The Cuban Mambo, Space-Age Prints, and Other Highlights from London Fashion Week Spring 2020

Five designers prove why the city is a creative force in the fashion industry.

Five designers prove why the city is a creative force in the fashion industry.

Perhaps more so than other fashion capitals, London Fashion Week is characterized by a certain boundless creativity. For the Spring 2020 season, five brands in particular lived up to this credo, offering up collections that pushed boundaries, yet offered eminently wearable designs that blended art and commerce effortlessly.

Richard Quinn

Richard Quinn’s claim to fame was having the Queen of England seated at his second runway show in 2018—the first time the monarch ever attended a fashion week event. The bar, to be sure, was set high, but with his Spring 2020 collection, he proved why he deserved the career-defining distinction. With the Philharmonia Orchestra and the Bach Choir playing a dramatic score, Quinn pumped up the volume in both the literal and figurative sense.

From stout baby-doll frocks to layers of tulle against a gold brocade body-con to pronounced leg-of-mutton sleeves on embroidered sheath dresses, every look that strutted down the powder-pink runway made a statement. Factor in the boom of floral, leopard, and polka-dot prints, and what he presented was, at its best, symphonic. But where others may have veered toward kitsch with such motifs, Quinn’s styling of the show, with sleek black PVC leggings and structured top-handle bags in vibrant hues, harmonized the collection, bringing it all together in one focused vision.


Riccardo Tisci has been known to transform a brand in his own glam-and-gritty image, famously doing so at the once characteristically prim Givenchy. It appears that he is inching towards pulling off the same transition at Burberry. In the show notes, he expressed his admiration for the brand’s founder, Thomas Burberry, a self-made man who built his company in the Victorian era. Using this as a reference point, he showcased a number of styles indicative of that time period: bishop sleeves, lace overlays, and Bertha necklines.

All these design elements had been an integral part of Tisci’s success at Givenchy (think: Beyonce’s Southern Gothic video for “Formation,” where she exclaims how she is “so reckless” when she “rocks” one of Tisci’s dresses). If anything, what he is doing is taking his signature aesthetic, and slowly but surely applying it at Burberry. He also reconfigured the company’s staples—the trench coat and classic tailoring—with a streetwise edge that is also one of his defining characteristics. From baggy trousers to caps to hoodies, his Burberry is more in line with the times, and—dare we say—better.

JW Anderson

Jean Paul Gaultier did it in 1987; Shayne Oliver for Helmut Lang in 2017; the erstwhile Victoria’s Secret fashion shows for decades; and now Jonathan Anderson for his Spring 2020. All these designers have, in their own unique ways, featured bras on the runway. In Anderson’s case, he showed a number cupless bras with crystal outlines, which were worn over long, flowing dresses, or asymmetrical tops paired with harem pants. Indeed, the way they were styled conveyed nothing overtly sexual: a far departure from Gaultier’s buxom cones, Oliver’s warped wit, and Victoria’s Secret’s flagrant display of flesh. The drapery and oversized trench coats punctuated this point even more.

What Anderson presented was a lineup of modern-day Greek goddesses à la Artemis, the chaste huntress. And even though Anderson is of the opposite sex, his collections—especially this one—follow a similar aesthetic that could be attributed to Stella McCartney, Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen of The Row, and Phoebe Philo’s tenure at Céline. Like these celebrated women designers, Anderson creates pieces that are artful, inspired, and showcases looks that seduce without relying on feminine wiles.

Wales Bonner

For Spring 2020, Grace Wales Bonner decided to forgo the theatrics of a runway show. Instead, she released a lookbook of 20 styles that put all the attention on the clothes. She focused on Cuban mambo culture through the lens of historian Robert Farris Thompson, and the spiffy attire that comes with it.

With a vision of the island nation in the ’40s and ’50s, Wales Bonner presented camp shirts in bold hues, long, white wide-leg trousers, blazers with exaggerated peak lapels, and pointed loafers with heels that were just one inch short of being Cuban. Though these elements could slide away from fashion and toward costume, the nuance with which she assembles these pieces is nothing short of masterful. Every detail is considered, such as a polka-dot print button-down accented with a rose-printed white tie, which was then tucked underneath navy pants with enlarged outside pockets. The result was a modern look that touches upon an Afro-Atlantic culture—something that could be said of all her thoughtful collections.

Christopher Kane

Christopher Kane has been stargazing—evidenced by his Spring 2020 collection, which was chock full of prints of outer space, and views of the Earth from that vantage point. As well, many pieces featured patterns and silhouettes that recalled Pierre Cardin’s futuristic designs of the ’60s. But with all these these out-of-this-world motifs at play, his intention wasn’t to explore the vast unknown, but to reflect on our planet, looking at it as a microcosm that needs more appreciation.

He titled the collection “Eco-Sexual,” which, as he describes, “encourages us to become intimate with nature by indulging in earthly pleasures.” This mindset was represented best in a print of a lush garden—replete with wildflowers and overgrown reeds—that found good use on skirts, coats, and jackets with rounded shoulders. They were followed by neon tops, metallic sack dresses with feather trims, and the selection of space-age ensembles. The transition from the Earth to beyond the mesosphere was arranged sequentially, echoing Kane’s call to recognize just how small the planet is, and to take into account the natural wonders that are too often unacknowledged.

(Lead photo courtesy of Holly Clark/Richard Quinn)

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