A giant, festive hat made of balloons perched atop a model's head, ready for takeoff at Matt Bovan. A soft, fuzzy bunny affixed to a men's sweater at JW Anderson. Gorgeous, knockout frilled dresses and a literal dinner party on Molly Goddard's runway. And a celebratory rainbow-coloured stand for the LGBTQ community at Burberry.
There's a playful spirit running through London Fashion Week, a moment of optimism lifting the month of shows so far. And thank God for that, after a week of collective hand-wringing in the industry over the state of New York Fashion (too many shows, but not enough big influencers to see, too many designers leaving the official NYFW calendar, struggling businesses, etc.)
And the existential crisis isn't just happening in New York. If you follow the industry regularly, you've surely read the articles, or seen the chat on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter questioning the state of the fashion industry from #TimesUp to the structure of the system to it's toll on the environment. There's been a lot to discuss and think about. This is why London, now just two days into shows, feels like a breath of fresh air, a reprieve from all the intensity filled with lightness and creativity.
At JW Anderson, there were urban, youthful updates on everyday dressing: oversized statement sweaters decorated with character illustrations; graphic, breezy dresses; shiny multicoloured trainers and the swingy handkerchief hemline skirts that have become his signature.
This was the first show to reflect his new strategy, combining men's and women's wear (because he noticed his customers shop from both), with plans to only show twice a year, with six store drops in total (two men's, four women's.) His new no-nonsense approach was present in the clothes. No elaborate, conceptual themes here, just clothes with a good sense of shape, colour and humour.
Christopher Bailey's final collection for Burberry had a similar mix of the playful and urban. That's because he mined his days as a young, gay, club-hopping teen to create a love letter to LGBTQ youth, dedicating his show to the charities that support them.
At first glance, the rave references seemed like a surprise move. Many designers choose to use their final bow with a house as a chance to revisit their greatest hits — and after 17 years with the UK fashion industry's biggest powerhouse, Christopher has a lot.
Instead, the clothes seemed to signal what the future of the brand might look like — doubling down on the streetwear focus he introduced last year — despite strategic nods to the past through a series of excellent reissues from the Burberry archives. The shapes and colours were loud and proud: An oversized, rainbow-coloured puffer vest on Edie Campbell (who promptly wore the Instagram-bait out and about on the show circuit afterward), a paint splattered shearling hoodie and massive skirt on Adwoa Aboah and a floor length Crayola bright shearling cape on Cara Delevingne.
The rainbow motif carried right through to the classic Burberry checks, which he dip dyed in acid brights. It was a moment that not only summed up the mood in London, but reflected the zeitgeist, that feeling of wanting to use one's platform (whether it be the clothes on your back or the captions on your social media feed), to highlight something meaningful.