Cover Susan Fang spring-summer 2023

Tatler’s fashion correspondent Rosana Lai captured glamourous yet respectful moments at the event, which took place just after Queen Elizabeth II’s death

It was meant to be London Fashion Week (LFW)’s comeback. Even before the pandemic, international fashion show attendees have bemoaned the lack of star power on the LFW schedule. This season, which took place from September 16-20, was meant to mark the return of British designer Jonathan Anderson, who had been showing in Paris for the last few years, as well as cult favourite Raf Simons, who is also co-creative director at Prada.
 
That was until the country’s beloved monarch of the last 70 years passed away.
 
News of the Queen Elizabeth II’s death on September 8 brought the British capital to a standstill, as the nation grieved—and for event organisers, scrambled to understand how to manoeuvre royal protocol that would unfold and how they would be affected. The initial uncertainty on the exact date of the Queen’s funeral led to several brands pulling out of LFW—Burberry was the first to announce its exit “as a mark of respect”, with Raf Simons following shortly. For a moment, there were fears that LFW was to be cancelled, before the British Fashion Council later announced that events that were not on the official LFW calendar—such as Kate Moss’s 40th birthday bash with Diet Coke—were to be cancelled, while shows and presentations slated for the day of the funeral were to be rescheduled.

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When the time came for fashion week, a handful of designers chose to pay tribute to the late Queen. Some, like Bora Aksu, held a moment of silence, while others created one-off looks for the occasion: Halpern did with a billowing powder blue cape-gown with a headscarf—a nod to the Queen’s most iconic look. Erdem and Richard Queen dressed some of their models in all-black, complete with somber black veils.
 
But despite the heavy cloud that hung over the city, the LFW runways were filled with joyful bursts of colour and plenty of sex appeal, like a buffer to the chaos just outside the walls, or a hopeful reminder to keep calm and carry on. From slinky, cut-out dresses to colour-blocked frocks, below are highlights of the season that made us smile.

KNWLS

Breakout stars Charlotte Knowles and Alexandre Arsenault, the co-creative directors of KNWLs, are known for their powerful Y2K looks. Their legion of fans might have been happily surprised to see a more feminine touch to their cowgirl-meets-Noughties aesthetic this season. There are still plenty of denim separates and tattoo prints, but these signature codes are wrapped in more sheerness and skin-baring silhouettes that make the collection feel more grown-up.

Eudon Choi

The Korean designer’s sun-kissed collection of breezy eyelet dresses, diaphanous frocks and nautical stripes had the audience dreaming of a Mediterranean escape. It’s no wonder—Choi drew inspiration from the French Riviera and the works of French filmmaker Jean Cocteau in his vibrant line-up of resortwear.

Molly Goddard

Best known for making frilly dresses cool, Molly Goddard once again put forward a joyous display of frothy craftsmanship. The British designer cites famed couturier Charles James as a constant source of inspiration for her enormous, bouncing tulle forms around the body, but she was especially drawn to the period of “red carpets pre-internet” for this season. “Much more casual, laid back… people looked like they were out to have fun,” according to official show notes. Tulle sheaths over bumble-bee striped underwear and ruffled gowns paired with cowboy boots are certainly as fun as it gets.

Nensi Dojaka

It’s hard to believe that the young Albanian-born designer Nensi Dojaka only made her runway debut a year ago given her success, but her latest collection proves she has what it takes to keep up the momentum. Beyond the signature boudoir bra-dresses for which she is beloved, Dojaka dabbled with sparkle this season, adding baby pink dresses covered in paillettes, and evening chiffon dresses with trailing sequins. Emily Ratajkowski (pictured right) aptly closed the sexy catwalk.

David Koma

Heavily inspired by deep-sea creatures, David Koma’s punchy collection was filled with iridescent hues, netted bags and scuba suits, sprinkled with golden shells and silver fish hooks. We can almost see celebrity stylists snapping them up for red carpets at awards season.

Simone Rocha

Chinese-Irish designer Simone Rocha officially introduced menswear this season through another dazzling display of her talent for merging the austere with the romantic. Rocha, like many designers, reacted to the state of the world through design, and decided to introduce more utilitarian elements, like harness straps and wallpaper-print bomber jackets. Of course, her brand of delicate pageantry continued to permeate the collection through tiered, tulle veils and flouncy shapes that extended to menswear.

Christopher Kane

British prodigy Christopher Kane was lauded as the most promising young talent in his debut in 2006, and while he had stepped back from the public eye in recent years, this triumphant return to the runway this season was a sharp reminder of his raw talent. Known for his love for ironic combinations of materials and motifs, Kane’s topic this season revolved around the woman’s body—literally. Sewing forensic cut-outs of limbs to delicate shift dresses and using PVC harness straps to mimic the lines of ribcages, Kane continued to shock—and impress—the audience with his tongue-in-cheek, almost-absurd approach to high fashion. Like it or not, you won’t forget it any time soon.

Susan Fang

Staged inside a swimming pool surrounded by giant, marble-print floaties that were designed by her mother, Susan Fang’s show wowed attendees with an ethereal offering of gauze gowns. The Chinese designer added a tech-driven twist to her favourite material by hand-folding dyed gauze into three-dimensional “air prints”, creating mesmerising ripples of colour.

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Chet Lo

The Asian American designer counts Kylie Jenner and Dua Lipa as fans of his puffer-fish knits that may not be for your grocery run, but certainly work wonders as Gen Z catnip. The Instagram-ready looks included hat-to-toe monochromatic knits and thistly bodysuits. Wanting to bring his cultural background to the fore, Lo drew from an ancient Buddhist tale involving arrows being turned into flowers, which was reflected in slashed dresses and transparent flowers attached to the head and heels.

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