Take the latest collections presented during London Fashion Week with their fair share of boundary-pushing silhouettes. Simone Rocha’s romantic unpredictability, Erdem’s aristocratic derelict eccentricity, Harri’s inflatable pieces, or Chopolova Lowena’s post-pandemic punk.
The capital has always championed bold, loud and rebellious talents, and today’s most influential fashion designers come from London’s unique creative fabric.
But how did that all happen, and what about London makes it such a place where creatives gather, and people find inspiration?
‘I only wanted to come to London because I felt the freedom here was extraordinary’, reads a quote from Simone Rocha at the start of Rebel: 30 years of London Fashion, currently taking place at the Design Museum.
Co-curated by British Fashion Council’s Ambassador for Emerging Talent Sarah Mower and sponsored by the fashion label Alexander McQueen, the exhibition revisits the trajectory of fearless creative talents who took part in the NEWGEN scheme founded in 1993 by the BFC to support young fashion designers.
One enters the exhibition into an explosion of spectacular outfits: Jonathan Saunders’ multicoloured party dress makes you want to go clubbing, and Richard Quinn’s kaleidoscopic coat exudes fun and happiness. Clements Ribeiro’s combination of clashing prints is an antidote to London’s greyness. Feben’s red dress inspiration draws from her Ethiopian origins.
From left to right: Mary Katrantzou, Clements Ribeiro, Feben
The diversity and resourcefulness of the creative talents are striking and tell of their individuality and drive for change. It is a reminder of one of the core roles of fashion: celebrating difference and uniqueness.
‘Look at yourself in the mirror and start from there’, Central Saint Martins professor Louise Wilson encouraged her students. And it seems that they followed the advice to the letter. Some found it in their origin, others, their gender, or their London life.
In Lee Alexander McQueen's mood board room, inspired by the council flat he shared with his friend Simon Ungless in Tooting in the early 90s, pictures of London’s gay nightlife, clubs and pubs fill the walls and reveal the creative process behind Taxi Driver, the collection that started his career. The room brings you back to life in the 90s, when the capital struggled with recession, and the Fridge in Brixton was the club where it all happened. One can picture McQueen's genius in the making but also be reminded of how it all ended for him, crushed by the powerful machine of the fashion industry.
Lee Alexander McQueen's mood board room
The Newgen exhibition tells the story of youth and incredible talents, some lucky to become sustainable labels, most already forgotten. In a fashion world where being a TikTok influencer is far more valuable than coming out of the London College of Fashion, this exhibition is an ode to sheer creativity and artistic endeavour.
A must-see for any aspiring fashion designer.
|What||Rebel: 30 Years of London Fashion, Design Museum review|
|Where||Design Museum, 224-238 Kensington High Street, Kensington, London, W8 6AG | MAP|
|Nearest tube||High Street Kensington (underground)|
16 Sep 23 – 11 Feb 24, Sunday open until 21:00