Designing, manufacturing and sorting through charity shop finds, Yorkshire talent, hard graft and expertise represent the best of British at London Fashion Week. Stephanie Smith and Abigail Turner report.
Heralded as the great bright hope of British fashion even before his first acclaimed solo show at London Fashion Week a year ago, Bovan, 28, famously left London to base himself in his native York and is a senior lecturer at the School of Art, Architecture & Design at Leeds Beckett University. Specialising in knitwear and a muse of Vivienne Westwood, he has enchanted the fashion world by taking it on a journey of surreal and imaginative adventures since he graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2015. Yorkshire permeates his work and indeed his London Fashion Week show at the BFC Showspace, where artist Rory Mullen created the backdrop using impressions of Burton Agnes Hall in East Yorkshire.
Bovan spent six months researching the Pendle witch trials of 1612, and folklore and the role it plays today are the themes of this very British collection. Headwear was by Stephen Jones for COACH X Matty Bovan and the footwear was Gina for Coach x Matty Bovan. Bovan also collaborated with Liberty London, selecting patterns and reimagining them etched with nails and exaggerated draping. He captures fashion history but says: “This isn’t another world anymore. It’s talking about the country we live in.”
A similar theme was amplified by another British brand with strong Yorkshire links, Burberry, which manufactures at Castleford and Keighley and employs more than 350 people at its Burberry Business Services site in Leeds. Chief designer Riccardo Tisci said backstage: “Burberry isn’t just about fashion, it’s everything about British life. It pretty much represents a country.”
Staged at Tate Modern and called Tempest, it drew on Tisci’s memories of being a penniless student in London in the 1990s, to a soundtrack sampling classic rave culture, while designs featured shiny nylon puffer jackets, check baseball caps, slip dresses, oversized bum bags and overlong track pants. A sleeker section saw beige tailoring, house check, silk scarves, printed blouses and fresh interpretations of the Burberry trench coat.
Meanwhile, there was special recognition for Edward Crutchley, who grew up in Clapham in the Yorkshire Dales. The designer won the International Woolmark awards for menswear and innovation. Previous winners include Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent.
“For someone who is so focused on textiles, it’s really a validation for me that what I do is of value,” he said. Crutchley worked with Bower Roebuck in New Mills and Dormeuil in Dewsbury for his presentation, which challenged wool’s potential.
Yorkshire also played an important role in flying the flag for sustainability in fashion when supermodels including Stella Tennant and Laura Bailey and stars including Emeli Sandé and Una Healy took to the catwalk at its Fighting Poverty event, wearing designer clothes that had been donated to Oxfam shops. The clothes are collected and sent to Oxfam’s Wastesaver plant at Batley and many are then sold via Oxfam Online, which is also based at the plant.
Styled by Bay Garnett, the outfits demonstrated that second-hand clothes provide a style-conscious alternative to fast fashion, giving garments a second chance by avoiding landfill while also helping support the world’s poorest people. A £10 dress can provide clean water for 10 people in an emergency.