After a day’s hiatus to mark Queen Elizabeth II’s state funeral, London Fashion Week concluded on 20 September with shows from stalwart Emilia Wickstead and hotly tipped newcomer Chet Lo. The anticipated event of the day, however, was a finale from Richard Quinn.
The Peckham-based designer had a special connection to Her Majesty, as his LFW show was the only one she attended in her 70-year reign. In 2018, she presented Quinn with the inaugural QEII Award for British Design. A thoughtful tribute at his Spring Summer 2023 show was to be expected.
A drinks reception at the Royal Horticultural Hall served as a suitably theatrical setting. Attendees were welcomed via a room draped in monochrome fabric – cascading from ceiling to floor – bearing Quinn’s signature floral print. Entering the main hall, famous guests including Jourdan Dunn, Sharon Horgan and fellow designer Henry Holland were confronted with a huge installation: TV screens surrounded by trailing wires and flashing surveillance cameras nodding to Quinn’s “exquisite futurism” theme.
But first, a look to the past. An emotive soundtrack, courtesy of The Mortal Coil’s version of Tim Buckley’s “Song To The Siren” broke out as archive footage of the Queen’s coronation played on screens. Then, a sombre procession of models wearing all-black outfits – topped with veils or crystal embellished crowns – made their way around the room. A tribute from Quinn to the late Queen, “who touched him among so many others with her grace and kindness”. These were exquisite ensembles crafted from intricate beaded lace and jacquard velvet, occasionally adorned with oversized rose corsages. Some silhouettes were reminiscent of looks from Her Majesty’s reign, such as the incorporation of circle skirts, or a dress coat belted at the waist.
As the subdued music gave way to a heavier beat, the futuristic looks we’d been promised arrived in a lucid palette of violet, scarlet, mustard and emerald. Hard-shell bodysuits, which formed a heart shape around model’s necks, showed off the couture craftsmanship Quinn is renowned for – some worn with latex leggings, others part of wide-leg jumpsuits or midi dresses.
As well as volume, Quinn played with texture: ornate crystal flowers, ostrich plumes and giant embroidered roses all sparkled under the light of the Big Brother-style centrepiece. More fluid looks followed the armour: an oversized rose corsage cape, graphic floral print opera capes and more jumpsuits, one of which was worn by Drag Race UK standout fashion queen, Tayce.
As is custom, the show’s final look was a bridal one. This season, it was a modest lace confection with a head covering and a veil on top. For added drama, it was preceded by a pair of bridesmaids in bejewelled rose capes. As the looks made their second turn around the room, the models were showered in black confetti and guests broke into rapturous applause. It was a triumphant end to London’s shows for another season, and a fitting tribute to Queen Elizabeth II, from a designer she clearly admired.