LONDON — In this strangest and most unpredictable of seasons, London designers took the opportunity to spread joy through silhouettes, colors and themes of nature and escapism. Retailers who attended the London shows, virtually or physically, applauded the upbeat tone.
“Designers are expressing themselves in wonderful ways and bringing much-needed joy to all of our lives via bright and optimistic hues,” said Elizabeth von der Goltz, global buying director of Net-a-porter.
Roopal Patel, fashion director of Saks Fifth Avenue, said the week was full of color and vibrancy. “I appreciate the designers for staying true to their vision and showcasing beautiful, happy and joyous collections.”
Color wove its way through the London collections in blocks, stripes and vibrant, graphic prints and patterns. Among buyers’ top picks were Roksanda’s optimistic, citrus-y hues and Simone Rocha’s opulent embellishments and embroideries.
Von der Goltz said Molly Goddard’s spring effort was her “hero collection, for the explosion of color and prints to maximalist shapes.” Natalie Kingham, fashion buying director at Matchesfashion, called Goddard’s collection, with its bright green Ugg platforms; printed, patchwork tulle skirts, and Dr. Seuss stripes “a welcome element” of escapism.
“Each season she goes from strength to strength, and she continued to show her breadth as a designer, expanding into great denim pieces,” Kingham said of Goddard.
Other retailers said they were relieved to see strong silhouettes rather than loungewear, which had become the uniform of the locked-down masses earlier this year.
“Designers brought the drama and glamour,” said Arielle Siboni, women’s ready-to-wear fashion director at Bloomingdale’s.
“We saw easy tailored separates and slinky dresses with cutouts from Victoria Beckham, along with bright, colorful stripes at Christopher Kane, all of which we’re excited to bring to Bloomingdale’s this spring,” said Siboni.
She also highlighted the work of London stalwarts Eudon Choi and Duro Olowu. She said the former “displayed expertly crafted relaxed separates,” while the latter “showcased a masterful use of prints and how to boldly mix them.”
Patel happily waved goodbye to tracksuits in the fashion week lineup, while Maria Milano, head of women’s wear at Harrods, shut the door firmly on “cookie-cutter fashion.” She said she was happy to embrace individuality once again.
“London has always been at the forefront of individuality, and now more than ever designers have made it clear that it’s time to embrace a style that is true to you, to your shape and to your lifestyle,” Milano said.
She praised designers for providing shoppers with an array of choices and styles.
“My must-have item this season is a dress. The best news is that there is something for everyone — delicate slips at Victoria Beckham; rich brocade gowns at Simone Rocha; wear-everywhere Rixo confections; saturated hues at Roksanda, and clean and sharp Emilia Wickstead silhouettes,” Milano added.
For von der Goltz, the romantic dress was the winner.
“The romantic dress will be the must-own item for next summer — for when we can hopefully look to relive some of the events and holidays from this year that had to be postponed. Cropped tops and spring knitwear are also must-have items for spring.”
Patel added that she’s looking forward to more denim, trench dressing and “fantasy” cocktail attire. She also said a host of new designers added a jolt of excitement to the schedule.
“Camille Perry and Holly Wright of Tove Studio are rising stars who have their finger on the pulse of new essentials during these times,” she said.
Milano said she picked up a few new names this season, including JW Anderson and Hanna Fielder, the latter of whom is known for her minimalist luxury, tailoring and craftsmanship.
“It’s not easy scouting new talent over Zoom, but Hannah made the process seamless by sending us myriad swatches and samples. Jonathan is a true visionary and experimented with augmented reality in showcasing his pre-collection,” she said.
While many presentations were conducted either virtually, or with strict social distancing, films made up the majority of the fashion week events. The retailers’ favorite film, without a doubt, was Michael Halpern’s short, which highlighted the efforts of frontline workers — nurses, cleaners, London Underground drivers — during lockdown.
“Halpern’s film was full of joy and optimism. He celebrated a group of amazing women who have been working on the front line throughout the pandemic,” said Kingham.
Von der Goltz concurred. “It was optimistic, inspiring and everything we love about fashion. It was so wonderful to hear from these inspiring women about their experiences through the pandemic. We salute them!”
The film, which featured the women in all their glamorous glory vamping for the camera and also giving upbeat interviews about their experiences, reminded her of the role of fashion.
“Halpern’s homage to key workers was both beautiful and touching — seeing such pivotal contributors to society frolicking in Michael’s irreverent puffballs was uplifting, and reminds us of the key role fashion plays in our lives.”