London Fashion Week opens with Edward Crutchley, David Koma and Nensi Dojaka
There might not be that many shows in London Fashion Week this season, or that many guests, nonetheless the season opened with a bang on Friday with three diverse and memorable statements. Politically, sociologically and aesthetically Edward Crutchley, David Koma and Nensi Dojaka all produced powerful fashion expressions in shows scattered about the UK capital.
We caught up with all three designers with wildly different visions, and in very distant locations.
Edward Crutchley: Rum, sodomy and Islington
Edward Crutchley kicked off the afternoon action with a considerable work of fashion historicism, inspired by 18th-century gay culture in London.
Specifically, as his show notes explained, citing a report in The Weekly Journal of October 5, 1728: "On Sunday Night last a Constable with proper Assistants, searched the House of Jonathan Muff, alias Miss Muff, in Black-Lyon Yard, near Whitechapel Church, where they apprehended nine male Ladies, including the Man of the House. They were secured that Night in New Prison, and Monday Morning they were examined before Justice Jackson, in Ayliff-street; John Bleak Cawlend was committed to Newgate, he being charged on Oath with committing the detestable Sin of Sodomy."
Which led to recycled polyester and Lurex brocade used in bodices, mini skirts, and dresses with trains; Donkey jackets with monochrome logos; handmade rhinestone leotards and broccato-print silk boxer shorts.
"You know I like a little extravagance. If you can get 30 meters of fabric into a look I will," chuckled the designer after the show, staged inside Collins Music Hall, a bizarre concrete bunker in Islington.
Edward glorified his riche mélange with all manner of gold-plated charms and necklaces, party-animal body chains and ocelot-print headscarves. All illuminated by lasers. It all teetered on the burlesque but never became visual bedlam. Crutchley might be an overly historical designer but he has a happy mind, whose ensembles, when they work, are often beautiful. As many of these ideas were.
Asked why he focused on that trial, the designer replied: "I think we are in a difficult time for queer people. I genuinely believe that. I don’t the world is necessarily becoming a kinder place. And I think we have a responsibility to speak up, and show up, and show beauty. Beauty if always the most important thing for me."
"That era was not necessarily darker. Because in the 1720s there were the equivalent number of queer spaces for the population. It would have been like having 200 gay bars in 1970 in London. So gay culture was really alive back then," cautioned Crutchley, whose recent Instagram photos show him in shorts and black T-Shirts featuring a Bollywood star, posed in a Barbican-like tower block. A far cry from his day job, as the fabric expert working alongside Kim Jones for Dior’s menswear in Paris.
"I think there is a general shift to the right and I think that is always dangerous. There is more pressure on gay culture than there ever has been in the last century," he concluded.
David Koma: Glamazons in The Pool of Champions
These past few seasons it felt like David Koma had been treading water, after his departure from the storied house of Thierry Mugler. He’ll always have Paris, and today he certainly owned London with a great tempestuous display of sexy, synchronized swimming chic.
All staged with great drama inside the London Aquatics Centre, a soaring expression of organic concrete architecture where the cast marched before a half-dozen sculptural high-diving boards. Literally walking on water, since they covered the diving section of a location which also boasts a 50-meter pool – all built for the London Olympics.
"I first got the idea of showing here back in 2012, when they had the games in London. Plus, I am an enormous fan of Zaha Hadid. And today that all came together," smiled Koma, who referenced Esther Williams pin-up photos, and Busby Berkeley choreography.
David’s Glamazons appeared in combos of skin-tight Lycra leotards and puckered feather bubble skirts and sleeves, all trimmed in crystal. Or they showed yards of well-tanned leg beneath micro cocktails, slashed Barbie Doll dresses, or va-va-voom sequined pantsuits. All made in a high-gloss, day-glow, attention-grabbing palette. Not a hoodie or leggings in sight.
Add in feather boas and marabou wraps and this was a sizzling show in a watery paradise.
Nensi Dojaka: From nabbing the LVMH Prize to showing in London
Last week Nensi Dojaka won fashion’s best-known young talent award, the LVMH Prize. This Friday she showed in the nerve center of London Fashion Week, in the most anticipated show of the day.
Albanian-born Dojaka was something of a surprise winner of the Paris prize, though she would not be the first. She is clearly an accomplished lingerie designer with a unique point of view. Nensi’s slip dresses and brassieres are cut with great skill, while her sense of detailing was nigh on impeccable. She also added in some well-tailored pants, which all looked elegant.
However, judging by this display, her range is still rather limited. The collection also cried out for better styling, and a more suitable location. Holding a lingerie show inside the Old Selfridges Hotel, a disused concrete-floored warehouse, was completely wrong for intimate clothes. One had to wonder, had Dojaka ever heard of or seen any shows by Victoria’s Secrets, Etam or Rihanna?
Moreover, in an era of inclusivity there were no plus sized models or, alternatively, a Sports Illustrated amazon. And, yet another thing missing – no honcho from LVMH.
Sniffed one veteran in the front-row: "If Karl had still been on the jury, would she have one first prize?"
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