The Less Ordinary Spaces of London Fashion Week
19 September 2018
This London Fashion Week, the fashion buzz was exceedingly apparent - Riccardo Tisci was taking over Burberry, Zandra Rhodes was showing again, and for the first time ever, London fashion week has gone completely fur free. 
Beyond the fashion however, the set design during London Fashion Week was also definitely worth talking about. These venues serve as the extensions of a designer’s vision, and are in a way as grand and intricate as the clothes that walk on the runways themselves. Set designers are given the mammoth task of transforming these spaces into the escapist fantasies of each collection. Karl Lagerfeld once launched a make-shift spaceship in the Grand-Palais, while McQueen famously chucked a load of debris onto the runway of his fall 2009 show. So here’s an insider look into some of London Fashion Week’s most extraordinary spaces, and how these spaces help take a designer’s vision into reality. Because in the immortal words of Coco Chanel, "In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different” — and London’s set designers are definitely different
Roland Mouret at the National Theatre

This season, Roland Mouret returns to one of his favourite spaces, The National Theatre in Southbank. With multiple versions of Aretha Franklin’s (You Make Me Fee Like) A Natural Woman playing sensually in the background; Roland Mouret presented his ss19 collection. Inspired by the 1974 soft-core film, Emmanuelle, Roland Mouret made a bold statement of standing with the women of the #MeToo movement — and presented his version of feminism in 2018.
This vision presented sexuality as fortitude; and juxtaposed Roland Mouret’s signature loose tailoring with subtle sensual details. This juxtaposition was mirrored in the set design, which featured a maze of wild-flowers and shrubbery contrasted by the sharp edges of the National Theatre’s brutalist architecture. And while, the slightly stronger than usual winds weren’t planned — nature did Roland Mouret good, with every slinky slip dress flowing effortlessly in the wind. Set amidst the tufts of greenery cleverly placed throughout the space, and with the imposing concrete facade of the National Theatre looming ominously in the background — it looked like a defiant feminist vision indeed. 

Mary Katrantzou at the Camden Roundhouse 

Ten years ago, Mary Katrantzou launched her eponymous brand with a series of clever trompe l’oeil dresses during her graduation show at Centra Saint Martins. Despite the looming threat of the financial crisis — this London pioneer kept on and launched her now wildly successful label. In celebration of her first decade in the industry, Mary Katrantzou takes over the Camden Roundhouse, for a retrospective of her greatest hits.
These hits were, by no means, repeat performances, but instead new renditions of old Mary Katrantzou classics. Mary Katrantzou had always played with surrealism, taking inspiration from decorative objects like Fabergé eggs, and Shalimar perfume bottles, so it was interesting to see how she recreated these looks for today, ten years since her brand’s inception. Her motifs have always had a kind of kaleidoscopic quality, and this was reflected in Camden Roundhouse’s circular runway. At the center of it all was a circular raised platform — originally covered in deep velvet curtains, which were eventually raised to reveal Mary Katrantzou’s impressive ten year archive. 


With a background in architecture, Roksanda Ilincic had always cited art and architecture as driving points for her designs. In this regard, choosing the Frida Escobedo designed Serpentine Pavilion to showcase her spring 2019 collection, makes complete and total sense. Frida Escobedo is the first female architect chosen to take on the task of creating designing the Serpentine Pavilion. Her design takes influences from Mexican architecture and features a subtle interplay of light and shadow, created through an interconnected angular structure.
The pavilion’s pivoted axis refers to the Prime Meridian line at London’s Royal Observatory. It is undoubtedly the perfect backdrop for the bright colour blocks and billowy silhouettes of Roksanda’s spring show. Here, the luminescent citrus hues and feminine volumes of Roksanda’s collection;  were grounded by the dark lattice-like structure of the Serpentine Pavilion. The contrast makes sense for the Roksanda woman — who is in her essence, all about the balance of romance and sensibility.


We simply cannot do a round-up of London Fashion Week’s most less ordinary spaces without mentioning Burberry. This season, Ricardo Tisci presented his highly controversial first collection for the British heritage brand, causing a massive divide in the fashion community.  Don’t be surprised if you still hear people debating about Burberry’s new monogram in the months to come. 
Ahead of their spring show, Burberry announced that their flagship store on 101 Regent Street boutique was also going under the hammer to reflect Ricardo Tisci’s new vision. Here, they will be presenting an installation by London based artist Graham Hudson called ‘Sisyphys Reclined’ —  is a 3D printed take on the old Greek Myth, but given a ‘Westworld-esque’ makeover. Held in the South London mail Centre, the show space itself looked like a dynamic extension of the flagship store’s new look. The roof panels were removed just moments before the show, revealing an industrial style sky-light which illuminated the geometric catwalk below. The show space was a reflection of some of burberry’s long-standing themes and was a mix of mahogany, critter glass, and concrete. Wooden panels moved across like giant Tetris pieces revealing new corners to the snaking concrete catwalk. As expected, the 134 look collection began with the quintessential Burberry trench coat. A British classic that, despite undergoing countless variations, still maintains it’s unique timeless quality. After all, isn’t this what Burberry is all about? 
Words by Hannah Tan-Gillies 


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