Guaranteed Irish and sensible shoes at London fashion week

Sensible shoes are back, craft is king and new Irish designers are making their mark


Sophie Milner is the queen of soggy streetstyle
Somerset House, the home of London Fashion Week, is an imposing neoclassical building, and the perfect place to take pictures. However, on the first day the atmosphere is a little soggy. London has caught the tail end of the storm that rattled Ireland a day or two earlier. Despite this, a few hardy photographers are busy snapping away at the new breed of street style stars. Sophie Milner, a journalist and blogger at, is one of them.

She is wearing a monochrome short suit (“From Primark! I went in to buy a bag, and I saw it and I had to have it,” she says), a bright burnt-orange coat that bounces zingily off the soggy walls and, of course, lipstick to match. She has her photo taken by Yvan Rodic, aka Facehunter, arguably the world’s foremost street style photographer. She is also snapped by magazines, newspapers and industry websites such as Grazia, i-D, WGSN and the Daily Mail (“I’m a bit worried what they’re going to say about my outfit”) and countless fashion bloggers, from hobbyist to high-profile.

The sensible shoe is back (Hallelujah)
Not one but two models wearing gowns from London knitwear duro Sibling trip

over themselves on the catwalk, the last kicking her shoes in frustration to the side as veteran fashion journalist and front-row fixture Suzy Menkes, celebrating 25 years at the New York Times , politely pretend s not to notice.

Elsewhere, however , the winds of change are blowing, blessedly, towards the sensible shoe. From JW Anderson to Paul Smith to Margaret Howell, and from glamorous Roksanda Ilincic to Korean-bor Eudon Choi, there’s a natty pair of loafers, a sturdy brogue, a directional flat and, joy of joys, a walkable heel for every person – if not every wallet. London Fashion Week, the home of experimentation, also seems to be the home of the practical wardrobe option. Long may it continue.

Central Saint Martin’s is fizzing with talent (some of it guaranteed Irish)
The graduates of this course dominate London and the fashion world at large – no fewer than 14 alumni are showing this week. A place in the MA show is the first sign that a fashion grad is on to a good thing. Two Irish designers are showing: Rory Parnell-Mooney, whose severe and clean menswear is marked with an unmistakable ecclesiastic dash; and Michael Power, who wins the prestigious L’Oréal bursary for best collection with his intricate, weighty bead-and-mesh combinations.

Other notables include Drew Henry, whose skin and khaki combos would make him an asset at Celine, and the work of textiles genius-in-the-making Jessica Mort, whose deconstructed rugby tops and tabards take weeks of diligent, agonising hand-weaving and printing to construct.

Whipped chicken livers are the new cocktail sausages
The people behind new knitwear brand Leutton Postle host a film screening and presentation in the basement of Soho restaurant Hix, and are almost (but not quite) upstaged by their delicious canapes – more than one journalist is seen leaping over a table to grab the limited supply of deep-fried fish dogs served with minted peas, and Yorkshire puddings filled with whipped chicken livers.

Orla Kiely has the best goody bags
Orla Kiely must be the queen of the press-pleasing goody bag with a cute selection of branded phone cases, notebooks, umbrellas and nail polishes, but the Topshop Unique swag includes tickets to the much-hyped Richard Hamilton retrospective at the Tate and preview tickets for Matisse Cut-outs at the Tate Modern, where the Topshop show is held. Those not lucky enough to get a goody bag are apt to take whatever isn’t tied down; one attendee is seen filling a paper bag to the brim with prop fruit after the Ryan Lo presentation in the Tate’s Turbine Hall.

Even the outbreaks of spontaneity are carefully planned
The Giles show almost causes a riot, with Cara Delevingne filming the audience on her iPhone the entire length of the catwalk, a model in bridalwear almost falling headlong into the front row, and the semi-inexplicable appearance of Keeping Up with the Kardashians star Kendall Jenner – all of which is, of course, carefully rehearsed and executed.

Craft is king
Craft and consideration are fast becoming watchwords, with new and emerging designers only too aware of the machinations of fast fashion. New designers are concentrating on technology and techniques that are too time-consuming or expensive for the average high-street chain to reproduce.

New label K2Tog reworks conventional Arans with brightly coloured wools and pompoms woven through the traditional diamonds and waves, with no two items the same. The result is a pleasing mix of fisherman’s jumper and stylish circus clown.

What does the resurgence of craft mean for the Irish fashion industry? In terms of design, maybe not much, but in terms of our economy, it could be a very nice money spinner. There’s an increasing need for hand-knitters and weavers as designers try to source authentic heritage fabrics closer to the UK. At the moment, much of the knitwear (including, sacreligiously, the twisted Aran knits shown at Sibling) is made in Scotland. There are rumblings that the Irish knitwear industry should be forging closer links with British designers, which are set to increase to a roar over the next few seasons if demand continues.

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