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The Emerging London Designers Creating Bold Visual Waves

By Kames Narayanan

Left to right: Spring/Summer ’19 looks from Michael Halpern, Paula Knorr, Richard Malone and Richard Quinn.
 
Left to right: Spring/Summer ’19 looks from Michael Halpern, Paula Knorr, Richard Malone and Richard Quinn.

It is in some ways an unspoken understanding that each of the four capitals on the fashion week calendar is discernable by the collective ethos of its designers. London, second in the lineup, holds a reputation as the breeding grounds of promising young designers — in part owing itself to the fashion schools that populate the city.

Seemingly, with every season that passes on the London fashion week calendar, the fashion set transfixes its eye on a forthcoming line up of propitious talent who epitomise creativity.

Here, we dissect the Spring/Summer ’19 collections of four London-based designers, who put on high-octane visual displays. 

Richard Quinn

Left to right: Richard Quinn dials up the drama with the introduction of feathers on a printed dress; Quinn's signature knack for prints extennds to the sheer leggings.
Left to right: Richard Quinn dials up the drama with the introduction of feathers on a printed dress; Quinn's signature knack for prints extennds to the sheer leggings.

When Richard Quinn made his fashion week debut in London early last year, he counted a strong audience of industry luminaries alongside prominent journalists from the press. The presence of one guest, in particular, made the headlines following his Fall/Winter ’18 showing.

Seated front row was Her Majesty The Queen, who later presented Quinn with the inaugural Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design in recognition of his exceptional flair for pattern and overall promise as an emerging designer. In little over a year since his debut, Quinn has fast risen to fame as a fashion week hot ticket.

The wallpaper prints that had earlier put Quinn on the fashion map were further developed in Spring/Summer ’19, this time decorating silhouettes borrowed from the ‘50s — think drop-waist dresses printed in kitschy floral prints, cocktail dresses in pronounced layers of ruffles and translucent stockings (at times patterned). On some instances, Quinn introduced feathers to the ready-to-wear separates, naturally adding a touch of drama, which he has come to be known for.

A gradual move in a new direction without losing sight of the modus operandi he had previously established for his eponymous brand, Quinn put on a show that diversified his offerings. Not stopping short of merely pushing forth his design vocabulary, the London-based designer also emptied out rows of seats at his show for fashion students in purveying his efforts to give back to the art community.

A designer who has his sight set on propelling the industry forward on the whole, Quinn bears promise for an entire generation of burgeoning talent.

Paula Knorr

Left to right: At times, hidden in plain sight, Knorr layers the details beneath pieces; designed for the female body, Knorr is bold with the silhouettes.
Left to right: At times, hidden in plain sight, Knorr layers the details beneath pieces; designed for the female body, Knorr is bold with the silhouettes.

“My main intention when I design is to put the woman in the foreground not the clothes. It’s all about her body, her movement and her beauty,” says German designer Paula Knorr in an email correspondence. This is not to discount the fact that, on its own, Knorr’s Spring/Summer ’19 ready-to-wear separates are a visual feast.

“This season, I was thinking a lot about shapes and how to work with volume. We worked with very different textures from extremely matte cotton and viscose to these super sparkly tulle fabrics and lamés,” says Knorr.

Heavy on evening wear propositions, every individual piece in the collection makes for a strong statement on its own — when not high in shine, the pieces drape the body in exaggerated, head-turning cuts. For instance, an asymmetric dress that tapers off at a steep slant stands case in point.

Yet in creating such statement pieces, comfort remained a key consideration throughout. “The essence of my brand is to create a new form of glamorous feminine dressing that doesn’t eliminate comfort. Ninety per cent of our garments are made with stretchy backs or side panels to allow [for] movement and flexible sizing,” says Knorr. “We develop unique and new ways of cutting garments, which embrace femininity while respecting the female body,” she continues.

All of Knorr’s designs, guided by a profound understanding of the female form and gained in part by being a woman herself, are cut to accentuate the body. “For me, empowered evening wear means that glamour and wearability go hand in hand,” says Knorr.

In the realm of evening wear, Knorr’s eponymous label is set to be a game-changer. “Classic eveningwear hasn’t [changed] much in the last 80 years. I wanted to introduce a new form of cut and comfort for the woman who wears it,” says Knorr. “I would like to translate stringent evening wear into inclusive diverse dressing.”

Michael Halpern

Left to right: Michael Halpern exhibits diversity in his range as he introduces fabrics other than sequins in his Spring/Summer ’19 lineup; prints and colour continue to be a house signature but this time drawing its inspiration from the ’60s.
Left to right: Michael Halpern exhibits diversity in his range as he introduces fabrics other than sequins in his Spring/Summer ’19 lineup; prints and colour continue to be a house signature but this time drawing its inspiration from the ’60s.

“I’m never going to stop using sequins,” says London-based designer Michael Halpern, who has been anointed as the industry’s magpie, in an interview with Vogue magazine prior to his Spring/Summer ’19 showing.

“I don’t understand why people keep asking me that because you look at other brands, who have had go-to fabrications and nobody asks them, ‘When are you going to move on from crepe?’” he continues.

At Halpern, the label which he debuted in 2017, sequins have come to be a signature of the brand today. Since Michael’s introduction to the fashion realm, he has conceived coveted collections of ready-to-wear and propositions for eveningwear that are unapologetically liberal with sparkle and shine. Yet, even in keeping primarily to one signature fabric, Michael has exhibited astonishing breadth in his repertoire of offerings.

Each season, the fabric has been Michael’s subject of study. The analysis, which has eventually birthed diverse silhouettes over time, is further expounded for the brand’s Spring/ Summer ’19 collection.

In doing so, Michael looked to the disco era of the ’60s. Often referencing the women in his life to build his seasonal Halpern girl, this time, he turned to old portraits of his grandmother. What ensued was a lineup of mini dresses and cigarette trousers that reflected the way of dress in the bygone era.

Also on display was a seemingly deliberate testament to Michael’s prowess beyond sequins — intricately treated versions of organza interwoven with satin and foiled in gold were cases in point.

While Michael’s world of glimmer and glamour is within which he operates, he consciously leaves the door open for possibilities. 

Richard Malone

“I always adore cut, and people tend to push this more for couture as there’s more time and more freedom. I’ve always worked on a made to order business, I’m much more in tune with creating for the woman than creating for the rail,” says Richard Malone.
“I always adore cut, and people tend to push this more for couture as there’s more time and more freedom. I’ve always worked on a made to order business, I’m much more in tune with creating for the woman than creating for the rail,” says Richard Malone.

“The value I get from this job comes from creating something new and unique, both of which are entirely rare in fashion,” says Irish designer Richard Malone. “I also don’t make fashion for irony or for the sake of memes or popularity, which is also rare,” he continues.

Malone’s perspective of fashion deviates from the rudimentary and his resultant collections often take its audience by surprise. For instance, his designs for Spring/Summer ’19 employed fabrics and silhouettes drawn from couture and the streetwear circuit. The two unlikely bedfellows find a common ground on the runway of his eponymous label: exaggerated shoulders were presented alongside t-shirts, satin trousers were cropped at the knees and evening dresses were spliced with drawstring details.

“Couture is an interesting word. I really dislike people throwing it around, as really its a league of exceptional craftspeople from Paris,” says Malone.

“I always adore cut, and people tend to push this more for couture as there’s more time and more freedom. I’ve always worked on a made to order business, I’m much more in tune with creating for the woman than creating for the rail.”

As a designer who operates on his own rules, Malone is least concerned with commercialism and his focus resides entirely on the clothes he creates and the results are showing of his unhindered creativity.

“I think people got carried away with money and commerce, neither of which have ever really interested me. I’ve never had money and I’ve always been happy,” says Malone.

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