Designer Nabil Nayal staged his spring presentation inside the café of the British Library, where he spent many hours while researching and writing his Ph.D. thesis focusing on Elizabethan and contemporary sportswear.
“One day, I was really tired and I looked up and saw all the books that lined the walls and I thought, this could be an incredible space for a show and I thought I was insane and it was never going to happen,” the designer said.
He became the first designer on the London Fashion Week schedule to stage a presentation at the British Library and he showcased a collection inspired by his studies, highlighting the five areas of Elizabethan principles of design he identified in his research. The first one being the ruff, which was seen in different iterations throughout the collection, from the stiff and starched on the front shirtdresses to the soft and fluid in silk tulle on necklines and cuffs, and as detachable accessories.
“Black and white was very important to the Elizabethans because the Reformation took place back then,” he explained. “So my favorite colors to work with are black and white, but it’s always nice to seasonally add different color.”
Peppered throughout the monochromatic collection were pops of pale gold, greens and rich reds, seen in the print, around necklines and on trousers.
Embellishment and embroidery were other key elements in 16th-century design, which Nayal presented through his print inspired by the script from Queen Elizabeth I’s Tilbury speech that is housed in the library, as well as digitized images of the Queen’s funeral procession, maps and hymn sheets, which were printed on trousers and across floor-grazing capelike dresses.