Not that many shows, but plenty of ideas this weekend at London Fashion Week, with the highlight on Saturday an explosive show by Labrum London.
Labrum London: Dashing diaspora
Just when you thought you were going in to see the next little thing, along comes Labrum London with a sensational show blending Agbada attitude and West African chic, British tailoring and bold African silhouettes.
Inclusivity is the single most important issue in fashion today, and the show that Labrum London staged on Saturday was its best expression so far in London Fashion Week.
Labrum London’s founder is designer Foday Dumbuya, who also recently created the Olympic uniforms for the Sierra Leone team, which were designed for more than 16 disciplines. Dumbuya’s goal: a blend of West African panache and UK heritage with oodles of assertiveness, explained by its name – Labrum means edge in Latin. The brand’s tagline is “Designed by an immigrant.”
There was an intense sense of expectancy inside the Old Selfridges Hotel for this show, kicked off by a tremendous performance by Balimaya Project, a 13-piece band that blends Fela Kuti funk and jazz. Driven by fantastic percussionists and braying brass, the live music was the perfect soundtrack to the collection.
Turns out Dumbuya is a snazzy tailor, who cut dashing drop-shoulder suits in bold stripes, paired with high-collar shirts with tulip sleeves. His most impressive idea was working with intricate hand-drawn prints depicting Sierra Leonean village life, courtesy of The Sound of Movement – seen in power blue suits or grand sleeveless gowns in a coed show.
Other cool elements included tie-dye dusters and blazers worn with shorts and some fantastic headgear, including towering turbans made in rich fabrics. A counterpoint to the set that included 70s graphic screens and even a series of ottomans made by artist Yinka Ilori.
Molly Goddard: Soutanes in an umbrella factory
No show this season from the hottest designer in London this past half-decade, but a small presentation and a video, at least. Molly is still technically on maternity leave.
No major new direction either, but lots of the elaborate volumes that are the leitmotif of Goddard: smock dresses in candy floss pink or daisy yellow, puckered chiffon blouses or layered tulle cocktails worn over wide-legged jeans, chalk-stripe pants or track-pants in this coed show.
The Goddard guys in the video even wore oversized soutanes. Naughty altar boys in a shoot staged inside a former umbrella factory that was once Wolfgang Tillmans’ studio.
Cool and clever, though not particularly adventurous.
KNWLS: Bodice-ripper in Cavendish Square
It’s remarkable how many fashion designers love a carpark, and the dingier the better. From Sydney to Soho, La République to the Lower East Side, the cinematic properties of carparks, columns and reflective lighting exert a powerful attraction.
Case in point: KNWLS, which staged their show three floors down in a carpark beneath Cavendish Square. Entitled “Adrenalin,” the collection was ideal for self-assertive femmes fatales. Heartbreaker gals who stride and strut everywhere, attired in abstract floral bodices held together with string, the better to reveal plenty of flesh; rusticated leather hipster pants; saucy corsets; bias-cut, frilly prairie flower frocks finished at the hip; or worn, barely-there, low-cut leather cocktails over chiffon leggings. Their single best idea was the combo of bicycle shorts, bodice and blown-up leather blouson, where the elasticated knit trim covered the whole back.
Their gals also marched in serpent leather cowboy ankle boots, while huge faux pearl earrings dangled from their ears. These are looks that stand out 100 yards away, another reason this collection worked inside the carpark, finishing with the whole cast eventually disappearing into darkness.
Launched in 2021, KNWLS is the brainchild of Charlotte Knowles and her partner Alexandre Arsenault.
One needs a certain amount of gall and chutzpah, not to mention a great figure, to wear KNWLS, but if one has those qualities this is a great collection. Which worked because Knowles and Arsenault boast real design chops and clearly believe in what they do. If you are looking for authenticity in London, then no brand is more authentic than KNWLS.
Edeline Lee: Harley Street for a consultation
After 18 months feeling very locked-in, a little Surrealism seemed to be in order. At least according to
Edeline Lee, a Canadian-born designer who has made London her home.
Lee is famous for her slightly crazy shows, but this season she unveiled a plush video of models captured in extended dreamlike landscapes, all the better to highlight her subtle sense of on-the-move style.
“I began wanting a Dali landscape background and we took it from there,” explained Lee, who, due to Covid, never met Matt Gabzdyl, the clever chap who did the great slice-and-dice post-production effects.
Lee presented her Spring/Summer 2022 collection in an elegant Harley Street pied-à-terre. Though she produces everything in London, Lee sources her lush fabrics – bubble jacquards, crinkly georgettes and perfect sturdy cotton poplins – from Milano Unica, her favorite fabric fair.
A busy mom, Lee flies in and out from City Airport to the Italian fashion capital in one day. Like the professional and polished clientele she dresses, Lee is a busy lady.