London Fashion Week: Finding Hope in a Pandemic

London’s designers rediscovered the joys of dressing up for Autumn/Winter 21. The fashion world really needed it.

Even during the darkest of times, London’s creative spirit has a habit of shining through. At a time when the UK government appears to have forgotten about fashion, with Brexit threatening to decimate a generation of young designers’ businesses, the Autumn/Winter 21 London Fashion Week was a reminder of what might be lost.

London’s designers showed euphoric colour palettes and plenty of maximalist style for the new season, participating in a fully digital event from February 19–23. The improved quality of the fashion films also stood out: designers have worked out what’s best for this format. 

“As well as personal perspectives on this difficult time, there’s inspiration in bucket loads,” said Caroline Rush, chief executive of the British Fashion Council. “It’s what British fashion is known for.”

Molly Goddard 

Molly Goddard proved a perfect remedy for fashion in a funk. The London born-and-based designer reworked British heritage pieces into quirky must-haves. Fair Isle knits, tartan kilts, tweed suits and signature Molly tulle frocks, shown to a Baroque piano drumbeat fusion around gold-painted walls in Goddard’s Bethnal Green studio. Kitschy knits were mixed with mega dresses, colours clashed joyously. A spirit of pleasant dissonance reverberated through both designs and the show’s direction – fashion to lift the spirits. 

Matty Bovan 

Matty Bovan exhibited explosive eclecticism, transporting us to an undersea world through his narrative Odyssey. Yet another star product of Central Saint Martins, he played up the power of the ocean with strobe lighting and sea soundscapes. Windswept models wore crochet fishnets and military-style jackets. Naval influences were juxtaposed with psychedelic, oversized sustainable sequins and deadstock Swarovski crystals. This season, the designer worked from his home city of York with local knitters to produce innovative cable patchwork in Yorkshire Merino wool. 

Harris Reed 

British-American designer Harris Reed’s much-anticipated debut show was titled For Now, Unexplained, a demi-couture collection curated from new and upcycled textiles handmade by Reed and their team. The designer continued their exploration of gender fluidity in fashion through the reimagining of archaically gendered garments. Six looks blended Savile Row-quality tailoring with opulent girlish glamour, the tulle confections accompanied by a soundtrack from American DJ Honey Dijon. 

Saul Nash 

Saul Nash, a London-based menswear designer, was a season highlight with his reimagined sportswear in a collection titled Twist. The twelve looks were dominated by coordinated tracksuits – the go-to lockdown garment – in bright tactile fabrics and presented in a film directed by Nash’s partner FX Cody. Nash reframes the narratives of sportswear. “I wanted to focus more on finding liberation through acceptance,” he said. An unexpected kiss reflected this, models coming together in a poetic spirit of solidarity. 


Since launching in 2018, Ahluwalia has pioneered sustainable menswear that merges athleisure and luxury fashion. Designer Priya Ahluwalia draws on her dual heritage, both Indian and Nigerian. The collection, titled Traces, explored culture and ancestry and the impact of migration. In the mix: lots of retro style, football kits, tracksuits, corduroy trousers and denim. Plus an unmissable graphic – a compass made up of Afro combs facing the four corners of the world. 


Burberry’s chief creative officer Riccardo Tisci decided to focus on menswear, with an emphasis on self-expression and the beauty of nature. Titled Escapes, the collection reflected the Italian designer’s yearning for adventure, so much missed during the pandemic. He used Thomas Burberry’s exploratory ethos as inspiration to rethink staple Burberry design elements. Panels, pleats and fringes added fluidity to familiar skirts, trousers, coats and pullover sweaters. Oversized accessories, including must-have messenger bags, should keep the customers happy. 

Simone Rocha 

Showcased in an empty London church, Simone Rocha’s punk-feminine collection was illuminated by sun-kissed stained-glass windows. Opening with black leather, the Irish designer’s collection, titled The Winter Roses, morphed into softer forms with organza smocks, statement jewellery and Rocha’s trademark pearl accessories. This was a delightful evocation of 18th century Rococo opulence, a fantasy that allowed us to escape the trials of the modern world. A celebration of the life of flowers and their endless resilience even in the darkest of times. 

Yuhan Wang 

Chinese designer Yuhan Wang took inspiration from Tang dynasty landscape paintings for her collection, titled Women in Landscape. A soft-focused film presentation featured cascading silk dresses in watercolour floral prints, sustaining Wang’s signature romantic mood. More structured silhouettes were standouts, including jacquard satin suits with undulating volumes in flora-and-fauna prints. And we loved her peek-a-boo use of her trademark play on transparencies. Wang’s most wearable collection yet. 

Susan Fang 

Susan Fang’s collection, titled Air-Time, was an ode to the Chinese designer’s primary inspiration – nature. Hand-crafted by Fang and her family, it was filmed in a park in Shanghai using an 1850s’ wet processing film technique. Subtitles highlighted the alchemy of Fang’s process and were narrated by photographer Bai Lin Fu. Pale plumes of tulle and chiffon and Fang’s signature glass beadwork were brought together through the designer’s ‘air weave’ technique. There were moments to treasure, not least the negative images on glass panes with streams of spring sunlight cutting through forest trees. 

Art School 

“We wanted Ascension to be a message of hope – a shard of light in the darkness,” said Eden Loweth, founder and creative director of genderless label Art School. This was a kaleidoscope vision of gender, age, size and race. Models included Drag Race’s A’Whora and Bimini Bon Boulash, reflecting the label’s inclusive philosophy. Art School’s colour scheme signified the tribulations of the pandemic, beginning in darkness, transforming to red, concluding with white, symbolising a metaphoric light at the end of the tunnel. 

This article includes contributions from Rose Dodd, Rosie Davenport, Bethanie Ryder, George Clark, Vanessa Ohaha, Luis Skitini, Grace Sowerby, Lily Kinnear Griffiths, Isobel Atkinson and Elisa Juesten

The page could not be loaded!