LONDON — For smaller design houses, romance, sex — and sadness — were in the air at London Fashion Week, which wrapped up on Tuesday.
At Paolo Carzana’s show, titled “My Heart Is a River for You to Bend,” dreamy dresses made from draped, washed linens and silks with raw edges came floating down the runway.
The Sarabande-sponsored designer made his womenswear debut this season. His collection centered around coping with, and recovering from, loss and his collection was dedicated to a family friend who had recently died and to the late musician Sophie, who died in 2021.
“Our hearts have been bent, but never broken. There’s this element of hope that we have that’s kept us all going,” he said. “It’s the idea that a river has different pathways that all collectively come together to become something stronger.”
He transformed delicate Japanese silk chiffon, deadstock silk, linen organza and organic cotton into softly structured and draped dresses, tops, pants and skirts.
“I think there’s this notion that designers want women to feel strong through clothing, which I don’t understand. I think women just are — a designer doesn’t have to do that for them,” Carzana said.
The designer worked with madder, turmeric and Welsh-grown plants to create the mustard yellow, salmon and rust shades in the collection. He hand-dyed the clothes in the Sarabande kitchen sink.
He also scented the clothing, and the runway, with Xerjoff perfume, which he selected to reflect the collection’s earthy feel.
Talia Byre reworked hallmarks of preppy dress using sheer merino intarsia knits and deconstructed shirting.
Inspired by the women in Byre’s life, the collection had a lighter feel than its predecessor.
“Last season everyone in the studio had a breakup, so we had a dress called the ‘revenge dress,’” she said, adding that they’ve since recovered from their heartbreak. “This season, it’s a lot more fun and fresh and exciting.”
Blues and reds are the forefront of the designer’s palette for spring and conjured images of summer by the sea.
“Even today I wore red underwear to feel more confident. I like the idea of people adopting that [approach] with our clothes,” Byre said, describing her affinity for color as empowering.
Striped poplin button-down shirts were reimagined as minidresses or as separates with power shoulders. There was also a blue minidress and a pair of sheer knit capri pants covered in spots.
The collection emphasized versatility. A blue-and-white striped bandeau with twisted detailing at the side made multiple appearances. The first time, it was worn underneath a cardigan with the same pattern. Later in the show, the designer paired it with a military green fishtail skirt.
Pearls and crystals dripped from the knitwear at Parisier, another Sarabande-supported brand, where 10 garments were presented on mannequins alongside a short film.
A backless cream top featured a wraparound, swanlike neck complete with long ropes of pearlescent glass beading, while sheets of floor-length yarn hung from its hem, recalling flappers.
Next to it stood a floor-length black gown. Its neckline and cutout bodice were accented with black beads.
Designer Camille Liu said she tries to be as sustainable as possible by “focusing on one piece, one object, that is really precious,” which is why she adds jewelry, beading and embellishment. “You wouldn’t dispose of jewelry the same way you would with clothes. It’s bringing longevity into these handmade pieces,” she explained.
Skirts, dresses and scarves are knit with an elastic core, allowing the clothing to support the weighty beading and stand the test of time.
Rather than wholesaling, each of the 10 pieces of clothing she presented are only available through private commission.
Tove stayed true to its minimalist ethos, incorporating subtle, romantic touches.
There were twisted drape details in dresses fit for Greek goddesses, made in both jersey and textured silk.
Casual suiting and shirting were also on display, and included a white top that referenced the silhouette of a traditional Japanese kimono that was restructured to reveal the wearer’s decolletage.
The most daring look was an overtly sexy floor-length dress, its top-half composed of sheer floral lace, which gave way to a sheet of silk just below the waist.
The Chinese-based brand Marrknull, helmed by design duo Tim Shi and Mark Wang Wei, built upon denim and experimented with new materials in signature sexy silhouettes.
Denim — flocked, printed and frayed — took the form of HotPants and cropped bustier tops, minidresses, overcoats and matching separates.
Sprinkled among them were sheer dresses with feathery handkerchief hems; asymmetric tops, and tights as well as a smattering of looks made from leather.
Wang said: “Denim is our signature fabric, but this season we also used mesh with a pattern inspired by Chinese classical print mixed with some cute patterns” of whimsical cartoon characters.