LONDON — The three-day London Fashion Week summer edition starts Friday and the physical and digital hybrid schedule will see more than 30 brands release their new collections.
The absence of the usual big names means that emerging brands get to receive more attention. Here, WWD highlights four promising newcomers who are making their London Fashion Week debuts.
Fresh off closing this year’s Central Saint Martins MA fashion graduate show, Brandon Choi is ready for his solo debut with DiscoveryLab on Saturday. The half-French, half-Chinese designer from Portsmouth wants to bring a different perspective to the world of haute couture.
“My work addresses some important topics in society such as sustainability, community and craftsmanship and has elements of elegant simplicity mixed with more raw and sort of maximalist energy,” said Choi.
The fall 2022 collection to be presented is based on his graduate collection, with three new pieces added.
“Much of the themes are a continued exploration of humble materials such as cardboard, paper and calico, and silhouettes continue to reference familiar ones from the golden age of haute couture,” explained Choi, adding that his brand essentially explores “how human sensibility and ritual-like couture craftsmanship meet, in an offering of construction and deconstruction led by process and the pursuit of unexpected beauty.”
For Choi, who had a very creative upbringing and who has worked at places like Aganovich, Viktor & Rolf, and Vivienne Westwood, fashion is an extension of sculpture, but one that people can wear and live in.
“It can change our posture, evoke emotions and ultimately alter our appearance. Growing up, I was always fascinated by fashion and all of the wonderful women in my large extended family, particularly my mother’s sense of style. Discussions around style and clothing were always a part of the conversation in my household,” he added.
Looking ahead, Choi hopes to take a slow approach with his namesake label.
“I am not in a rush and I want to take my time to create. Exploring more ideas and techniques and working within my capacity. To begin with, I would love to work on some custom pieces and commissions for clients, as well as do some consultancy and other collaborative projects,” he said. — Tianwei Zhang
The design duo, Adémidé Udoma and Diallo Nehimiah Hasmat-AIi, behind London-based brand ABAGA Velli, started working together in 2019, and that relationship flourished into them starting a label together that united their appreciation for the African diaspora.
“We felt a lot of diasporan-led brands were great in their own respective ways, but sometimes the attention to detail was left lacking in contrast to the hype focus,” said Udoma, who comes from a tailoring background. “For us, we always wanted to build something that was based solely on attention to detail culture and storytelling, rather than the streetwear-hype type of approach,” Udoma said.
He credits the designer Michael Browne for showing him the ropes. Browne has his own eponymous label and was the former cutter at Chittleborough & Morgan.
Their debut collection, titled “All Roads Lead to the Horn,” is a tribute to growing up in an African household. Udoma would often accompany his mother to the tailor for wedding clothes: “My mother’s tailor is not necessarily seen as a luxury in Nigerian culture, it’s very much a functionality, whereas, in England, that’s a big deal to have your own personal tailor.”
While the collection is inspired by the African diaspora, the brand has eschewed using wax prints by concentrating on tailoring and utilitarian style pieces for a street attitude attribute. Udoma is most fond of the denim wrap jacket for sentimental reasons, as it was one of the first pieces he ever designed.
The design pair have worked with sustainably approved fabric factories to source their materials, routinely using denim, seersucker and cotton from Japan for the garments. “The price point is a bit higher because of it, but that’s something I care about rather than just cutting the price,” he explains, revealing that all the buttons used throughout the collection are recycled.
Udoma directed and wrote a film around the collection that features musicians Mink and John Glacier. The short film uses extracts from Brazilian critical thinker Paulo Freire about education. “Education is equally about the student teaching the teacher as much as it’s about the teacher teaching the student,” he said, comparing his love for clothing to the tailors he has met over time who have taught him new things. — Hikmat Mohammed
For the London-based designer Carlota Barrera, her debut runway show at London Fashion Week is dedicated to her favorite country, Cuba.
“I’ve been traveling there over the years because my parents have a close relationship to it and the place of their honeymoon,” she explained.
Barrera looked to the streets of Cuba for inspiration for the fabrics and color combinations used in the collection. “I’ve used yellow and brown, which can sort of feel like an old man, but it can also be really fresh and modern,” she said, disclosing that it’s personal to her because she’s seen the country from an insider perspective rather than through the eyes of a tourist.
This season she’s dropped her signature muted colors for bright ones in blue, white and emerald green that are used in a lot of buildings in Cuba. Simultaneously, she sourced deadstock fabrics from Italy and Spain for the collection with a heavy emphasis on linen — a summer fabric that’s commonly worn in Cuba.
The breakout looks from the collection are Barrera’s summer interpretation of denim jackets in a trompe l’oeil linen. Other pieces include scanned prints of seaweed and water bottle caps that she collected from the sea. “It’s about making something beautiful, but at the same time, saying, this is the ocean now, do we really want this?” she said.
Barrera’s bestsellers are her intricate cutout tank tops that play on male sexuality that she’s been producing since her MA collection at London College of Fashion in 2018. She’s continued to incorporate them into her tailored blazers and tuxedo shirts. “To me, that feels very special and it’s just wonderful that I can keep making these in different colors,” she added. — H.M.
With sexy corset tank tops and a floor-length jersey dress from the universe of “Dune,” London-based Chinese fashion designer Sans Peng knows what makes East London’s partygoers tick.
Aspiring to encourage inclusivity in fashion and showcase sustainable practices, Peng founded his namesake gender-fluid label in 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Taking inspiration from his own cross-cultural queer experience, his spring 2023 collection, which will be released digitally with DiscoveryLab on Saturday, is a cultural study of his hometown, Shenzhen during the ’80s and ’90s, when the small fishing village began its transformation to become one of China’s most advanced metropolises.
“You may see a lot of sporty elements, wide legs and tight-waisted silhouettes, which is like a microcosm of the special era and geographical location in which I was born. Shenzhen was subtly influenced by the pop music of Hong Kong at the time. These classic elements of the year are still avant-garde to me today,” he said.
For the digital showcase, he created an additional series of shoppable pieces with upcycled and high-end deadstock fabric.
Having launched the edgy footwear label Untitlab, Peng said with his own label, he wants to focus more on combining his attention to detail and his obsession with craftsmanship, as well as to “influence more people to love themselves and love nature.” — T.Z.