“We know anywhere can be a runway if your mind has something to walk down it.” These were the words spoken by poet, performer, model, and trans visibility activist Kai-Isaiah Jamal in the touching performance that opened the Fall 2021 season of London Fashion Week. Reduced to mere pixels, this co-ed fashion week looked very different to the usual spectacle that overwhelmed the streets of the city just one year ago, pre-COVID. Gone are the days where poised editors swoon out of a LFW-branded Mercedes to take seats among photographers, whilst fashion students dressed to the nines plead for a glance of the magic at the door. Now everyone was invited—albeit from home.
Designers and their teams communicated their collections digitally, and with the ceaseless opportunities that come with technology, they did not falter. Both Matty Bovan and Liam Hodges experimented with distorted reality in playful videos that reworked, pixelated, and transformed elements of their designs. Emotional musical renditions brought a feeling of togetherness; singer and rapper Nenny performed for Marques’ Almeida while Cktrl composed an exclusive score for Ahluwalia. But it was the newcomers who came through as the winners on the schedule; with a raw, optimistic energy, they brought a futuristic aesthetic and further representation to London Fashion Week. If London proved anything this season, it was that for all the imagination and oozing creativity the capital is known for, resilience and community run through its core.
Here are five of the talented newcomers from London Fashion Week Fall 2021 that you should know about right now.Labrum London Photo:: Getty ImagesPhoto:: Getty ImagesPhoto:: Getty Images
Labrum London, taking its name from the Latin Word for ‘having an edge,’ founded and designed by Foday Dumbuya, is about representing African fashion in “the right way.” Raised in Sierra Leone, Cyprus, and London—all places rich in culture, heritage, and music—Dumbuya honors the traditions and characteristics of each in modern, effortless designs. For his most recent collection, he enhanced his usual utilitarian aesthetic with relaxed tailoring and ruffles that added volume in a nod to the West African agbada. The collection was a celebration of the heroes of “St. Giles Blackbirds,” a section of the black community comprising sailors, soldiers, and former enslaved people that settled in England in the late 1700s, who found themselves poor, dispossessed, and living within the St. Giles-in-the-fields area of London. “We are telling stories from West Africa that you don’t learn about in school, or anywhere really for that matter. It’s important that we are celebrating that history and remembering the remarkable people within these stories,” Dumbuya told Vogue.IA LondonPhoto: Courtesy of IA LondonPhoto: Courtesy of IA London
What would you do if you only had three minutes? Sip coffee? Kiss a child? Or finish the painting? These were the thoughts racing through Ira Iceberg’s mind as she formulated the concept of her latest collection, The Hourglass. This is the second career for the Cambridge-based designer, who ditched her job as an artistic director in surface design and licensing to pursue her calling in fashion and art at age 42. When her family were sadly affected by COVID-19, Iceberg was forced to re-evaluate the “increasing feeling of our impermanence.” That lead her to the symbol of the hourglass. “[It is] an object designed to limit time but also a symbol of infinity”, she told Vogue, describing the silhouette of her elegant black designs that feature exaggerated hips and shoulders. Relaxed items were on show, too, with ginormous teddy bears sewn onto the front of hoodies providing a short-term fix for those currently missing loved ones. Working with model Alex Bruni, IA London aims to confront age bias with its collection as well as promote sustainability throughout fashion. Iceberg also included multicolored masks in her show, firmly placing this collection in our time.Av VattevPhoto: Courtesy of Av AvttevPhoto: Courtesy of Av AvttevPhoto: Courtesy of Av Avttev
Just days ago, NASA released the mind-blowing video of its Perseverance Rover landing on Mars, a momentous feat that brought back the excitement of the possibilities that lie beyond our planet. For 27-year-old Bulgarian designer Antonio Vattev, space travel continues to represent possibilities for humanity's future. His fascination with space began as a child, when Vattev collected a magazine called Biograph in which he first came across astronaut Neil Armstrong on Apollo 11. Combined with his love of music icons Grace Jones, David Bowie, and Mick Jagger, Vattev’s designs ooze the individuality of the '70s, adding a touch of fantasy. In a fashion film-turned-music video that was an ode to his Bulgarian heritage, Vattev collaborated with Franco-American music duo Faux Real to remix their music with Valya Balkanska’s performance of Izlel ye Delyo Haydutin, which was selected as part of the Golden Record launched into space in 1977. Vattev produced diamond shapes galore, along with satin puffer jackets, twisted mesh, mohair jumpers, and a stand-out teal leather tailored jacket. With Av Vattev on your shoulders, you are a guaranteed pocket rocket.MAXXIJ
Courtesy of MAXXIJ
Courtesy of MAXXIJ
Courtesy of MAXXIJ
Like most, you might be feeling apprehensive about the way the world will look post-COVID, but for Seoul-born Korean designer MAXXIJ, the lockdown experience brings an opportunity to reassess concepts of beauty. Since graduating from the menswear course at London College of Fashion, MAXXIJ has already been awarded the Best Designer prize at Seoul Fashion Week in 2020 and made his debut in London just last season. “I had to seriously consider the meaning of our existence and happiness”, he told Vogue, citing the onset of the pandemic to his turning point. In his fashion film, models emerged from the industrial shadows of a warehouse. They walked fearlessly in exaggerated puffer jackets that are perfect for post-pandemic distancing. His muted color palette of beige and black signaled his approach to design, drastically looking away from the past in the hope of starting a fresh new future. Among distressed and twisted stitch lines sat layered pockets with hints of steel blue and bumblebee yellow. Though his collection feels instinctive and responsive for right now, there remains a haunting spirit of what’s to come.Jen Lee
Courtesy of Jen Lee
Courtesy of Jen Lee
If anyone knows how to make an entrance, and a digital one at that, it’s Taiwan-based designer Jen Lee. In a 360-degree virtual reality showcase, Lee gathered Taiwanese celebrities, actors, musicians, and designers to join her in seeking utopia. Inspired by the Eastern philosophy that “the universe is in eternal change,” her illuminated wonderland of saturated colors and psychedelic elements was a message to “live for the moment.” “Love Planet” was the title of Lee’s collection—and it featured designs that did just that. Using Bluesign-certified biodegradable and antibacterial fabric with environmentally friendly zippers from renowned zipper manufacturer KCC, Lee continued with her sports luxe aesthetic. Delve into her virtual world and you will find scarves aplenty, created using fabrics developed from discarded oyster shells alongside knitwear made with seamless ecovero viscose to avoid yarn wastage. 2021 suddenly feels a lot brighter.