dlastborn of fashion weeks, after pioneering New York, the extravagant Milan and the sophisticated Paris, London Fashion Week is defined as rebellious and decadent. Power to the imagination!
London, a matter of style
Here, no haute couture show† Gone is also the standardized ready-to-wear that nevertheless saw the heyday of the gentlemen’s tailoring of the Savile Row artery. The inspiration comes from the streets of London, led by Vivienne Westwood’s codes of irreverent punk.
proof, this photo dates from 1984 and could have served as a prologue to George Orwell’s dystopian book. The photo immortalizes the meeting of the leader Margaret Thatcher, decked out in a long black dress and radiant with an impeccable brushing, and the stylist Katharine Hamnett, dressed in an XXL t-shirt printed with a “58% Don’t Want Pershing” ( “58% don’t want Pershing”, named after a nuclear power plant project). Fashion in London has the claim on edge!
It is largely at Central Saint Martins School (commonly referred to as CSM), located near the Coal Drops Yard shopping center, where we owe most of the rock and roll creations of the past decades. “The quintessence of British style is this rebellious idea of belonging to nothing and nobody”, explains Fabio Piras, the establishment’s fashion director.
The students have not yet graduated but their Instagram account is already full of professional photos, like this newspaper clipping with a knit outfit by Rafaela Pestritu or the Levi’s denim pieces by Pip Paz-Howlett and Charlie Constantinou, which are available in limited edition on the Carnaby Store Street.
Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, Christopher Kane, Stella McCartneyStephen Jones, Craig Green, Phoebe Philo, Kim Jones, Hussein Chalayan, Matthew Williamson, Molly Goddard, Richard Quinn, Simone Rocha… the list of alumni who have become stars is staggering, but in London’s fashion world there is room for everyone.
In 2014, the students who had not passed the Press Show, the end-of-year parade, had organized a counter-parade in front of the school to show their work to the public despite everything! An initiative that the then director, Willie Walters, described as: “incredibly proactive and professional”. The same goes for iconic fashion illustrator Gladys Perint Palmer, who had studied with Muriel Pemberton, a pioneer in training in fashion schools in England. “My motto is: ‘Learn the rules, then break them!’ † laughs Gladys Perint Palmer, whose exhibition in Gray MCA’s ephemeral space, on Cromwell Place, has just ended.
To understand this furious spirit of contradiction crossing generations, take a walk to Buckingham Palace. In the heart of London, an oversized palace houses a queen to whom every citizen swears fealty, but who has no rules or advice to enact. † Keep calm and carry on” (“Keep calm and carry on”) suggested a poster made by the British government in 1939, at the start of World War II, but never released. It was rediscovered in 2000 and the slogan was rediscovered by commercial companies. If the cat isn’t there…
The history of local clothing taste leads to the huge wooden Liberty boutique and to the adjacent street Carnaby Street, the former headquarters of the “mods” (adherents of the “modernist” outfits of the 60s: jackets, skirts and shorts, fitted silhouettes, etc.) . For an update on trends, the Dover Street Market, founded in 2004 by Adrian Joffe and Rei Kawakubo (Comme des Garçons), remains an essential address and the goal that every stylist must achieve. This is where Simone Rocha and Craig Green (Moncler) have made their mark.
A trick to achieve this: try approaching purchasing managers or fashion editors while having tea at Rose Bakery, located on the top floor. Twice a year, to the rhythm of the ready-to-wear collections, the den of cool is renewed according to the principles of tachiagaria (“new start”, in Japanese). The chance to showcase young labels such as Kenneth Nicholson, Cav Empt and Commission, organized in February. Kenzo has also just launched his “true-to-wear” line there. (really to wear), mix of sporty, elegant and ordinary (ordinary).
A breath of fresh air
to the north, outside Chinatown, the streets narrow and the population becomes denser. In Soho, there are gay bars next to thrift stores and neighborhood restaurants. The soul of the Chevalier d’Éon, a famous transvestite French spy, has been floating since the 18and century in the midst of inveterate revelers. Outfits from Beyond Retro and Machine-A’s shop windows merge with silhouettes that break the definition of male and female gender. A current issue that originates in Dalston, a sub-district of Hackney, in the northeast of the city, where several photo studios and many creators are constantly cooking.
To feel the pulse of this ultra-stylish place, you can stroll between the racks of the LN-CC concept store or in the common area of the Kingsland Locke boutique hotel or even take a seat at Café Cecilia. The recent closure of the collective Sink The Pink, which organized crazy LGBTQ+ travel parties, marks the end of an era, but not of the struggle for the democratization of a liberated expression of dress and identity.
When Harris Reed, winner of the 2021 British Fashion Awards, concocts a costume dress for the English singer Harry Styles (mutineus ode to the binary gender), social networks are on fire. “How can we be shocked by a man in a robe in 2021? † annoys the stylist in the press. About forty years after the scandal of the parade of men in skirts, entitled “And god created man”, by Jean Paul Gaultier, the definition of genres never ends not to evolve.
The Victoria and Albert Museum opens this month “Fashioning Masculinities”, an exhibition exploring menswear in all its forms (see p. 118)† A subject that fascinates another winner of the British Fashion Awards 2021, the young Englishman of Sierra Leone descent Ib (Ibrahim) kamara. His assertive take on multiple masculinities, hitherto on the margins, is now being exported to the heart of international labels in uptown areas, such as Stella McCartney, Burberry and Dior. English contradiction obliges, in London the insurrection is cooperating with the establishment.
The freak is chic
In Mayfair, London, rows of luxury boutiques redouble their efforts to offer a personalized experience: custom Smythson travel journals, a few custom Jimmy Choos, a screen-printed bottle of Creed perfume… and a Moynat shopping bag, yes, but monogrammed .
Afternoon celebrities, the small fashion world and shopping bags Christopher Kane, 5 Carlos Place and Roksanda piled on the couches of the excellent Jean-Georges, curled up in the Connaught hotel. The large bay window of the restaurant, behind which one sits to see and see, is stormed at any time of the day. The sweet break can be exported to Mount Street, in French chef Nicolas Rouzaud’s confectionery shop. Fashion is a way of life.
No wonder shops such as Alex Eagle Studio or Paul Smith offer clothing collections amid vintage furniture, decorative objects and artwork. Opposite the Connaught, jewelry designer Jessica McCormack displays her creations in an oversized cabinet, designed as a cabinet of curiosities. German artist Gregor Hildebrandt’s dreamy work, a tribute to Jeanne Moreau, stands next to a gold and diamond bracelet On the rocks† In the hall, snake rings and embroidered antique jewelry boxes, in collaboration with Haas Brothers designers, are to die for.
On parade evenings, We sneak discreetly through Leicester Square to celebrate the visiting designers of The Londoner hotel. For Stella McCartney and Anya Hindmarch, the definition of luxury is very different. English figureheads of eco-fashion, the first develops vegan leather and this year unveils a collection of bags inspired by the mycelium of mushrooms, while the second, the origin of the famous formula applied to its products “I am not a plastic bag” (“I am not a plastic bag”), has just launched the “Return to Nature” collection, luxury biodegradable… and compostable bags.
And tomorrow, what’s left? As inspiration spreads on social networks, institutions remain the guarantees of a passage to posterity. The Victoria and Albert Museum, specializing in textiles, decorative arts and design, is of course at the forefront. The Barbican celebrated the career of Jean Paul Gaultier, while the Design Museum honored those of Azzedine Alaïa, Paul Smith and the stage outfits of singer Amy Winehouse. The Tate Britain had chosen a titanic tribute to the work of Alexander McQueen.
This year, On the occasion of Queen Elizabeth II’s platinum anniversary (seventy-year reign), and in the absence of lengthy speeches to share, many institutions dissect the evolution of royal outfits, revealing a falsely silent language. Like the Robe of Estate (for the Queen’s coronation), embellished with an ermine and velvet cape, made by Norman Hartnell and on display at Windsor Castle this summer. Keep calm and keep going!
> For more information about London, visit The Good Life website.