Nensi Dojaka must be getting used to winning awards by now. In 2021 she scooped both the LVMH Prize and the BFC Foundation Award at the Fashion Awards – and she’s continuing her winning streak in 2022.
Winners were chosen by an illustrious panel including Sharon Stone, Kylie Minogue, Munroe Bergdorf and Rita Ora – who presented Dojaka with her award. ‘I felt quite emotional because Rita is also Albanian and she said something really sweet which really touched me. It was very special,’ says Dojaka on the phone in London. ‘We come from a small country and she said she’s so proud of me’. A charity donation was made on behalf of each category, as chosen by the presenting personality; Ora chose Unicef UK, for its work supporting refugee programmes.
The Avrora Awards are a celebration of empowerment, something Dojaka’s fans – who include Camille Charrière, Bella Hadid, Rihanna and Emma Corrin – gravitate to her sexy-yet-strong designs for. So why does she think these twisted, strappy dresses and lingerie-inspired tops continue to be a hit? For Dojaka, it’s all about the mix. ‘Sensuality and the sense of power play as well,’ she says. ‘Women like to wear the clothes because it helps them to show both sides’.
Despite being familiar with red carpets now (both for her and her designs) Dojaka doesn’t court the spotlight. She confesses to hating having her photograph taken, but adds: ‘I was going to be there no matter what’. You can’t help but think she’s going to have to get used to those flashbulbs.
SEE: London Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2022
In the lunar calendar, 2022 is the year of the tiger. And for AW22, Vivienne Westwood explored it as, 'an icon of courage, strength and exorcising evil,' with a collection called 'Wild Beauty'. Staying true to her house codes - corsetry and tailoring with plenty of punk edge - Westwood continued to beat the drum for a more mindful approach to consumption: 'Buy less, choose well, make it last,' read the presentation notes.
Titled 'Diasporic Love', Osman Yousefzada's AW22 collection celebrated, 'community, culture, colour, forgiveness, frolic and love', and was modelled by a cast of multi-disciplinary artists, activists and creatives, including Ajak Deng, Ryan Lanji and Sheerah Ravindren. Made from LAST_YARDS™, exquisite tailoring fabrics that are all sourced and upcycled in the UK, and imbued with the history and craftsmanship of South Asia (Yousefzada's hand-loomed materials are embroidered by artisans in India and Pakistan), the collection was about more than just clothes, telling stories of self-expression and empowerment. 'The installation is a reminder of upholding one's individual experiences with culture rather than a homogenised idea of cultural identity presented as a monolith,' said Ravindren.
To celebrate his return to London Fashion Week, Ozwald Boateng, the sharpest tailor on Savile Row, gave his audience a catwalk show - and then some. Staged at Covent Garden's Savoy Theatre, Boateng's model army of 100 included Idris Elba, Dizzee Rascal, Nicholas Pinnock, Pa Salieu, Unknown T, Kojey Radical and Goldie, who, drawing whoops of joy from the stalls and balcony, came together to pay homage to the creative excellence of the Black community. Boateng's ready-to-wear collection, which is made-to-order to avoid waste and create garments that one buys to keep and pass on, is not only a cut above the rest with its layers of colour and print, but steeped in the history of his cultural roots in Ghana.
For her second presentation at LFW, Feben Vemmenby's collection was 'an inward-looking contemplation of self-understanding and growing into one's own identity; of the pursuit of light amid darkness - both personally and professionally - and the balmy qualities of love,' according to the show notes. House signatures returned in full force - 'Twist' dresses, inspired by the undulating waves of hair extension packs, as well as the designer's partnerships with artisans in Ghana, who created hand-crocheted beaded totes, and Peru, who worked with the jewellery label Jakhu Studio.
Rejina Pyo - staged at a hotel bar where guests sipped cocktails and nibbled sushi from plush velvet banquettes - was inspired by supper clubs that emerged during the prohibition. 'It was about having a good time - you were just as likely to see someone in a tux as in a pair of jeans,' read the show notes. And apart from a tux, there really was every code of dress you can imagine: from elegant denim suiting worn with knee-high boots to puff-sleeved frocks in saturated shades and prints. (Psst: who spotted Katerina Tattenbaum, Carrie Bradshaw's new neighbour in And Just Like That?).
Feng Chen Wang's latest collection looked to the past - and the ancient craft of bodiless laquerware that is native to her hometown of Fuzhou, Fujian province, which has been practiced for more than 700 years. The effect is emulated in deconstructed knitwear, denim and nylon - a signature of Wang's - while another homage to craft came in the form of hand-dyed pieces that had a trippy mood.
Erdem mined the wardrobes of female artists and photographers in the '30s - Jeanne Mammen, Madame d'Ora, Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler, Anita Berber and Valeska Gert - whose work captured fringe culture in the cosmopolitan cities of Europe. In Sadler's Wells - a show space that felt suitably sombre yet charged - the clothes had a note of 'febrile abandon'. Sequined bralettes were fitted over drop-waist jacquard dresses; beaded leather gloves were worn with sheer slip gowns and bow-tied brogues. 'Underground and behind closed doors, the heady spirit of freedom feels giddy, but the frivolity has a bittersweet edge to it; the world beyond the club is not such a safe space. Whispers of war are looming once again, but we don't talk about that down here. For now, let the music play.'
Supriya Lele was one of the buzziest tickets at LFW - and certainly a contender for best front row (Kai-Isaiah Jamal, Jourdan Dunn, Victoria Beckham, Mia Regan, CKTRL, Chloe Cherry and Otegha Uwagba). For AW22, she stayed true to her signatures - reveal-and-conceal clothing that has found fans in Adwoa Aboah, FKA Twigs and Dua Lipa - but upped the ante when it came to outerwear, showing leather coats with low-rise ties around the hips. Speaking of low-rise, don't expect that waistband to climb any time soon (Lele's were low enough to flash a good few inches of lilac lace knicker).
Preen returned to the show schedule with a bang on Monday. Instead of a traditional catwalk show, guests were treated to a performance by students from the English National Ballet School, who brought the house's greatest hits (padded bombers, checked pleat skirts and nymph-like lace dresses) to life in Heaven.
Elleme - famous for their cult handbags whose fans include Kendall Jenner, Irina Shayk and Beyoncé - staged their third ready-to-wear show in Paris, with the kind of clothes (vinyl outerwear and spaghetti-strap jumpsuits) that will prove catnip to the street style set.
A collaboration with Fila. Not what you might expect from Roksanda - the woman who's based her business on an arty and cerebral kind of elegance - but somehow it worked brilliantly, especially the parachute-style dresses and ponchos that, as they billowed, sprinkled tiny squares of confetti that had been placed on their hems down the catwalk.
Christopher Kane's most famous article of clothing is emblazoned with the word 'Sex'. And this season, he delved even deeper, exploring the act of sexual selection within the animal kingdom, where males find themselves peacocking to attract the attention of females. The little black dress was updated with tarantula-like faux-fur, while delicate gold chains became a kind of exoskeleton.
Fashion East - the talent incubator that has helped to shape the careers of designers such as Kim Jones, Simone Rocha, Jonathan Anderson and Grace Wales Bonner - has three future heavyweights on its current roster: Jawara Alleyne, Chet Lo and Maximilian Davis. Alleyne, according to an interview with Vogue, wanted his clothes to look lived in, like they'd seen the sun. 'When I was growing up in the Caribbean, the sun was referenced everywhere. What does that mean for me as someone who now lives in London?' Using vintage and deadstock materials, the collection was a glam-grungy mix of sliced and safety-pinned dresses; cropped and padded jackets worn with miniskirts; and slashed tailoring.
Chet Lo's signature spikes were given extra cushioning courtesy of puffed up (and sometimes furry) accessories like hoods, scarves, boots and bags that were slung across the body. Maxim Magnus, a close friend and champion of Lo's, wore a micro skirt with massive ear muffs. A sign of things to come next winter? Definitely.
Maximilian Davis's collection was a meditation on the spirituality that he remembers from his childhood when his parents moved into a house they believed to be haunted. Davis told Vogue: 'During this time, they really turned to God and tried to find a sense of belief and guidance and strength. Once a week, myself and my family and a local priest would walk around the house blessing it with holy water.' His signature raunch was still present and correct, but blended alongside something more modest, like the virginal white dress whose arms were covered in thorns.
With one of the best front rows at LFW - FKA Twigs, Bukky Bakray, Francesca Hayward and Sumayya Vally - Simone Rocha travelled somewhere darker than previous seasons. 'A dark lament,' confirmed one line of the show notes, followed by, 'Crushed Taffeta wings, an exploration of outerwear and what lies beneath.' The coat on Paloma Elsesser - a puffer that was protective yet pleasingly dramatic with its swooping neckline - was a moment.
'The boy is on his way out,' read the show notes at Stefan Cooke, who borrowed motifs such as shoulder pads and bustles from a theatre costume archive and applied them to a wardrobe of modern menswear. 'It's a fitted silhouette. Sexy. Casual. Sharp. Understated.' That it was, with popping colour combinations such as 'candy pink' and 'vibrating egg yolk yellow' that set the design duo's sequin-embedded wool outerwear and slashed knits on a path to greatness.
David Koma's latest collection was a celebration of his adopted home - the designer was recently granted British citizenship - and two of the nation's favourite sports: football and rubgy. Some might consider this left field for the man who has dressed the world's most glamorous women - Beyoncé, Dua Lipa, Sabrina Elba and Serena Williams - but it was a typically megawatt affair. Scrum caps and shin pads were bejeweled, while the graphics of a referee's uniform were conjured in crystals on a dress.
For AW22, Yuhan Wang set out to change the perception of what a goddess is in 2022. The collection's name, Venus in Furs, comes from the book by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, who wrote about power dynamics between men and women. 'Watch out, I have a large, very large fur, with which I could cover you up entirely, and I have a mind to catch you in it as in a net,' reads an excerpt from the book. Wang's response? 'For me, the idea of 'fur' relates to the different furs we put, and have, on our body - whether that's clothing or hair - there's beauty in the diversity of these different furs. It's not about just one type. For me, the power comes from the diversity. We should be proud to be ourselves.' Wang stuck to her guns when it came to house signatures such as floral jacquards, fantastical knits and delicate lace - and also (to the delight of guests) sent an actual cat down the catwalk, curled in the arms of a model wearing a giant fluff ball of a coat. 'Women are like cats. Sometimes we can be very cute but sometimes we can bite.'
This was Marco Capaldo's first collection without Kikka Cavenati, his partner in 16Arlington and in life. She died unexpectedly last year after a short illness – it was a sudden and profound loss for all who knew her. Capaldo would be forgiven for taking some time away from the brand he and Cavenati established but instead, he set to work in order to pay tribute to his Kikka. The result was an emotional show at London Fashion Week, one which was infused with her infectious spirit and love of life. Capaldo created a collection full of light and optimism; sparkling sequins decorating the hem of skirts, dresses for dancing in, slouchy tailoring elevated with embroidery. A blue fluffy jacket was a poignant nod to the blue mohair coat Kikka was wearing when she first met Marco. These were clothes for really living in, for making the most of it all. Kikka would be so proud.
Richard Quinn is the designer who has, in fact, made florals look groundbreaking. And for autumn/winter 2022, they looked even more so thanks to Quinn's incredible attention to detail and exquisite fabrics. The whole collection was a 'love letter to silhouette and craft', peppered with Quinn's high fashion take on fetish, as seen in the form of black latex bodysuits. Lila Moss closed the show as the bride, wearing a mini dress with white tights. This was really couture for a new era.
The live choir at LABRUM - led by Marsha Brooks - was a rousing experience late on Saturday, and a moving accompaniment to a collection that served as an ode to movement. 'Last night's show was about lifting those who brave the tides, the winds and societal limitations to shape the complex, nuanced and often unresolved label, "immigrants". I hope it acted a reminder of the sheer strength of design and creativity of the hands and minds of such groups,' wrote Foday Dumbuya, founder and creative director, on Instagram. This season, LABRUM returned to Freetown, Sierra Leone, to work with local craftspeople, whose fabrics punctuated the show in brilliant oranges, greens and yellows. Nomoli figurines - from the Mende and Kissi tribes of Sierra Leone; historical works of art that are said to have resembled chiefs and leaders of the time - also appeared as screen prints on the Aishatu dresses and denim jackets.
Daniel Fletcher's show, Before The Morning Comes, was a tribute to his late father, Peter John Fletcher, and the period of reminiscing with his family that followed. The Rolling Stones - who the designer, 11 years old at the time, saw in concert with his father - was at the centre of the moodboard, with navy pinstriped suiting, oversized coats, rugby jerseys and beat-up Derbys. He also explored familiar territory, nodding to the heritage sports that have informed his last few collections - with a twist. Tom Daley, who was seated front row and wearing a full look, knitted striped scarves specially for the collection. Pure gold.
Michael Halpern's demi-couture approach to design - not so much about escapism but, on the contrary, infusing real life with glamour - gained new relevance during the pandemic, when he dedicated two short films to a sense of community spirit. Yesterday, at Brixton Recreational Centre, he returned to one of his eternal muses: Angelica Huston, imagining that she woke up from a two-year sleep to find herself in a version of Cecil B. DeMille's Madam Satan. In keeping with his pledge to give back to the community, the power installed by production in the space – which didn't previously have electricity – will be donated to the centre after the show.
This was Priya Ahluwalia's first ever catwalk show – and boy, was it worth the wait. Inspired by Bollywood and Nollywood, the collection was a riot of colour, joy and inspiration, infused with a celebratory spirit. Ahluwalia chose those two cinematic worlds because, she said, they were places 'where you see black and brown representation that's not through a European gaze. They're very authentic in their points of view.' So, too, is she, so it's no surprise that she has already attracted a loyal crowd of fans.
Molly Goddard used her memories of her mum's best friend as the basis for her AW22 collection. A 'cross between Marilyn Monroe and Mick Jones', she was embedded in the social scene of Portobello which, along with Camden market in the late '80s and '90s, was a major inspiration for Goddard's latest offering. It was eclectic, a return to the idea of personal style and the way it can express something new by bringing different elements together. Baggy men's jumpers with gloriously frothy tulle skirts, mannish overcoats with delicate lace frills and evening dresses over knits all created a wonderfully chaotic aesthetic that felt freeing and fun all at once.
EFTYCHIA presented a slick, unfussy collection which had sensuality at its core. From satin dresses that were sliced diagonally and held together with mother of pearl buttons to the brand's signature tailoring worn against bare skin, the show notes suggested that this was a return 'to one's self at the core.' It was functional without being mundane, beautiful without being ostentatious.
Eudon Choi is no stranger to colour but for AW22, it played a more important role than ever. Based on Red Desert, the first colour film from Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni, Choi's collection used colour to play on emotion, combining bright, beautiful shades with khaki, beige and brown to represent 'the industrial home we have built and our need to return to nature.'
Building on her rip-roaring success of 2021, Nensi Dojaka expanded on the ideas of her previous collection for AW22, introducing a wider range of fabrications, colours and –crucially – more wearable designs. She continued to play with the juxtaposition of tough and delicate, heavy and sheer, presenting a slightly more democratic sexiness than before – something which was reflected in the casting for the show, which was thankfully more diverse than last season. Paloma Elsesser made a cut-out LBD look particularly appealing, while Dojaka also introduced outerwear for the first time in the form of cropped puffer jackets.
Old and new worlds collided at Huishan Zhang, who looked to the legacy of two famous socialites: Marella Agnelli, an Italian aristocrat and Babe Paley, an American tastemaker who counted Truman Capote as a close friend. Both wore haute couture from the world's leading fashion houses but what if the current generation were to take on the wardrobes of these women? This was Zhang's take on couture in many ways, one which was infused with bold colours, playful details and always underpinned by an elegant silhouette. Styled by Bojana Kozarevic, the collection looked polished, fresh and fun, reminding us all of the joy to be found in wearing lovely clothes.
For AW22, Steven Stokey-Daley shifted his study of class structures to the dissolution of the stately home (the 'stage' was set with a flower-strewn chaise lounge, a picnic blanket laid with glasses and a dining table that collected passing guests as the show progressed). 'As I worked on the collection, I started writing my own narrative,' said Daley. 'For each look, I gave it a character. It jumps from different periods and reference points, merging with my ideas of theatre and movement, to build my own modern day period drama.'
Mark Fast's springboard was nightlife - and the energetic souls that find themselves in its experimental scene. His bodycon knits - a house signature - were given extra drama, while his colourwheel ran the spectrum from neutrals to neons.
Matty Bovan's return to an IRL runway did not disappoint, with Irina Shayk leading the charge in the designer's take on Americana. 'Growing up, my access to pop culture was heavily influenced by America, with TV shows set in high schools, American baseball, pep rallies and cheerleaders, which always felt so exciting, yet so far away,' wrote Bovan in his show notes. So, he brought it to London with oversized, gingham skirts, designs inspired by American quilts and star-spangled capes.
Rixo always gives good party frock - and for winter, the starting point was one decade in particular. 'We looked a lot at old Hollywood and the cuts of really glamorous 1930's dresses,' Orlagh McCloskey said in a preview before yesterday's show. 'I'm getting married in September and I've been looking a lot at how dresses from that era were cut, so that fed into it, too. It was amazing they way they cut patterns then.'
After today's show, everyone wants to be a Poster Girl. Its founders, Francesca Capper and Natasha Somerville, have certainly got their collective finger on the pulse of what today's women would love to wear (if they had the right occasion to wear it to, that is). Think vinyl puffer jackets styled with metallic minis, and itsy-bitsy bodysuits made of their signature fishnet shapewear.
Saul Nash's show was set against the backdrop of Gee's Barbers, a barber shop in Kensal Rise, and opened with a short film directed by FX Goby. For AW22, Nash wanted to explore the spirituality and folklore that binds communities together. 'I was born in London to a Bajan-born Guyanese mother, and it's always interested me how much I was immersed in these cultures in a place so far away from them. Spirituality was everywhere at home, and stories of ancestors and superstitions would set my imagination running,' explained Nash, who included his first interpretations of tailoring - a combat wool suit with detachable sleeves to reveal recycled power-mesh sleeves - as well as mermaid prints to evoke the water spirit found in the folklore of some parts of Africa, Latin American and the Caribbean.
Celebrating another of history's overlooked heroines, Bora Aksu looked to the life of 14th century writer, poet and historian Christine de Pizan. Her works are considered to be some of the earliest feminist writings, advocating for women's equality. Taking this as his main inspiration, Aksu blended masculine and feminine elements to produce sharp tailoring mixed with frothy, sugary dresses crafted from old, damaged and unwanted fabrics. His 21st century take on the Renaissance, Aksu's taffeta gowns are always a very welcome way to usher in a new season.
For his latest demi-couture offering, Harris Reed explored the sartorial parallels between the monarchy and club-kid culture. A riot of jewel tones, oversized bows and sumptuous fabrics donated by the Bussandri family was presented to fashion editors as Sam Smith sang Desiree's Kissing You. What a way to kick off LFW.