London Fashion Week

London Fashion Week: Chinese buyers flood designer shows as Christopher Bailey says a colourful goodbye to Burberry

China fashion lovers descend on the British capital to see Bailey’s final collection, which has a street-style vibe that will draw Asian millennials, while the latest CGI technology brings Macau to the catwalk

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 February, 2018, 6:04am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 February, 2018, 7:29pm

London Fashion Week coincided with Chinese New Year and it produced one of the biggest shopping sprees of the year.

Chinese tourists cannot get enough of what London has to offer; collectively they are the biggest spenders in the UK’s luxury fashion market, representing 23 per cent of purchases, far ahead of the Americans at seven per cent. All of which explains a strong Chinese presence at the shows.

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Ryan Lo, Huishan Zhang and Simone Rocha’s careers were nurtured on the London catwalk, and it has become such a global fashion hub for young creatives that it’s prompted Hong Kong designers to lobby the Hong Kong Trade Development Council for support. Meanwhile, Methodology, House of V, Maison Vermillion and Heaven Please+ were selected for the British Fashion Council’s first London showcase of Hong Kong fashion.

“This is great for Hong Kong designers, as it is very difficult for small companies to get this kind of exposure,” said Glori Tsui of Methodology at the label’s Designer Showrooms presentation. Yi Chan of Heaven Please+ said: “London is a creative city and we want to explore that.”

This all coincided with the announcement of a new partnership between the British Fashion Council and leading Chinese retailer, as there is a huge appetite for British designers among its customers.

Future design collaborations exclusive to Chinese customers next season look a sure bet. As for this year, here are some of the highlights from the shows in London.

Burberry swansong

Christopher Bailey turned back the years for his swansong collection at Burberry, presenting a street-style collection that will resonate with Asian millennials.

Calling the collection Past, Present and Future, he resurrected various Burberry logos along with the classic check on sweatshirts, shell jackets and baseball caps. They are made of silk and feature in a special capsule collection just released. A rainbow stripe check supported the LGBTQ communities.

In fact, there were rainbows everywhere, a colourful finale to Bailey’s 17-year tenure. Who will be next? Rumours are it will be Louis Vuitton’s former menswear designer Kim Jones.

Flying the flag for Ireland

Northern Irish designer Jonathan Anderson and Simone Rocha (Rocha is half-Irish) brought a different perspective to fashion week. Anderson’s razor-sharp mind is inspired by function and the offbeat, while Rocha’s aesthetic is embedded in gentle, historic femininity, with quirky touches and beautiful craftsmanship.

Anderson’s first combined men’s and women’s collection showed character sweaters with sneakers for the guys, while the drop-waist silhouette for girls will probably appeal to willowy types who can carry off the pleated hemlines and fabulous iridescent trainers.

Rocha meanwhile introduced some punk tartan, and black lacquered tweed tailoring to her vision of softly blurred beauties, who, otherwise cast in clouds of tulle and black lace, looked as if they had just stepped out of an 18th-century masterpiece.

Steven Tai and CGI

Steven Tai hooked up with San Francisco film tech experts ILMxLAB (part of Lucasfilm’s Immersive Entertainment division) to produce the first fashion presentation using CGI. Could this be the way we see and shop fashion in future?

Models dressed in softly structured velvet and corduroy pantsuits and flowered dresses with trench coats posed in front of a digital backdrop of the neon-drenched streets of Macau.

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However, there was one figure on the screen that was not on the stage, an avatar. Motion capture technology was used offstage to create this virtual reality model in a red pantsuit.

English eccentrics

The winter season brings out the best of British textiles: tweeds, knits and brocades and also some eccentric characters. Matty Bovan’s distressed tweed ball gowns worn with Stephen Jones helium balloon headdresses immediately come to mind.

Erdem tapped into the peculiarly British trait of slipping a tweed jacket or cape over something super shiny and luxurious like a pearl encrusted flapper dress; or teaming high waist tweed pants with a brocade bustier. His aesthetic is rooted in 1930s glamour in a Hollywood-meets-British-aristocracy way.

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Mulberry’s summer collection was also a quintessentially English look redolent of garden parties, Royal Ascot and afternoon tea – note the cushion hats and porcelain-heeled shoes.