotal for brands seeking representation. These platforms served as gatekeepers for emerging talents, providing exposure and generating income for designers.

However, the dynamics have shifted. The doors to retail representation have become more challenging to pry open, compelling many brands to opt for direct-to-consumer channels. In this evolving landscape, the traditional routes to market discovery, once vital for emerging designers, have become more elusive.

Brands face heightened pressure to deliver high sell-through rates by the second season, as retailers, facing their own financial constraints, are less tolerant of underperforming inventory. The once common practice of swiftly dropping brands that fail to meet expectations has become more prevalent. This poses a considerable challenge for up-and-coming designers, as building a sustainable business without the support of wholesale retail narrows the path to success. As consumer habits and industry dynamics continue to evolve, the road to establishing a brand and securing its place in the market has become more complex and demanding.

Fashion Scout China

But it is not all doom and gloom. Many brands still regard London Fashion Week as a platform for newness. This is one of the reasons Fashion Scout China, a platform dedicated to cultivating Chinese design talents and propelling them onto the international stage, marked a return to the LFW stage this month. In collaboration with Fashion Scout, the platform shone a spotlight on five emerging Chinese talents, AFMN, E7W Studiio, Gorgiya, Ladecente and Chiyue. This event underscored the significance of showcasing rising stars as they make their first mark on the ever-evolving global fashion scene, while at the same time fostering cross-cultural exchange and celebrating innovation.

Fashion Scout China F24 at London Fashion Week Credits: Courtesy Fashion Scout China

Dilara Findikoğlu

Temporarily stepping away from the fashion fray can indeed yield positive outcomes, a sentiment vividly exemplified by Dilara Findikoğlu. In a triumphant return to LFW, the designer articulated her vision in the show’s notes, describing it as a "manifesto for a world order born of an unrelenting vortex of femme energy; the bringing of a new world to life through mass ritual."

This creative manifesto materialised in the form of corsetry and deconstructed business attire, with models provocatively touching their faces and moving sinuously. Unconventionally, the models engaged in direct eye contact with the audience, a departure from the usual runway etiquette, aimed at emphasising the dismantling of toxic masculinity.

Findikoğlu's return to the fashion spotlight underscores the power of a strategic hiatus and a deliberate reemergence, with her runway presentation serving as a bold commentary on societal norms and a call for transformative change.

Dilara Findikoglu F24 Credits: Spotlight Launchmetrics

Eudon Choi

Resilience was a common theme, with designer Eudon Choi paying homage to Pompeii, drawing inspiration from its weathered frescoes and exposed walls. Ultimately it was an exploration of human vulnerability and the timeless beauty found in resilience through decay.

The collection captured the emotional complexities and dynamic shapes of the ancient city's vibrant yet decaying remains, utilising textured materials and muted colours. The designs juxtapose opulent materials with distressed finishes, creating a poignant interplay of beauty and adversity. The earthy, tonal palette echoes Pompeii's historic murals, and intricate detailing, sensual silhouettes, and sculptural elements evoke the enduring allure that emerges from the city's remnants.

Eudon Choi F24 Credits: Spotlight Launchmetrics

Chet Lo

Historic references were also rife at Chet Lo, who went back to the 70s when farmers in China's Shaanxi province unearthed the famed Terracotta Army, created over 2,000 years ago by Qin Shi Huangdi.

Inspired by the army's resilience, Chet Lo presented a collection where spiky utopia meets ancient warriors. The brand's iconic spikes adorn garments, including hoodies, skirts, and trousers, symbolising the strength of the Terracotta Army. Lo incorporates eastern and western influences with wool sarong trousers and hybrid skirt trousers resembling armor silhouettes. The colour palette draws inspiration from German artist Gerhard Ritcher, while accessories, including handbags and spiky footwear, debut in collaboration with Charles & Keith and socks provided by Pantherella.

LFW Chet Lo F24 Credits: Courtesy Chet Lo

Yet for all the emerging brands, a stalwart of established designers and businesses including J.W. Anderson, Roksanda Ilincic, Simone Rocha, Emilia Wickstead and Dunhill, also brought desirability and wearability in equal measure.

A new age of British elegance

Dunhill, especially, has entered a new age of British elegance. Whilst traditionally recognised for classic tailoring, it is obvious that newly appointed creative director Simon Holloway has breathed contemporary life into the brand, having cut his teeth at Ralph Lauren and Agnona, intrinsically understanding luxury and wardrobing.

Where Dunhill may have been staid, and a reliable source for cufflinks and men’s accessories, it is now a bonafide fashion destination, having received some of the best dressed accolades at the BAFTA’s this week and last year’s Met Gala. Dunhill now stands as a compelling British ready-to-wear counterpart to Italy's tailoring brands such as Brioni and Zegna.

Dunhill F24 Credits: Spotlight Launchmetrics
Chet Lo
Dilara Findikoğlu
Eudon Choi
Fashion Scout
London Fashion Week