LONDON — London Fashion Week, the artsy one of the four fashion capitals, is turning a new leaf with its young talent, who are not just concerned with creating art school extravaganzas, but a sense of practicality with a driving business behind them.
The London-based German womenswear designer Johannes Warnke has seen his dramatic sculptural creations on a fair amount of celebrities — including Björk, Grimes, Lady Gaga and Post Malone — since graduating with a Bachelor of Arts diploma in fashion design from Central Saint Martins in 2019.
With his London Fashion Week debut via Discovery Lab on Monday, Warnke looks to present a more democratic and approachable collection that everyday women can wear outside of magazine covers and red carpets.
“Since graduating, the collections have been signified by sculptural draping, and for the new season, I was curious as to how we can create more wearable garments and allow room for more expressive movements. The brand’s standpoint has now changed from mere artistic expression to also taking into consideration the daily women,” he said.
The collection is made with minimal impact on the environment, according to Warnke. Fabrics were hand-dyed to control water usage and he draped the garments to avoid waste as much as possible for each design. He used Tencel Luxe fabrics, as well as vintage and dead-stock fabric and upcycled materials.
Warnke described the fall collection as a mixture of the essence of the ’90s with the relaxed sophistication of the ’70s. He imagined what his favorite musicians such as Sinead O’Connor, Fiona Apple, PJ Harvey and Erykah Badu would wear and embellished these garments with playful glass objects.
“Throughout the collection, we have sliced into garments and maneuvered the predictability of the drapes to represent the break of societal norms and cycles. I wanted to reverse the seasons of summer and winter, as I love the idea of wearing bright colors in winter. It is important that my collections are nonseasonal. As we prioritize sustainability, we promote timelessness throughout our designs,” he said.
Growing up in Estenfeld, a small village in Germany, Warnke said his aesthetic was greatly influenced by Brutalist architecture and his training in dance and fine arts.
“I started dancing when I was about 7 and it has given me an understanding of anatomy, proportion, physical and emotional expression and how clothing can enhance movement and body language.…My experience in dance and body movement has subconsciously informed my design identity, giving me intuitive hints on what to emphasize on the body and how to drape it in a way that looks flattering and feels comfortable,” he added.
While he is focusing on building a ready-to-wear business, the brand will continue to create custom pieces for private clients and celebrities.
Beyoncé, Doja Cat and Christina Aguilera have already worn Chinese label Buerlangma’s designs before their runway debut.
Qiqi Yuan and Yuan Bo Chao launched the label in 2020 with an eye for over-the-top grandness when it comes to shape, fabrics and attitude. It’s a fusion of sci-fi meets Disney characters.
“The theme of this season is all about villains. I was inspired by The Countess played by Lady Gaga in Season Five of ‘American Horror Story,’ being evil but beautiful; she was quite impressive to me,” Yuan said in a preview.
“I began to explore more stories about villains and finally took it as the theme. I think the fashion value attached with the word ‘villain’ is a significant element. Rebellious characters opposing the positive characters, no matter if it is in the past or in the future, is always a necessity for the art festival,” he added.
At 21 years old, Qiqi Yuan has had no formal fashion education. He had wanted to go to college in New York, but the pandemic put a wrench in his life plan.
“I’m a free fashion photographer in China and this job enabled me to know many people, including Yuan, the model and one of my partners. We reached consensus quickly and started the brand,” added Yuan.
Buerlangma’s London show will feature smoke and sculptures with models stepping out of the fog, slowly wearing masks and helmets, an element they’re adding to their collection of avant-garde garments.
“I would like to reflect the hidden side or the evil side in people’s minds. There is a villain in the heart of everyone. I do not intend to justify the evil behaviors of people but try to guide people to pay more attention to the dark strength in our inner heart and utilize them positively under certain circumstances,” said Yuan, who will be using velvet, satin, yarn, plastic and diamonds to create the dramatized effect of the brand’s pieces.
The privately owned business will be launching rtw in the next quarter as they want to “develop the brand’s style and then launch it in the market.”
Alec Bizby, a Master of Arts graduate from Central Saint Martins last year, is making his London Fashion Week solo debut with DiscoveryLab on Sunday. The menswear designer was recently short-listed as one of the finalists for this year’s Hyères Festival.
His collection was inspired by Luddites, working-class rioters during the Industrial Revolution, whose livelihoods were under threat with the introduction of machinery. While in modern terms Luddites have a bad connotation, as it refers to people who reject modernity and new technology, Bizby thinks that was the result of “centuries of bad PR from the mill owners and the rich.”
“With the current cost-of-living crisis, consecutive Conservative government-induced inflation, and the walkouts in almost all public sectors, I knew I had to make a collection to reflect the times. I’m feeling very anti-capitalist in 2023,” the designer said.
The collection features garments made with smocking and cartridge pleats details, which represent the poor and the rich, respectively, during the Industrial Revolution, according to Bizby. The collection will be presented with a film, styled by Andrew Davis.
Bizby described the brand as a mixture of his Welsh heritage reimagined with a contemporary menswear vision.
“I come from the land of Merlin, Mabinogion and St. David’s Day historical dress. So naturally, my customer would be witchy, magical and at one in nature. I grew up on a farm, inside the Brecon Beacons but I’ve lived in London for so long that I find myself designing for my Welsh-speaking younger self. I think my customers and target audience live in a similar dimension, the Welsh have a term, hiraeth, which translates as a deep longing for something, especially one’s home,” said Bizby.
The brand also comes with a focus on sustainability. His graduate collection, which was presented as a part of the press show, was made from recycled curtains and curtain linings, and the new season offering was made from that.
“It’s a recycle of a recycle. I’ve reimagined garments, used natural dyes and patchworked them together with other fabrics that I’ve collected over the years of working in this industry. To me and my target audience considered, reworked and reimagined garments far outweigh the commercial, conveyor belt of mass production,” he said.
Bizby sees the collection as a turning point for him, as he has been dealing with the passing of his father last year while working on the launch of his own label.
“He did manage to see my MA show through livestream. An upside of the pandemic was that he managed to work out how to use a computer. The day after he died, I found out I got a distinction and since then, I’ve been working on metaphorically bringing myself back to life after his death,” the designer said.
Looking ahead, Bizby said he will be busy working on a collection for the Hyères Festival in October while looking for stockists so that he can apply for sponsorships and other sources of funding to keep his brand running. “Having my name on the schedule has spurred me on to working harder and made me even keener to be successful,” he added.
For the fashion competition, Bizby said he will collaborate with Ateliers de Verneuil-en-Halatte, one of the Chanel le19m ateliers that make Chanel bags. He hopes that this experience can expand his repertoire and incorporate luxury accessories into his next collection.
Icelandic designer Sól Hansdóttir is a homebody. Despite winning the L’Oréal Creative Awards for her graduation collection, she stayed put in Reykjavík after the pandemic and now travels to London only when she needs to.
Hansdóttir will be making her debut with a digital film on Discovery Lab on Saturday.
The materials she uses in her collections are done in collaboration with the Red Cross in Iceland, where she sources dead-stock fabrics. A large part of her design uses wool that she sources locally and from Denmark.
“I always start by reading a lot. I love learning new theories about philosophy and looking at social studies and criticism, as well as equality and feminism. Sometimes it’s a feeling I have and I try to understand it by researching into different fields,” Hansdóttir told WWD on Zoom from her studio.
For fall 2023, she’s focusing on ecology, the study of nature and nurture, which she compared to the dynamic of “the chicken and the egg.”
Hansdóttir’s design vocabulary can be described as sculptural and experimental where she mixes colors and shapes to play with proportions. She said this collection is something a “tacky aunt” would wear.
This season she’s toying with colors she hates. “I think there’s something powerful about hate, sometimes it turns into an obsession and that happens with colors for me a lot. It’s all very colorful,” she added, listing blue, purple, corny peaches and beige.
The Central Saint Martins MA graduate has no plans to move back to London.
“There’s an energy in Iceland around creating and it feels different because there’s something beautiful about having no industry here and it gives more space to be completely creative,” said Hansdóttir, whose way of life is not restricted to a 9-to-5 schedule.
She wakes up with the sun and the highest power dominating everything around her is nature.
Hansdóttir is in a practical state of mind as she navigates ways to make her complex pieces more wearable.
With the reopening of China, Chau Rising becomes one of the first Chinese fashion brands to show its collections on a global stage. Founded in 2017, the knitwear specialist has been showcasing during Shanghai Fashion Week for four years, gained more than 300 stockists in China, and opened a flagship in Galeries Lafayette Shanghai.
It credited its success in China to subverting consumers’ perception of knitwear and cashmere with a range of youthful and colorful products, and that the nation’s rising middle class and affluent Gen Z consumers really respond to it.
The brand’s name, meaning a sun rising from the continent in Chinese, bears this hope that the brand can find a place in the global fashion community.
The brand will present its fall 2023 collection, “final wish,” next Tuesday. The brand is looking to conjure this sense of hope that the worst is over. The collection will feature looks that play with color, proportion and a clash of materials.
Chau Rising is designed by Chaoying Liu, a graduate of the Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology, who has spent the past decade developing knitwear. Runway pieces are priced between $300 and $800, while its core collection retails for between $150 and $350.
London-based designer Talia Byre is all about family.
In her design process she pays homage to her great uncle’s Liverpool boutique, Lucinda Byre, which was a hot spot for shopping from the ’60s to ’80s.
Byre’s first runway show on the official London Fashion Week schedule has brought everyone back together, with her cousins coming in to be fit models and another cousin has been helping with show prep.
She’s hosting her show at Lant Street Wine in Borough, London.
“Every season we reference one or two garments from the old Lucinda Byre store,” Byre told WWD in a preview from her office.
On her mood board there are references to anti-heroine characters of film. She mused on Barbra Streisand’s leopard coat and hat in “Funny Girl” and Anne Bancroft’s tiger print in “The Graduate,” which Byre said reminded her of a leopard-print cardigan that’s been passed around the family.
“This is me and all my friends, a bit greedy and anti to all the things that people think we should be,” said Byre, who also looked at American painter Helen Frankenthaler’s work, which has “no premonition to it, she just does it and there’s so much energy with the colors and that’s how we like to approach a lot of the pieces in the studio.”
It was important for Byre that her garments hold posture.
“It’s one of my biggest bugs in life, so there’s a lot more tailoring and it’s centric on the back, when you put it on you can really feel it completely changes how you stand,” she said, adding that she wants her clothes to change those who are wearing it.
It’s Byre’s first season venturing into outerwear — the piece will be cinched at the waist without “feeling it on your shoulders.”
The Central Saint Martins graduate cut her teeth at Paul Smith and Alexander McQueen.
“I got a really good insight into commerciality, color and knitwear at Paul Smith,” said Byre, who finished her MA right before the pandemic started and then went back home, which was the catalyst for launching her own brand.