Tom J. Johnson takes you inside runway shows from Paul Costelloe, Edeline Lee and Johnstons of Elgin before going backstage with DAKS.
In travelling from Cornwall to London for this season’s shows, one thing became very clear: Storm Dennis was in no hurry to give us a day’s break from the relentlessly windy weather, and the fabulously chic windswept look was something to which we were all victim. But even with the melancholy dreariness outside, designers this season continued to raise the bar. Because of commitments in Cornwall, I was—very frustratingly—only able to attend the final two days of this season’s schedule so the following is only a very small representation of the awe-inspiring collections that were exhibited over the course of the week.
What better way to start my AW20 fashion week experience than with Paul Costelloe. We’d been fortunate enough to attend Costelloe’s AW18 presentation a couple of years ago. Returning to the palm tree-filled show space of the Hilton’s Waldorf hotel helped to distract, even just momentarily, from the storm outside, and set the stage for Costelloe’s fashion-forward, innovative AW20 collection. This season, Costelloe continued to showcase classic elegance and comfort but fused this signature beauty with slick, house-designed bodysuits and tights, creating a beautiful hybrid of what could be futuristic activewear with the classic Costelloe timelessness and grace. Vibrant splashes of colour, texture and pattern complemented the rest of Costelloe’s collection—all coming together to set the style for the active city dweller.
Edeline Lee chose to break away from the typical presentation format, instead working in collaboration with 2018 film Mary Queen of Scots’ director Josie Rourke to create a beautiful stage performance that utilised techniques from the film noir genre to explore what it means to be a woman, with strong feminist statements through narration and literature. Models moved across the stage to feminist narratives, each assuming a space for their chosen motif for a few seconds before exiting the stage in place of another model. The show gradually built in tension until all models occupied the stage at the same time, still performing their individual motifs. Eventually, one of the models tore up what could be interpreted as the social construction of womanhood in an act of demonstrative defiance and cast it out into the darkness of the auditorium. The whole performance was strongly connotative of female empowerment, sensuality and defiance to the social restrictions surrounding women. The collection itself is made up of a variety of feminine colour and glamorous evening pieces, building and challenging the image of the modern woman. The performance finishes with each model wearing powerfully symbolic red dress to drive the narrative home, while maintaining an air of classic, powerful femininity throughout.
Johnstons of Elgin very much brought their lineage and story to the foreground for their AW20 collection, presenting bold and original designs through an exploration of their unique fibres and classic weaving techniques used in the constructions of their garments. For this collection, Johnstons of Elgin not only present clothing that is fashion-forward and perfect for the contemporary individual, but also has an air of classicism and history to it. This merge of contemporary technology and traditional technique is prominent in the AW20 pieces and really demonstrates the originality behind the company. The collection was made up of a variety of knitwear, accessories and outerwear, demonstrating traditional patterns alongside contemporary urban coats. In their own words, the AW20 collection sources inspiration from South American skylines and ice-capped Mongolian mountains, once again demonstrating their fusion of the contemporary with the traditional.
To wrap up this season, I went backstage at the DAKS show to get a closer look at their new pieces. DAKS is one of the design houses most closely associated with British heritage and sophistication, and their AW20 collection only served to emphasise this. Specialising in both menswear and womenswear, DAKS presented a runway made up of elegant, fine suit-tailoring, quintessential British pattern and warm, rustic tones synonymous with classic British fashion. Alongside attire, DAKS also presented their elegant accessories, ranging from complementary belts, signature ensemble bags and contemporary hats. Showcasing in the Gladstone library, the classical British features of the collection couldn’t have been better complemented by a venue.