London fashion week is back, but not back to normal.
Roland Mouret, whose regular pre-pandemic fashion week turn was a catwalk show at the National Theatre, commissioned a film in which actors wore his new collection as costume while their characters ate dinner, danced and rode motorbikes.
Meanwhile, Rejina Pyo’s show opened with Team GB athletes plunging from the diving board at the London Aquatic Centre, rather than models walking a runway.
“I’m not going to pretend that the world is as it was before,” Mouret said before the screening. “A shock on this scale [the pandemic] is like divorce, or grief. It will take five years at least for society to recover, for politics to recover – and the same goes for fashion.”
The French designer handed his collection to the Nigerien-French actor, writer and director Magaajyia Silberfeld, who used the clothes in a short film, Terma, which recasts the Ulysses myth from the point of view of Hera – the goddess of women, marriage, family and childbirth in ancient Greek religion and mythology.
“I owe so much of my career to the amazing women who have worn my clothes, so I thought it was time for me to step back for a moment and see my clothes through female eyes,” said Mouret.
“I am not in fashion to make objects out of women. I want to be part of fashion week but not to be sending girls out to walk up and down a catwalk.”
European Championship silver medallist Robyn Birch, alongside fellow international divers Emily Martin and Josie Zillig, performed dives choreographed for the occasion at the beginning and end of Pyo’s show, wearing swimsuits by the designer.
“I feel like the mood around us at this moment is about a longing for freedom, and the place where I feel most free is in the water,” Pyo said on a video call before the show.
“For the obvious sustainability reasons I don’t want to build a set for a show that gets dismantled and thrown away the next day, so I was looking for somewhere that had water and also a sense of drama. The London Aquatic Centre is just so beautiful.”
After a recce happened to coincide with Olympic athletes using the 10-metre board for practice – “it was mesmerising!” – she invited the divers to be part of her return to London fashion week.
Terma opens with Hera, played by Silberfeld, getting out of a taxi on a dusty Greek road wearing a sunshine yellow shirt dress which Mouret sees as a new hero piece.
“Post-Covid fashion is about clothes that fit reality, clothes that become your best friend. Day dresses are less tight on the waist now,” believes the designer, who came to fame on the back of the hourglass stretch tailoring of his Galaxy dress.
Next month he will launch Roland Mouret Body, a range of activewear. “Covid has shown us how important sport is for keeping mental health in balance, for so many of us,” he said.
Mouret added that selling evening wear was still a challenge, as restrictions on events come and go in different territories. “A month ago, America was opening up and they were all ordering my evening dresses. And now they have a [Covid] variant and they don’t want evening dresses any more.”