LONDON (Reuters) – Outfits inspired by the first female astronaut’s trip into space and “an ode to England” kicked off London Fashion Week on Friday as the British capital began its leg of the month-long catwalk calendar.
Known for its established brands such as Burberry and Vivienne Westwood as well as new designers including Matty Bovan and Molly Goddard, London’s event is the second stop of the autumn/winter 2019 womenswear season which began in New York and later heads to Milan and Paris.
Turkish designer Bora Aksu took inspiration from Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman to go into space in 1963, spending almost three days in orbit.
Models wore luminous organza and tulle outfits – layered skirts, tiered ruffled lace dresses and frilly cardigans in a soft colors such as pale pink, green and lilac.
Boxed and puffer jackets were a nod to the space suits, with silver and suede boots adding to the look. The outfits were completed with knitted headpieces – a reference to Tereshkova’s upbringing in a village and then working in a textiles factory before joining the Soviet space program.
“She had such a normal life but she had a dream and pursued it,” Aksu said backstage. “I was drawn to her determination.”
Meanwhile, Matty Bovan said his eclectic collection of colorful prints, tapestry-like knitwear and crinoline skirts was an “ode to England”.
Models wore Liberty print blouses with Edwardian necklines and frilled shoulders, at times deconstructed and matched with other florals. Voluminous skirts were sequined or layered in clashing prints, knit crochet or a mix of fabrics. The looks were topped with eye-catching headgear and large keyrings.
“We have so many traditional fabrics, so many traditional English suppliers,” Bovan said. “It’s really turned into my love affair with all those textiles and histories.”
London Fashion Week declared itself fur-free at September’s shows and designers confirmed this was also the case this season, British Fashion Council (BFC) Chief Executive Caroline Rush told Reuters.
“We see it as a cultural change, something that is very much what about the consumer is asking for at the moment,” she said.
This did not stop a small demonstration from animal rights activists PETA outside, where three blindfolded protesters held up signs and a “bloody shorn lamb” replica to highlight what they said was “the suffering of sheep exploited for wool”.
Fashion editors and buyers from around the world have come to London for the event, the last before Britain’s exit from the European Union, due on March 29.
Uncertainty over how Britain will leave the bloc hangs over an industry reliant on materials, workforces and business from the countries within the EU.
“The majority of (UK fashion) businesses … voted to remain … so there’s a huge amount of frustration in terms of there not only being no deal in place as it stands at the moment but the idea that we might go to a no-deal scenario,” Rush said.
Last month, Burberry said leaving the EU without a deal would cost the fashion house tens of millions of pounds in tariffs and disrupt the movement of fabrics and products.
“London has very much been known as a global fashion capital, our businesses are known globally for being brilliant creators and collaborators and that narrative really has to continue,” Rush said.
Reporting by Marie-Louise Gumuchian and Jayson Mansaray; Editing by Alison Williams