LCF BA Show: Making Moves with Cautious Thinking

It’s at a timely moment that the London College of Fashion BA show, shown this week in Stratford, was inspired by the theme “move.” All six of the college’s campuses will relocate to the East End hub permanently in 2022. And in the broader landscape of fashion, movement as an umbrella term, from sustainability drives to gender fluidity notions, is nothing if not incredibly prevalent right now.

The finale at the 2019 London College of Fashion BA show in London. Photo: Courtesy of LCF.

As graduate season draws to a close (it began in May, the LCF show one of the last on the calendar), moving on from student to making first moves in the industry also becomes a priority.

The graduating class of 2018-2019 will be remembered for their polish and make. This was a strong year with plenty of points of view, the overwhelming impression of which was to: make a good impression. Where other student collections can look just like that, there was finesse, polish, and execution here that would impress on-the-look-out buyers. Gorgeous coats from Bonbom Jo, for example, or the opening dinky little dress dotted with petals on its skirt from Rachel Cosenza would be easy wins.  

Bonbom Jo's collection at the 2019 London College of Fashion BA show in London. Photos: Courtesy of LCF.

There were less of the wild-and-wacky ideas that for so long have become the clichéd expectations of a student show – and that’s a good thing. If we’re talking about sustainability, doesn’t that encompass not only the make of a product but that of a student’s career? Their longevity and professional sustainability?  

“LCF has a history in well-made clothes and I like the idea that these students are thinking about the next steps in terms of brand and identity and who will wear it,” noted Rob Phillips, London College of Fashion Creative Director of the School of Design & Technology, after the evening’s show, pointing out another important contributing factor to this. “Brexit is worrying a lot of people, not just their status in the UK after October but also how it makes them design. You can always tell when a new cohort isn’t taking the big risks that they usually take; they’re trying to be a little bit safer. There’s nothing wrong with being cautious but sometimes it can hold back certain ways of radical thinking or being outlandishly creative – not that they’re not.”

Sophie Hird's collection at the 2019 London College of Fashion BA show in London. Photos: Courtesy of LCF.

Indeed, of the more dramatic were plaster-cast limbs affixed to models, one holding up an entire body atop a drape; there were some demi-tent silhouettes and a sleeping bag dress that unzipped into being a little less field-y.

“Themes start to emerge,” explained Phillips of an overall collection curation process that takes about three months. “Some people think systemically, other people think morbidly or folklorically; I wanted to group those in so it felt like that resonated with their story as one voice – the idea of grouping and coming together that’s even bigger now. Again, with the polarisation of politics, we’re seeing formations of groups and I wanted that to echo the line-up.” 

Christièle Mbosso's collection at the 2019 London College of Fashion BA show in London. Photos: Courtesy of LCF.

It was a pertinent and well-thought-out tactic, one that worked especially well to emphasise those collections whose ideas felt fully-fledged: such as Sophie Hird’s clever sports-kit recreated collection; Christèle Mbosso’s denim and jackets and William Shillito’s bondage punk, which was actually very wearable – softening what are usually full leather looks with wool.  

Arguably, the state of the world today, its extremities, plays out in fashion accordingly. Collections and brands are either very concise to a specific demographic or more convoluted and vague in a bid to appeal to them all. In this instance, the collections that focussed, then focussed again, in their edit were the strongest. Though they didn’t have to be all that radical to be radical – just one small detail, such as that wool, made all the difference. It was the collections that wandered and wavered a little – and accidentally missed the star idea or look to drill down into by doing so – that fell short. It’s the former kind of thinking that has put Westminster in the graduate lead of late.

William Shillito's collection at the 2019 London College of Fashion BA show in London. Photos: Courtesy of LCF.

Because times are changing, a thing the whole industry is experiencing and grappling with; where it moves from here is the next exciting chapter to watch and very much in the hands of the next batch of graduates. What they're thinking and how cautious or not they're prepared to be is simply the question.