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Exclusive Fashion Event at Gibraltar House — A Microcosm of London Fashion Week Where Fledgling Designers Showcase Their Latest Collections

Inspirations. Organised by The Freelancer Club within the walls of the Gibraltarian Embassy, the mode of cultural heritage is unmistakably brought to attention by the student and fledgling designs displayed at the 2017 Autumn/Winter London Fashion Week.

Holding our Prosecco filled flutes awkwardly with cumbersome nibbles within these grand surroundings, we the guests, tiptoe on plush carpets and enter a dimly lit room playing mellow ambient electronica. Welcome to Gibraltar House. “Enjoy the art and fashion on show here,” exclaims event organiser Matt Dowling — there certainly is a sense of occasion to these collections. 

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Top of the house is occupied by Maria Bustillos, who speaks fondly of her mother’s utilitarian clothes. Describing her poor upbringing in Ecuador, she recounts her inspiration and path into fashion. Her collection — all clean lines, minimalist design and geometric shapes — is presented by a single model sitting still beside the racked collection, occasionally walking a tiny catwalk lit with blue fairy-lights and bottled faux-candles.

The tone of art installation meeting fashion is clear, echoing a path well traversed by avant-garde designers Hussein Chalayan and Alexander McQueen.

The feel of surreal theatre too is unmissable, providing an absurdist distraction from the embassy’s portentous feel, and should inspire further irreverence for these surroundings. Stella Courtney, a London School of Fashion graduate, embraces this theatre. The red light lighting the room adorned with circus themed ornamentation brings eerie elegance. Printed silks drape off of her model stretched across an armchair and ottoman.

Today, soberly dressed delegates and civil servants occupy the same space as the flock of glamorously attired fashionistas radiating sparkles, sheen or quirk. The striped armchairs decorating the drawing room look plush. Perched impressively they hide their sprung springs that make sitting down unnecessarily uncomfortable. They lack the vibrance of their earlier years certainly, and upon sitting, all attracted to these seats look immediately uneasy.

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Rajvi Lodhia designs stand boldly against this secretly decaying backdrop, and have the elegance and luxury of classical Indian clothes making. Her love of silk and lace is clear in her long shirt dresses that cover as much as they reveal. Lodhia nervously clarifies: “It can look like night wear, and I would like to avoid that by making it accessible as both day and evening wear, for a variety of occasions. For the beach; to a party; for informal wear.”

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The glamorous essence of haute couture is very much in evidence in the headline collection. "Welcome to my wardrobe,” beckons Gail Howard, to a room with statement dresses and statement shoes. The industry newcomer, following her design competition win in Gibraltar, looks at home in such environments.

“I used to spend my pocket money on Vogue,” the Gibraltarian designer explains. “I always made my own clothes and I decided to carry that passion forward.” Howard is generously warm and approachable, and without a studied affect.

“I was in shock when I won.” She continues, “I didn’t think I would as I was up against graduates. I’ve been busy sewing away. I did not even manage to sleep some nights.”

The mixing crowd is composed of creative types, photographers, dancers, designers, stylists, the lot. The agenda for self promotion is thick in the air. People sit purposefully typing their blog, names are dropped as the clock ticks closer to “their next appointment darling”.

Each here vie for maximum attention within a two person conversation. All is seemingly aimed at egomania. Yet, together with the cynicism and self possession, there exists an innocence throughout this event. This is especially present in the designers on display. Coupled with doe eyed ingénue models sipping from their flutes and virgin attendees, they reveal their excitement at their inclusion to this exclusive world. Surely, this should be the single most cherished quality to be displayed. Naive fearlessness in the face of an industry suffused with hardness.


Mehmet Hassan