8 Style Lessons From London Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2020
From the new polka dot to 50 shades of brown, here are the key takeaways for autumn/winter 2020 - and the updates to try now
1. THE NEW POLKA-DOT DRESS
Polka dots are the print to wear now, as spotted on the Duchess of Cambridge (hers were Alessandra Rich). British brand Rixo's latest collection, a collaboration with House of Christian Lacroix, launched in see now, buy now format (meaning that you can shop it straight away, rather than the traditional six-month lag) during London Fashion Week.
The bestseller so far is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the blue polka-dot tea dress, but unlike the fast-fashion one that everyone and their mother owns, only 50 of these spotty dresses were made, so you can breathe easy in the knowledge that this frock will still feel special for years to come.
2. AGELESS STYLE
Diversity on the catwalks is a work in progress. Just when it seems that we've come a long way since the all-white, all-thin, all-young catwalks of 20 years ago, a designer will show their collection on models who are just that. When it comes to age diversity, though, "older" models are too often used as a gimmick, a way for designers to virtue-signal and make headlines. Real progress comes when these models walk the catwalk without the brands trumpeting that fact to the press — as happened at Emilia Wickstead, where sexagenarians Mouchette Bell, Stephanie Grainger and Stefanie Lange appeared, or at Preen, where quinquagenarians Yasmin Le Bon and Cecilia Chancellor were cast — and all without any fanfare at all.
If designers concurred about anything at the shows, it was that the colour sure to set all our hearts racing next season is... brown. For colour-blocking ideas, look to Roksanda's show, where the designer spliced dark-roast coffee with merlot, burnt orange, camel and blush pink. And Rejina Pyo, whose milk-chocolatey one-shouldered dress and layered oatmeal outfits looked just delicious.
And Emilia Wickstead, who showed a whole spectrum of brown draped-neck jumpsuits and zip-front day dresses in a brown-panelled presentation theatre at the Royal Academy of Arts. Maybe you're thinking this all sounds a bit too "70s lounge decor" for your tastes. In that case, let Molly Goddard be your guide, and give your brown tartan trousers an energy boost by wearing them with bright-blue knitwear.
Okay, waists never actually went away — but we have been covering them up with chunky knitwear, boxy coats, and loose-fitting shirts for seasons past. Clothes that swamp don't always flatter, so hurrah for the waist belt, that easy wardrobe addition that suddenly creates an hourglass shape, which is making a comeback via black cummerbunds over silk dresses at Erdem, black silk sashes over voluminous gowns at Roksanda, narrow ribbon-ties at Molly Goddard, tonal belts to match dresses at Shrimps, obi-belted blazers at Richard Malone and, the piece de resistance, shiny leather belts that a wrestling champion might admire over lightweight printed silk dresses at Christopher Kane.
Forty out of the 43 looks in Victoria Beckham's show featured over-the-knee boots, but the ones which were the most covetable were those paired with culottes. Beckham showed seven pairs of culottes, spanning Brownie Guide woollens with little pleat pelmets at the hem and electric-blue tartan in a more relaxed feature-free cut. Culottes are easy to wear and to style; treat them exactly as you would the midi dresses and skirts in your winter wardrobe and add a chunky jumper up top, and some block-heel over-the-knee boots on your feet. Try them with a top tucked in or worn loose for yet more versatility; the statement belt is optional, too. And, in summer, you'll find them a far more chic alternative to shorts.
6. FUCHSIA DRESSES
If last Christmas was all about the velvet suit, then this year's will be dominated by fuchsia dresses. It was one of those weirdly niche items that kept appearing on the catwalk. At Shrimps, Hannah Weiland had the Royal family on her mood board with a silky off-shoulder highlighter-pink dress showed on a model with classic Lady Di pageboy hair. Preen offered a sexier version with a slit-to-thigh strapless cocktail frock.
Suspicion mounted that there had been a special offer on Barbie-pink dye at Richard Quinn, where the young Brit concocted a floor-length gown with a matching petal-esque cape — the look was completed with a giant red rose (a must-do modern colour clash). Halpern delivered two takes — one a sleek shirt style (with matching knee-high boots), the other gorgeously balloon-sleeved and billowing, leaving plenty of room for mulled wine and mince pies.
7. BLUE SHIRTS
Forget white shirting — for autumn 2020, you're going to want a blue shirt. Or a slippy, slinky, baby-blue blouse. Or a deconstructed, ruffled, tunic-y hybrid with a flayed-open button back. Any top will do, as long as it's in the right hue. Blue-sky shirting showed up layered under cerulean jumpers at Victoria Beckham and in crisp, pointy-collared iterations at brands typically unconcerned with suiting, like Toga and A.W.A.K.E. Mode. It was there in a clever cape-backed satin look at Roland Mouret, and airy, mutton-sleeved organza at Rejina Pyo. Masculine undertones are part of the appeal. The blue shirt has been a menswear staple for so long. And — bonus — this is one colour that looks terrific with brown.
Tartan trousers. Chunky jumpers. Brown. Amid all the practicality on the catwalks, designers delivered a few dazzling spots in the form of metallic dresses, the unmissables of many London collections. At JW Anderson, dresses in gold fil coupe and fishscale-like silver spangles shivered down the catwalk. Christopher Kane's bow-fronted crystal-mesh dress seemed sweet and subversive at the same time, suited for the belle of any (disco) ball. Even heritage-check specialist Burberry got in on the act with a couple of chain-mail pieces. Turn these dressy pieces into daywear with the addition of a slouchy mohair cardigan, as seen at Erdem. Or lean into the glamour. With dresses this good, who wouldn't want to be a golden girl?