The Document staff rounds up London’s most cinematic runway shows

If fashion-February were a movie, LFW would be a feature composed of character-study vignettes. Each collection’s hero is as homegrown as they are particular. This sensibility is unique to the UK, a country whose neighborhoods are distinct districts for sartorial practice: Peckham and East Hackney, for example, host very different types of personal style—or as they say across the pond, dress.

The fall 2024 season uses history to understand these characters. The North Kensington-raised Molly Goddard extended her delightfully vintage frou frou swagger through the lens of ’60s Cristobal Balenciaga and Christian Dior elasticated gowns, while the Ireland-raised Simone Rocha looked further back, presenting final part of her three-collection ode to Queen Victoria’s 19th century mourning dress. The distinctly British Burberry, helmed by West Yorkshire-raised Daniel Lee, turned the historical narrative inward, focusing on a concept of English geography as its own design story. Each of these collections is a different protagonist: the tulle-wrapped girl with rosy cheeks, the history buff wearing panniers over their coat, the cartographer in a smart jacket. Only at London Fashion Week could these archetypes be a part of the same movie.

Molly Goddard
Cecil Sharp House in Camden, London—built in 1929 to accommodate the English Folk Dance and Song Society—feels like the perfect location for a Molly Goddard show, a designer indebted to the aesthetics of subcultures and historic dress codes. Goddard’s fall 2024 runway demonstrated her unique capacity for taking vintage samples and old toiles from previous collections and layering them to create the kind of discordant harmonies so many other designers aspire to—but fail to pull off.

The collection was not short on Goddard’s trademark voluminous tiered tulles and frills, as well as her signature two-tone pumps. The usual bursts of color even extended down to the fingertips, courtesy of nail polish from Harry Styles’s brand Pleasing.

Goddard has a penchant for stitching yards upon yards of old fabric to make new, shapely forms. Sometimes it’s as simple as pairing two layers of bunched satin, like one navy dress, bouffant like a nightgown, with a slightly smaller layer of maroon on top. But when she stripped back the ebullience, as with the several garments in this collection which nodded towards a kind of cowgirl quirk, the result is still just as eye-catching. One outfit saw a wing-collared brown-and-red sweater knit with roses, matched in playfulness by the long, gathered-pleat polka dot skirt beneath it. In all, this latest collection recalled Rothko with its layering: a contrast of colored horizons, with the drama localized at those points where the blurred edges inevitably meet.

Richard Quinn
The tradition of passing down the same wedding dress sounds more like a sweet sentiment than an ideal reality. Some dusty lace here, some silly frills there—that’s the way it goes. Then came Richard Quinn, who this season set his sights on designing bridal gowns that could stand the test of time. The goal felt natural yet novel for Quinn, whose penchant for a certain old-world glamor is often so exaggerated that it becomes subversive. His outlook was more wholesome this time. But sincerity is not valued or appreciated nearly enough, though it really should be. This is the messaging behind Quinn’s pure and cathartic beauty expressed in his fall 2024 collection.

A bouquet of white roses in full bloom spilled out the bodice of a dress with a cinched waist and a voluminous, calf-length skirt. Tiny sequin flowers bursted into clouds of tulle, like dandelions blowing in the air. A crystal lattice wrapped around a simple column dress, which was paired with a ruffled collar and opera gloves. For the setting, Quinn draped the Andaz London’s ballroom in nearly 10,000 square feet of a floral fabric that, in other hands, would not escape the horror of grandma’s sofa. Here, it was oh-so-timeless, just like any of his dresses, ready to be passed down from a very lucky mother to an even luckier daughter.

Simone Rocha
Simone Rocha presented the third installment to a triptych that began with her last show, The Dress Rehearsal, and continued with her couture collaboration with Jean Paul Gaultier (The Procession) in January. The trio’s resolution was this fall 2024’s ready-to-wear show titled The Wake. The somber mood offset her romantic tastes with a pinch of melancholy. Her starting point was the mourning dress of Queen Victoria, who wore black every day after the death of her husband, Prince Albert, in 1861. In one look, Rocha reimagined the ensemble as a corseted parka with panniers that puffed at the hips before spilling into a floor-length skirt.

Rocha always has a theme, and her silhouettes are instantly recognizable. A commitment to her Irish heritage has inked signatures—voluminous sleeves and unexpected beaded appliqués, for example—which have easily crossed over from a historical fashion sensibility to this season’s wonderfully weird details. Shoulders burst patches of faux fur. Strips of glimmering eyelets snaked down one long black dress. A transparent corset sprouted metallic flowers, while crystal-embellished half-moons trimmed breast pockets. How does one move on from such a sweet conclusion?

In the 19th and 20th centuries, the Romantics memorialized the uplands of the British Isles. With Burberry’s fall 2024 ready-to-wear collection, Daniel Lee designed clothes for that quintessentially English geography. The pieces remind us that—beyond its literary representations—the landscape of the UK and Ireland is a real, inhabited place.

The Burberry house check underlined many pieces, rendered in muted, earth tones. Lining pants, skirts, and jackets, the brand put itself (represented by its iconic motif) to practical use against the elements. No longer solely functioning as a status symbol, it provides warmth for its wearers.

Even in more human environments, the presence of Mother Nature was never far away. One yellow shimmery party dress was accessorized with an umbrella; another model wearing a pinstripe suit (better adapted for navigating London than the Wicklow Mountains) was swaddled in a scarf. The soles of his loafers featured the blue Burberry knight. The scarf and the umbrella were patterned in the house check. Use pervaded any flash.

JW Anderson
London Fashion Week moved through a period of gradual realignment, filled with younger designers fighting for a seat at the table alongside established brands seeking to rework the formula, so to speak. Once a young designer in this former category, Jonathan Anderson focused again on quintessential Anglicisms in a womenswear collection of knits and tweeds.

Anderson cited The Last of the Summer Wine as inspiration, a quintessential English sitcom set in Yorkshire that ran for nearly four decades until 2010. To the TV show’s depiction of British village life, Anderson added his signature camp embellishments. Garments from the collection looked as though they were raided from your nan’s closet in both their construction and styling. Dresses were oversized, tied, and twisted, giving the impression of a child playing in adult’s clothes. Similarly, knit sweaters (the highlight of the show) were playfully exaggerated, with huge loops that felt handwoven. We witnessed a show that follows the golden rule of Jonathan Anderson: Give them a perspective warm in its familiarity, but never stale.

Models slinked down the Erdem fall 2024 ready-to-wear runway with a floating gait. Their furry ballet flats were never far from the floor. Oscillating between wide, open necklines and constrictive collars that occasionally crept above the chin, each look’s structured top halves remained stationary on the people wearing them. Behind the catwalk, Pheidias’s reliefs of ancient Greeks celebrating Athena’s birth were frozen in stone.

Movement, however, was not absent by any means—it happened on the peripheries of hems and seams. Dresses were lined with bouncy feathers whose tips swayed with each step. The skirt of a ridiculously oversized fur coat was dramatically bell-shaped, swishing fluidly along with the wearer. One sheer black dress’s structured diagonal neckline extended over the shoulder into a floor-mopping train.

Rigidity and flow were not at odds in the show. Instead, the stillness descended gracefully into freedom. Flowers were frozen in golden, embroidered, or printed repose. One wrinkled red dress memorialized the candid image of a woman in motion. More than outfits, they were mobile still lifes.