fter multiple seasons of (let’s be honest) slightly tedious online shows and digital presentations, London Fashion Week returns today (16 September) with a blend of physical and virtual events that will finally allow fashion professionals to get up-close-and-personal with the latest new-season collections.
And, while the schedule features a lot of household names, including Molly Goddard, Erdem, Vivienne Westwood and Simone Rocha, over the years London Fashion Week has built a reputation as an incubator for the brightest, most exciting new fashion talent. This is in part thanks to the quality of British fashion education institutions, like Central Saint Martins, but also thanks to funding programmes such as Newgen, the BFC Vogue Fashion Designer Fund and Fashion East, which all aim to support emerging designers with the prohibitively expensive cost of an on-schedule runway show.
This season promises to be no different, with a host of new and emerging designers primed to showcase their innovative ideas, envelope-pushing silhouettes and fresh approach to fabrics. Here’s our guide to the names to be dropping on the FROW this season.
Like many of those you’ll find on this list, Saul Nash attended Central Saint Martins but, unusually, didn’t study fashion. Instead, Nash found his talent for fashion via the somewhat circuitous route of studying performance design, initially training as a dancer before enrolling on a Masters course in menswear at the Royal College of Art. Accordingly, Nash’s collections are embedded with a sense of fluidity and movement, utilising relaxed silhouettes and technical fabrics to create luxe sportswear inspired by his childhood in North East London.
More literally, his presentations, which this season will be shown as part of Newgen, feature Nash’s own choreography and are performed by dancers from his close-knit community. A joyful celebration of movement, music and freedom of expression. Come for the clothes and stay for the uplifting experience.
A London Fashion Week newcomer who will be making his debut as part of Fashion East, 24-year-old Asian-American designer Chet Lo studied knitwear at Central Saint Martins before cutting his teeth at Maison Margiela and Proenza Schouler. Despite graduating amid the pandemic shutdown, Lo’s signature spiked, neon-hued textiles were an instant hit, with stars including Kylie Jenner, Michaela Cole, Doja Cat and SZA soon coming calling in search of bespoke pieces. Also championed by stylist Ella Lucia and fashion photographer Erika Kamano, Lo promises a ‘very sexy’ SS22 collection – watch this space.
Seen the picture of Rihanna dressed as a spliff that’s been doing the rounds on social media recently? It’s Jawara Alleyne (and a bold Dazed fashion team) we have to thank for that particular piece of viral phenomena. Outside of creating high-fashion Halloween costumes for A-listers, Alleyne’s collections reference his youth in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, exploring notions of masculinity and how clothing is used to define one's self. Embellishment, layering and a high-low approach to fabrics are all key to his creations, none of which would look out of place in the wardrobes of fashion-forward stars such as Lil Nas X or Billy Porter. Having graduated from a Masters in fashion at Central Saint Martins in 2020, SS22 will represent Alleyne’s second outing at London Fashion Week as part of Fashion East. He is also a co-founder of Nii Agency, which specialises in diverse models.
Dojaka comes to fashion week fresh from winning the highly-coveted LVMH Prize; beating out names including Bianca Saunders and Christopher John Rogers to take the €300,000 grant and year-long mentorship. This, coupled with starry fans including Bella Hadid, Sophie Turner, Adwoa Aboah and Emily Ratajkowski, has made Dojaka’s show one of the hottest tickets for SS22. So what exactly has made the Albanian designer’s looks so loved? Sheer, minimal and sporting an undeniable 90's vibe with their spaghetti straps and form-fitting cut, these are dresses made for supermodels and perfect for post-pandemic partying. Drawing inspiration, one suspects, from Tom Ford-era Gucci and '90s designer Sophia Kokosalaki (Dojaka is an avid collector of fashion magazines from the time), expect tailoring to play a greater part in her SS22 collection – and for her to become a serious red carpet player come awards season.
Now in his third season with Fashion East, Maximilian Davis’ brand sprang out of that time-honoured London fashion tradition: clubbing. It was through pulling together looks for Dalston nightclub PDA from fabric trimmings that he found both his love for design and what would go on to become his house signature – scandalously scant looks that tap directly into modern trends for cutaways, asymmetry and minimalist flamboyance.
His formal training came courtesy of the London College of Fashion and a brief stint at Grace Wales Bonner, so there’s some serious tailoring know-how underpinning his pieces, many of which are inspired by his grandmother’s upbringing in Trinidad, and interrogate the racial connotations of certain types of clothing. After pulling the first collection for his eponymous brand together on a shoestring, Davis now counts A$AP Rocky, Michaela Cole and Rihanna as fans. A star in the making.
London-based Chinese designer Yuhan Wang founded her eponymous brand in 2018 and, after numerous seasons under the mentorship of Fashion East, will be showing as part of the British Fashion Council’s Newgen scheme for SS22. Yet another Central Saint Martins graduate, Wang’s USP lies in hyper-feminine, printed pieces that speak to a desire for elegance, whimsy and refinement.
Having lived and studied in New York, London and Beijing, the melding of Eastern traditions and Western culture is a common thread between her collections, with Regency-era silhouettes and Chinese jacquards and embellishments frequently cropping up. Combine this with Wang’s masterful draping skills and you’ve got garments fashion fans are falling over themselves for.
Founded by creative director Foday Dumbuya from his living room in 2015, Labrum’s mission is to tell "the untold stories of West Africa to help bridge the gap between western and West African culture”. A bold task for a fledgling menswear brand but, drawing on Dumbuya’s time spent in Sierra Leone, Cyprus and London, that intent is clear in Labrum’s clothing. Classic western separates are rendered in rich colour palettes and vibrant patterns, with a respect for the craftsmanship honed across both continents underscoring the quality of each piece. A sign that he’s heading in the right direction? In 2020 Labrum was called upon by the Ministry of Sports Sierra Leone to create uniforms for both National Sports and the official Olympics 2020 kit.