Freedom, fashion and the promise of a medium-sized party (it will very much do) — as Londoners set their sights on the end of the long, bleak winter lockdown, the capital’s designers are busy fashioning a better future. From voluminous, 24/7 party wear to peekaboo bralets and the rebirth of cool-girl plaid, these are the London Fashion Week AW21 trends we want to wear now.
1. The trend: volume 2.0
For Simone Rocha, fashion’s fortifying possibilities — those statement, ballooning silhouettes in particular — are something we all ought to experience in the flesh. “I love that visceral feeling you get from shows, and I’m devastated people won’t see it in person,” Rocha told Vogue’s Sarah Mower ahead of her AW21 show. “But it made me want to make things that are even more tactile.” The good news is that her eagerly anticipated H&M collaboration is almost here (set a calendar reminder for first thing on 11 March), meaning that the widest possible audience is set to have access to her disarmingly beautiful designs in time for a summer of intimate, real-life celebrations.
Back to LFW AW21, and the voluminous dresses on the virtual runways at Roksanda, Molly Goddard and Osman read as something of a metaphor for London’s desire to reclaim its world-renowned hedonistic streak. If the parties we just might be able to attend this year will be small-scale, our dresses shall be as supersized as we please.
2. The trend: craft clash
Few young British brands generate quite as much hype among the international Vogue team as London-based Bulgarian design duo Chopova Lowena (the buzz overflows on to late-night WhatsApps and IG DMs). The label—helmed by Emma Chopova and Laura Lowena—which is rooted in traditional Bulgarian dress is simultaneously leading an ultra-modern, craft-heavy style revolution. More appealing still is that their clothes are instantly recognisable. (Note the silver hardware, knife-sharp concertina pleats and clashing prints.)
After a year in which many of us have sought comfort in craft to counteract the negative effects of increased screen time (cue our collective obsession with crochet), it will come as little surprise that we want our clothes to reveal more of our offline selves. The spirit of hand-hewn, intentional design is alive and kicking in the AW21 collections of LFW frontrunners Chopova Lowena, Matty Bovan and Simone Rocha, and we’re very much here for it.
3. The trend: back to bralets
With 2021 shaping up to be a year of renewal and readjustment, should our starting point be shedding the cocooning layers that have come to epitomise the WFH era? Yes, say Nensi Dojaka, Emilia Wickstead and Yuhan Wang. Considering we are in the midst of the autumn/winter show season, outerwear was conspicuously absent on London’s virtual runways. Instead, a peeling away of the layers has begun, with designers chiselling our wardrobes down to the underpinnings for the freshest of restarts. “Everything is imbued with a sense of ease,” Emilia Wickstead told Vogue’s Sarah Harris. “And that feels really right for now.”
4. The trend: cool-girl plaid
“[Molly] Goddard is well known for her daring otherworldly confections, though this season she took to honing the down-to-earth signatures in her repertoire. She leaned into the quirky Britishisms that make her work sing,” Vogue’s Chioma Nnadi notes in her review of the designer’s AW21 collection. And sing it did. This was a show that subtly flexed Goddard’s focus on UK-based artisanal credentials — among them the Scottish factory behind her coveted tartan kilts. Elsewhere, at Coach, Stuart Vevers similarly championed traditional plaid as a hero piece for a new generation with a little help from an all-star cast, including Paloma Elsesser, Megan Thee Stallion and Hari Nef.
Crucially, however, this trend isn’t about the kilt mounting a comeback, because it never lost its cool in the first place. As anyone who’s rewatched David Lynch’s era-defining TV series, Twin Peaks (1990), during lockdown and found themselves fawning over Audrey Horne’s wardrobe will well know.
5. The trend: landscape florals
“I paint landscapes,” Chinese-born, London-based designer Yuhan Wang told Vogue’s Sarah Mower days before her AW21 collection reveal. Her inspiration? The verdant scenes of ancient Tang dynasty artworks that date back as far as the seventh century. “The painters created these fantasy-nature landscapes for noblemen to escape from the ordinary world,” Wang explains.
The designer’s talent for using history to hold a mirror up to our modern-day longing for escapism comes with an important caveat, however. “[The paintings were] always done by men for men. So this season I wanted to make my own, for women and girls.” The result? A triumphant collection of thoughtful florals that will make you want to tune in to her world.