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Autumn 19: a great British fashion week

The autumn 19 edition of London Fashion Week (15-19 February) hosted a strong showing from the city’s diverse pool of talent.

Rather than simply “keeping calm and carrying on”, London Fashion Week’s designers turned up the dial for autumn 19, resulting in a strong season full of creative collections, stand-out trends and memorable highlights.

From the UK’s newest, rawest talents, through to established names and big businesses – led by designers that were born here, were educated here, or call the UK their adoptive home – the week’s schedule was as packed, and diverse, as ever.

With the 29 March Brexit deadline looming, it appeared the UK’s troubled times were at the forefront of many designers’ minds, manifesting in a number of ways. In describing his latest collection, designer Richard Quinn summed up the mood of London: it is “a place of liberation where unafraid British glamour flourishes in fierce creative opposition to the times”.

There was a sense of Britishness running through many collections, exploring and celebrating what it means to be British.

Heritage fabrics appeared across the board, alongside tartans, houndstooth and argyle patterns, often offering up a stylised sense of prim and proper dressing.

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Burberry autumn 19

In other cases there were designs made to protect. Blanket coats and cocooning layers were popular in many ranges, while Riccardo Tisci – an Italian now based in London – plastered a huge Union Jack across a puffer coat in his second collection at the helm Burberry in a more literal nod to Great Britain.

In the opposite direction, the turbulent times appeared to inspire designers new and established, and push them further into their fantasy worlds, resulting in collections full of unabashed creativity, flair and fantasy.

In terms of the best collections, London has built a reputation for being fashion’s hotbed of new talent, and this season was no different.

Highlights included Asai, which graduated from the Fashion East support scheme platform with a strong first solo show. Charlotte Knowles, a brand in its third and final season of Fashion East support, successfully evolved its signatures within its best collection yet.

Zilver,  a new brand with a Brazilian founder that now calls London home, debuted on the LFW schedule with its sophomore collection. Offering a fresh take on luxury, the label packed a confident punch in the style and sustainability stakes, using materials such as recycled cotton, “happy wool” and a leather alternative made from apples across its unisex range.

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Richard Quinn autumn 19

Other rising stars also excelled this season. Richard Quinn, the recipient of last year’s Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design, put on one of the best shows of the week. Displaying creativity and craftsmanship, his couture-like puffball gowns and glamorous coats were a goose bump-inducing highlight. Matty Bovan, Halpern and Molly Goddard were also buyer favourites.

But London also proved that is has plenty more to offer. Firstly, there are the city’s once emerging names that have blossomed into impressive businesses, and are now joining big brands such as Burberry and Victoria Beckham, showing in London for the second season, as the tentpoles of the week.

JW Anderson stood out with one of his best collections, full of sophisticated and wearable dresses, knitwear and outerwear that had buyers buzzing. Roksanda, Erdem, Christopher Kane, Mary Katrantzou and Simone Rocha were also standouts, as they focused on finessing their core handwriting.

London is now also home to a growing group of cool contemporaries that give the city a new angle of interest – brands that balance directional style with commercial clout. This season brands such as Rejina Pyo, Awake, Ports 1961, Toga, Preen by Thornton Bregazzi and Eudon Choi all ticked this box with aplomb.

The week’s shows were all well attended, with a buzz bubbling through the five days, culminating in The Duchess of Cornwall visiting LFW to present the second Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design to rising star Bethany Williams.

While Burberry used to pull in the crowds, it was excellent to see influential buyers spread across the week this season. For example, at Saturday’s Halpern show, still an emerging London brand headed by an American designer, a long row of stools were packed with buyers  – both local (Net-a-Porter, Matchesfashion, Selfridges, Browns, Farfetch, Joseph) and international (Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Galeries Lafayette, My Theresa, Moda Operandi, Leclaireur, Brown Thomas, Ssense).

“London Fashion Week is just as important as the other fashion capitals,” said Lisa Aiken, fashion director at American online retailer Moda Operandi. “New talent tops the watch list, alongside a level of individualistic creativity that is unmatched in other cities.”

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