LONDON — London Fashion Week kicks off today with a hybrid format. A batch of new talents from around the world has also joined the fashion week, despite challenges posed by the pandemic, to present their latest creations in London. Here, WWD highlights three emerging designers to watch for this season.
A finalist for the LVMH Prize, Susan Fang’s beaded marble bags are one of the hottest accessories at the moment. Based between London and Shanghai, the brand has built up good momentum in China, and this season, she is joining London Fashion Week’s official calendar for the first time to present her colorful and airy spring 2021 collection with a short filmed in Shanghai, just a few days ahead of London Fashion Week.
Fang said she wanted to bring hope and the feeling of rebirth with her collection, as the pandemic has totally changed the way she works. “I reached out to nature once more for my inspirations, a place where it feels safe and dreamlike floating between nostalgic moments of childhood and renewed energy,” she said.
The development process has been intense. “Not just myself but I can feel from my surroundings that a lot of emotional changes and unpredictabilities,” Fang continued. “I felt I had to find immediate solutions for the changing status. For example, when I couldn’t receive all the hand-drawn prints, I had to hand-make another kind of textile with any available fabric in the studio.”
She has also repurposed deadstock marbles into bead form, creating her signature bag shapes, as well as handcrafted macramé in her shoes to create a personal collection.
In the film, Fang re-created her favorite moments when rainbow light filters through the pouring rain. “I hoped this season’s show can give a sense of healing and hope for the audience. The dreamlike set grabs the attention of all five senses of the audience with simulated cloud formations, lightning and thunder. Music was live and used traditional instruments to create a sound bath with contemporary dancers for a heavily nature-inspired film,” she added.
Raised in China, Canada, the U.S, and the U.K., art and expression helped Fang find harmony when she struggled to settle down in a new environment. Now stocked at Selfridges, Browns, Machine-A, and multiple Dover Street Markets, the brand has also received praise for its campaigns photographed in Tibet and Xinjiang, featuring local ethnic minority communities.
Central Saint Martins trained and LVMH Prize shortlisted, Eftychia Karamolegkou likes to set a theme related to the business entity and environment for each season and build a story around it that helps her dress the characters who run the world.
This season, the London-based Greek designer was fascinated by the business of politics. “It is about ‘deal’ in the sense of agreeing but also sorting out things. The handshake finalizing a deal has been repeatedly projected in my mind through the whole process, and its avoidance almost prohibited now because of COVID-19. It’s something that intrigued me,” she said, adding that the likes of Boris Johnson, Donald Trump, Angela Merkel and Kyriakos Mitsotakis were the inspirations and especially how they chat in front of the cameras during state visits.
It was a challenge to keep the mind-set and pace at the same level as pre-pandemic, and a few delays related to COVID-19 were the main headache of the last three months, the designer confessed. But she managed to adapt in the end and it made her original concept stronger and more relevant.
“The development starting point was also harmonized with the termination of the lockdown period when factories started to slowly open again. I had to convince the mind to follow the body and by having a deadline and a project to focus on,” she said.
In terms of design, Karamolegkou introduces a new style for a jacket and coat with a crewneck shape and double-layered front, and double-faced shirts that can be worn on both sides with a different color on each side. She is also launching bracelets that incorporate leather watch straps.
“What I care about the most is to give interesting, practical, and well-made garments to the customers. Hence I focus a lot on functionality and trying to deliver an original and smart design that the wearer can appreciate and enjoy by wearing it for many years,” Karamolegkou said.
“What makes me happy is that I can satisfy both my theoretical and creative sides with this brand. Every season I’m able to translate texts and theories in a visual and tangible way and this brand is the ideal medium for it,” she added.
Known for its hanger-shape bags, the Beijing-based label has been showing in Shanghai, New York, Paris and London since its launch in 2016. The duo behind the brand, Tim Shi and Wang Wei, said Marrknull aims to represent China’s modern popular culture, which is a product of mutual exclusion and integration of foreign pop culture and local culture.
The collection is inspired by the cult Chinese movie “In the Wild Mountains,” directed by Yan Xueshu. The film tells about the struggles and choices of two families with different personalities in the mountains under the background of rural reform in Shanxi Province, which is also the story of two women of drastically different personalities fighting for life.
“We are inspired by the primitive but powerful female power and rough life scenes in the movie. We have created a series full of female primitive tension and beauty this season. We spliced different parts of the clothing on the same plane to form a sense of illusion of one dress and multiple ways to wear,” the duo said.
“We started the development of spring 2021 collection from June. Everything was almost back to normal in Beijing, so our work was not impacted much by COVID-19,” they added.
The brand is also working on a documentary about Chinese county culture to discuss the relationship and influence between these most authentic people and fashion.