It's been three years since I worked on London Fashion Week and thus three years since I last entered into the world of fashion. Even now I can still remember the kind of hysteria that seems to penetrate the whole affair. The manic pace at which everyone backstage works. That feeling of tension that remains right up until the moment the lights dim, the models file out and you know that things are out of your hands. Last weekend I managed to see things from the other side. Adding yet another reason to love my job, I was given tickets to the Sustain and Zeitgeist catwalk shows at Brighton Fashion Week. This time I got to drink wine, sit in the front row, and (despite getting drenched in torrential downpour on the way) pretend that I was Tavi Gevinson.
The Sustain catwalk show was based on the idea of sustainable fashion. The notion that our clothes shouldn't be disposable or follow trends. Instead they should be expressions of ourselves, something to be cared for without fuelling excessive consumption. As speaker Izzie Roffe-Silvester of Material Fiction suggested at the opening of the show - 'our clothes are our second skin'. The designers that graced the catwalk varied from the outlandish and obviously recycled, to subtly handmade constructions with hints of colourful crochet dominating the pieces. Victoria George's Knitty Gritty fell into the latter, with eye catching designs reminiscent of African prints. Each model was finished off with a pair of purple Dr Martens' 1460 boots (myself and my colleagues may have been more than a bit partial to the line). Still, George's clothes represented the side of the night that seemed more wearable and appealing to the everyday. Kumiko Tani and Kaori Ito's line in contrast, expressed the more far out side of things. The true definition of upcycled saw embellished and frankly stunning dresses made from plastic shopping bags and household items. A real indication of making something out of nothing.
My favourite of the Sustain show came in the form of the surprising Brandy Nicole Easter, whose line is perhaps best described as endearing. A theme of cats ran through the collection, with cut out shapes embroidered in a style that reminded me of Matisse. Completed with a cat backpack, it was the cutesy details of the clothes that gave them a clearly handmade touch. Care and individuality was to be truly seen throughout the show.
The Zeitgeist catwalk continued the undertone of innovation by showcasing emerging designers. The nature of fashion week is that there are always a couple of people that shine cuts above the rest. For me that is always those who have a distinctly recognisable style. The first of these was Natalia Rivera. For the past week I haven't been able to get the image of sequin stencils of palm trees, leaves and flowers out of my head. I have been left to obsessively trawl the internet in the hope of having a piece of my own. The kind of item that you would centre your entire wardrobe around, carefully cherishing it and secretly caressing it at night. If our clothes are our second skin, I want mine to be embellished with sequin palm trees.
If Rivera's work seemed offbeat, Louise O'Mahony made her look like toast with butter. Beautifully manipulated prints decorated with an array of pompoms and pieces that had been so meticulously embroidered that I found myself straining my eyes to get a closer look. When you talk about sustainability and fashion it often feels as if the two contradict one another. To promote such values within a world that's based on consumption seems counterintuitive. Then you observe designers such as the ones I've mentioned above and it becomes clear - the creation of clothing is an art form, an envisioning of individuality sculpted and brought to life in vivid colour. To claim our clothes are an indication of the person we are can be difficult, as that lays the construction of our identities in another's hands, but for these designers that suggestion is evidenced. To witness creative minds effect an external projection on to a catwalk really is fascinating. Here each stitch acts as a spark of their character spilling out of the seams and into the room before you.
Photographs sourced from Brighton Fashion Week and own