Since winning the Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design in February this year, there has been a lot of discussion about Richard Quinn. He made headlines around the world, his stockists ballooned threefold, and suddenly this quirky, emerging NEWGEN label became a serious business. Yet still, some questioned whether Quinn, whose penchant for clashing head-to-toe floral prints makes his work instantly recognisable, was a one trick pony.
Any suggestion of this would be dismissed after Quinn’s SS’19 show, which as with last season, closed London Fashion Week. While the Queen wasn’t in attendance, the uncontested queen of fashion, Anna Wintour, was, showing that last season wasn’t a fluke: the fashion industry on a global scale sees Quinn as a real force. Other notable and unexpected members of the audience were students from Quinn’s old school, whom the designer invited as a protest to the cuts being made to arts education around the UK.
A live orchestra set a dramatic, opulent tone, which was echoed by the collection. Opening the show was four all-black looks: oversized silhouettes in tulle and thick waves of satin. So far, So Quinn. Next, pieces thinned down into 1920s style drop-waist cocktail dresses, so heavily embellished that you could hear the glass beads clacking together as they shimmied by. From here, prints were larger than ever before, in rich jewel tones of emerald, ruby and aquamarine.
Then came the animals — zebras met leopards, tigers and giraffes — fused together with silver zips that wrapped round the limbs of suit separates and outerwear. There were styles that Quinn explored for the first time: from the aforementioned flappers, to 50s strapless gowns, 70s billowing kaftans and ruffled 80s mini dresses. Briefly touching on each opens the doors to all manner of possibilities.
His success is in provocation: pairing unexpected elements together in a way that is constantly questioning the status quo. How much is too much? What is good taste? Why not pair florals with polka-dots? In a season that many have agreed was a little too safe by London standards, Quinn is flying the flag for the city’s typically weird and wonderful aesthetic.