London Fashion Week began with an ending, or a goodbye, rather, to one of the most influential figures in British fashion, Vivienne Westwood.
On the eve of the first day of Fall-Winter 2023 shows, the designer, who died in December, was celebrated at London’s at Southwark Cathedral in a memorial service attended by fashionable dignitaries including Kate Moss, Marc Jacobs and Helena Bonham Carter.
The British Fashion Council (BFC) also announced that London Fashion Week would be dedicated to the legendary designer known widely as the priestess of punk.
“(Westwood) reached people who weren’t in fashion, she reached generations of young people who would never have looked at fashion or never felt they could look at fashion,” he told CNN ahead of his presentation on Friday. “Without Vivienne, I don’t think I’d be a designer.”
It was a jam-packed schedule within which emerging brands outnumbered the more established labels such as Burberry and Christopher Kane. Debuts were aplenty: Greek label Di Petsa staged its first — and suitably theatrical — catwalk after hosting a presentation in 2020. Chinese newcomer Buerlangma showed in London for the first time, closing the schedule with a series of villainous horned masks and sinister elongated finger gloves.
On Tuesday, three Ukrainian designers presented their Fall-Winter collections created during the conflict. Ksenia Schnaider, Frolov and Paskal would have typically shown in Kyiv, had it not been for the ongoing war. Instead, the special Ukrainian Fashion Week, hosted by London, was a poignant chance to celebrate the nation’s artistry: “Today, more than ever, we need creativity for life,” read the press release for the event.
Piglets, baby chicks and rats were printed onto body-hugging dresses at Chistopher Kane’s show where his muses were the working class women he grew up around in Glasgow, Scotland. Credit: Victor Virgile/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images
Crowd-pleasing animal prints at Christopher Kane. Credit: Victor Virgile/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images
A bridal look at Richard Quinn. Credit: Luke Walker/BFC/Getty Images
Richard Quinn’s elegant set was filled with flowers, evoking a secret garden. Credit: Luke Walker/BFC/Getty Images
Across the five-day event, there were moments of diverse casting that ultimately felt few and far between. Curves were abundant at Di Petsa’s sage-infused show, and Brazilian-born designer Karoline Vitto once again built her collection with bigger bodies in mind. Sinead O’Dwyer started the week right with one of the most diverse casts of models seen on the schedule (including larger bodies, a model using a wheelchair and a pregnant model), but the general tide skewed skinny — a signal the battle for true body positivity is far from over.
Diverse bodies were celebrated at the Sinead O’Dwyer show. Credit: Victor Virgile/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images
Baby bumps and kidswear
Not one, but two shows this season featured expectant models. A consistent champion of body diversity, womenswear designer Sinead O’Dwyer featured a heavily pregnant Tessa Kuragi on one of the first runways of the season. Meanwhile, Di Petsa — whose regal wet-look gowns have been worn by Kylie Jenner, Lizzo and even Gigi Hadid in her last trimester — opened its Fall-Winter 2023 show with a pregnant model, and created several garments which mimicked the baby bump silhouette. Inspired by the Greek myth of Persephone and themes of rebirth, ideas around parturition were hammered home by the label’s founder, Dimitra Petsa, moored on a rock in the middle of the catwalk chanting “your belly button is the center of the earth.”
Emerging designer Susan Fang also made it a family affair. On Monday, the label debuted its first childrenswear collection. Miniature floral dresses with diaphanous poplin collars were modeled by adorably spirited toddlers, chaperoned by adult models in corresponding looks. “We look to the future of all of us — children,” wrote Fang in the accompanying show notes.
Pregnant artist and model Tessa Kuragi walks in the Sinead O’Dwyer show — one of the most diverse casting moments during London Fashion Week. Credit: Victor Virgile/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images
Di Pesta opened its show with a pregnant model. Credit: DI PETSA
Art & commerce
Designers this season appeared to sit in two camps: Those who adopted a more mercantile mindset — perhaps in response to concerns around another recession — and those who seemingly through caution to the wind and chose art over commerce.
Young labels Natasha Zinko and Mowalola found fashion’s funny bone: Zinko with a collection that centered plastic green six-packs and Hulk-inspired makeup, as well as Mowalola’s jeans that were so comically low-slung they sat at the knees.
Mowalola gave new meaning to low-slung jeans this season. Credit: Victor Virgile/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images
A model walks the runway during the Natacha Zinko show in a bright green six-pack. Credit: Victor Virgile/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images
Emerging brand Harri put models in inflatable trousers, just days after musician Sam Smith stepped out in an inflatable bodysuit by the label for the BAFTAs redcarpet. Credit: Jeff Moore/PA Images/Getty Images
David Koma channeled 20th century glamour for his Fall-Winter 2023 collection. Credit: David Koma
Marlene Dietrich’s style was a key source of inspiration for David Koma this season. Credit: David Koma
You needed more than an encyclopedic knowledge of fashion to understand some of Fall-Winter 2023’s references, as designers this season went cross-disciplinary. At Connor Ives’ second-ever London runway show, the American designer included an esoteric nod to the 1998 film “The Parent Trap,” starring Lindsay Lohan, Natasha Richardson and Dennis Quaid. Ives’ closing look, a bridal dress and white veiled top hat modeled by TikTok influencer Alex Consani, was inspired by a scene from the movie. “I love a nice reference,” Ives told press after the show.
Matty Bovan equally found inspiration in film. His baroque, sci-fi-looking creations are in part influenced by “Blade Runner” (1982). “It was positively dripping off the screen at me,” Bovan told CNN over video call. “I reference it a lot. It’s one of the pinnacles of production, costume design, I love it.”
As if plucked straight from the stormy seas, a model walks the runway during the S.S. Daley show. Credit: Victor Virgile/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images
After winning both the LVMH Prize and the British Fashion Council’s award for emerging talent last year, Liverpudlian Steven Stokey-Daley presented his latest collection to a room of high-profile editors including Anna Wintour. The show opened with a surprise performance from British theater heavyweight Ian McKellan who performed a reading of Alfred Tennyson’s “The Coming of Arthur,” which inspired Kate Bush’s “The Ninth Wave.” The series of songs by the British singer served as the starting point for the lost-at-sea-themed collection. “Listening to ‘The Ninth Wave’ by Kate Bush, I found the whole universe in it. I do see clothes as music, and this feeling for the collection overtook me in a way that I couldn’t ignore,” said Stokey-Daley in show notes.
Scroll down for more eye-catching moments from London Fashion Week.
Famed British actor Ian McKellen takes a bow with S.S. Daley designer Steven Stokey-Daley. McKellen performed a surprise reading to open the show. Credit: Niklas Halle’n/AFP/Getty Images
““There is great music here, great theater, great art. I want to shine a light on those things and show a positive side of Britain to the world.””
Daniel Lee, Burberry
A model walks in a particularly punk-inspired look at Burberry. Credit: Karwai Tang/WireImage/Getty Images
Iris Law, daughter of Jude Law, was a familiar face on Burberry’s catwalk. Credit: Hollie Adams/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Daniel Lee’s first Burberry collection was a layered offering, filled with many textures including this feathered look. Credit: Hollie Adams/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Simone Rocha staged her show at London’s Central Hall Westminster. Credit: Victor Virgile/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images
A model walks the runway at Simone Rocha. Credit: Tristan Fewings/BFC/Getty Images
“One thing I want people to take from my work, is to think as free as possible.”
Designer Harri’s eponymous label experimented with balloon-like inflatable garments this season. Credit: Jeff Moore/PA Images/Getty Images
16Arlington presented its new collection on a bed of powdery coffee grounds. Credit: Eamonn McCormack/BFC/Getty Images
A model walks in the 16Arlington show. Credit: Maja Smiejkowska/Chris Yates Media/16Arlington
A model walks in the 16Arlington show. Credit: Maja Smiejkowska/Chris Yates Media/16Arlington
“I want people to be inspired by it. Everyone takes something differently, it’s like looking at a painting or hearing a song. Everyone has a different reaction. I like the idea of people kind of being able to dream.”
Matty Bovan chose to unveil his latest collection with an intimate presentation in Mayfair. Credit: Rebecca Maynes @rebeccamaynesphoto/Matty Bovan
Carlo Hattori models one of the Matty Bovan Fall-Winter 2023 looks. Credit: Rebecca Maynes @rebeccamaynesphoto/Matty Bovan
Richie Shazam models a Matty Bovan look which features customized Calvin Klein jeans. Credit: Rebecca Maynes @rebeccamaynesphoto/Matty Bovan
Ahluwalia’s Fall-Winter 2023 collection was titled “Symphony.” Credit: Stefan Knauer/Ahluwalia
Ahluwalia’s latest collection saw the designer rediscover the music that became the soundtrack to her youth from Bollywood pop to bashment and house. Credit: Stefan Knauer/Ahluwalia
Ahluwalia’s new season included shoes as well as sunglasses (made in collaboration with Ace & Tate) for the first time. Credit: Stefan Knauer/Ahluwalia
The Di Pesta finale. Credit: Rosas Sune/WWD/Getty Images
Ukrainian fashion designers Ksenia Schnaider, Ivan Frolov and Julie Paskal wave a Ukraine’s flag as they opened a dedicated Ukrainian runway event on the final day of London Fashion Week. Credit: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images
Paskal was another label featured as part of a special Ukrainian Fashion Week show in London. Credit: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images
A look by Frolov presented as part of a special Ukrainian Fashion Week show staged at the end of the London schedule. Credit: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images
Connor Ives’ closing look, a bridal dress and white veiled top hat modeled by TikTok influencer Alex Consani, was inspired by a scene from “The Parent Trap.” Credit: Jordan Pettitt/PA Images/Getty Images
“I think we sometimes get caught up in the, mega business that fashion has become. I think we really need to attempt to bring back some joy. It’s meant to be fun. I had fun. I hope everyone else did as well.”
A buttercup yellow look from Connor Ive’s latest collection. Credit: Kate Green/BFC/Getty Images
Details from Connor Ives’ Fall-Winter 2023 collection. Credit: Victor Virgile/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images
A model walks in the Robyn Lynch Fall-Winter 2023 show. Credit: Maja Smiejkowska/Chris Yates Media/Robyn Lynch
A dress by Dilara Findikoglu embellished with vintage silver knives molded perfectly to the body. Credit: Cameron Smith/BFC/Getty Images
A model walks in the Dilara Findikoglu show. Credit: Cameron Smith/BFC/Getty Images
Top image: Blue tongues came out at Chet Lo.