Pure London: sustainability, newness and continuity
Pure London was the first completely ‘normal’ show post-Covid with Scoop now flying solo, pandemic restrictions ended and retail as near normal as it’s been for several years.
The show was busy across all three days and the quality of buyers in attendance reflected that business-as-usual return. Think key UK names such as John Lewis, Gerrards, ASOS, White Feather, Evalucia, Chattertons, Iris, EQ Woman, Pamela Schiffer, The Snooty Fox, Parici, Susi C, Chi Edinburgh and Sister.
In another sign of normality, brands also told us they saw plenty of buyers from Ireland, as well as further afield, including Germany, the Middle East, the US and even Latin America.
In many ways it was as if the pandemic hadn’t happened. That was definitely true on one level as the body-skimming floral midi-dress trend that has dominated since the pre-pandemic period refused to go away.
But there was also plenty of newness on display and on the runway, Promostyl Artistic Directors Sebastien Renault and Malaika Ewande talked about how AW23/24 “is made for reset and innovation”.
It’s also clearly made for sustainability with author and former Liberty/Neiman Marcus exec Ed Burstell saying on the Pure stage that “the pandemic meant every age group has adopted Gen Z values, which has really pushed the conversation on sustainability. If you, as a retailer, are not aware of sustainability and ethical retail, as the next wave of shoppers come up, you're going to be lost. If you don't have a genuine story and can demonstrate credibility in your sustainability messaging, you are going to be called out on it”.
Sara Simmonds, Chief Mentor at The Conscious Innovator, echoed that, saying: “It’s a new era. It’s the era of conscious consumerism. It starts with the leaders of our industry. Fashion designers, wholesalers, creators of brands are leading the change. Making products, selling products, engaging with products can change people’s lives, but customers want to know deeper; they want to know your unique mission, your unique dream.”
The Pure stage-cum-runway is a key USP for the show and brands featured there were seeing plenty of visitor traffic as a result. Amardip Khosa-Stark, founder of sleepwear label Dipii Stark, was a first-timer at the show and said its presence on the catwalk was driving traffic to the stand from day one. Another first-timer, Chic, said the same thing, designer Vali Cioban adding that “we’ve had a crowd around us after the catwalk”.
As for the trends, the Promostyl duo highlighted key directions including Artisanal Survivalist, Nobleness: Elevated Tradition, Office Wear and Rhythm of the Night.
The first of these was very seasonal: fleece faux fur, and a host of knits. The trend is heavily influenced by nature, with a palette of naturals enlivened with pops of brighter colours (brights are very prominent for the season). And of course they said that for this dates level, “sustainability and eco consciousness is at the centre of the shopping experience”.
Meanwhile, Nobleness: Elevated Tradition is a new take on power dressing that mixes English heritage, luxury craftsmanship, equestrian and street art. It’s all about “casual elegance”, a contrast that’s increasingly key in modern dressing (especially post-pandemic) as women seek comfort as well as style.
This leads seamlessly on to Office Wear, which is key given reports that the return to offices is finally well under way. Promostyl appears to see the trend as having continued where it left off pre-Covid with that “casual elegance” cropping up again, along with “neo tailoring with sportswear elements”. Materials include woven cotton, silks and linens, however “jersey is a new favourite for its comfort”. That echoes trends seen at other trade shows this season with fine ‘tailored’ knits that almost imitate woven proving popular.
The colour range is broad, rejecting plain black suits, in favour of colour and graphic prints. This results in pieces that mix a "sense of formal” with a “casual flair, freer, curved relaxed lines and neutral tones. Marble is a huge favourite here, along with other kinds of stone works.”
Meanwhile, Rhythm of the Night is focused on Millennials and Gen Z who “still want to party but are more embedded in activism and women’s rights”.
This is likely to be key later this year after the success of full-on party dressing for Christmas 2022. But last year’s straightforward return of sequins and other classic party codes will be given more of an edge for 2023. For a start, consumers will expect their shimmer and shine to be eco-friendly.
And the Promostyl duo said the trend now comes “in dark and punkish vibes; a night owl aesthetic with soft feminine touches. Prints and fabrics are opulent and extravagant underlying both the luxurious and the underground allure of this trend. Lace, sequin, metallic effects, rich velvets that blend with darker material like leather, vinyl and dirty denim”.
NEW BRAND FOCUS
The catwalks trend and forecasters’ directions were reflected on the show floor itself, albeit mixed in with plenty of continuity. That could be seen very clearly on the stand of one of Pure’s big draws, new-to-the-show and new-to-the-UK GWD.
The George Davies-helmed label has seen great success in the Middle East since launch a few years ago and is now targeting its domestic market.
Davies and his team have an unerring eye for the commercial and this collection mixes mainstream trends with newness. Florals are there but have been moved on with a more abstract edge and kept from overpowering the collection. Formal clothing has the casual edge Promostyl referenced with a classic tweed jacket updated by discreet stretch side panels (think a Moto silhouette in colourful tweeds). After-dark dressing taps into the jewel velvets trend, while sparkle materials keep a lid on sequin excesses (and perhaps also nod to the growing belief that sparkle needs to shine without adding to the industry’s plastic waste problem).
The mid-priced line also taps into the mini-me trend in modern fashion with pieces deigned not only for a wide adult age range but for kids too.
Ranges that spanned cultures were also big news at the show with a number of new labels doing just that. Dijago, for instance, is only four months’ old. Created by Khudija Zaib and Grace Owusu Agyemang. It mixes the Pakistani and African heritage of the two designers.
It’s an ambitious label with Zaib telling us that her ideal target customer is “Queen Rania” and her ideal target retailer is Harrods!
The collection’s drapery is inspired by the burkha while some of the more vivid colour and print is directly drawn from African style. Positioned at luxury price points (a top could retail at £900), the collection — spanning day and occasion wear, outerwear and shoes — is hand-made by artisans in Pakistan with lots of customisation options.
Asantii was another new exhibitor mixing cultural influences. The pan-African brand is based in Rwanda and works with 14 designers across Africa. Founder Maryse Mbonyumutwa sees it as a brand with a purpose, creating ethically-made pieces and pushing African designers, artists and artisans to the fore. Working with a team of international luxury brand and supply experts (the team on the stand at the show had worked at a raft of big-name luxury labels) it was showing an engaging close-to-season collection that tapped key trends while also having a timeless edge.
A standout piece was the striped coat with ‘naive’ embroidery detail, as well as print jackets, draw-cord ‘convertible’ dresses, and quilted, printed or embroidered pieces incorporating the collection’s key eye motif.
Still-young brand Balou also incorporated motifs from the designer’s cultural heritage, in this case the Greek key pattern (label founder B — short for Banayioda Theodorou — is originally from Cyprus).
The brand was at Pure for the first time with a strong story to tell linked to zero waste, organic cotton, and motherhood. It’s inspired by B’s daughter and wants to “give a voice to mothers, and champion women”.
The collection comprises easy separates and dresses in clean shapes and a muted palette. Again, that fine knit trend is key.
And with the motherhood theme in mind (and the Greek heritage), the “affordable premium” brand’s AW23 offer is dubbed Motherland and has a big focus on mini-me pieces (or “me and you” as B calls it).
That me and you offer has proved popular so far with a recent pop-up the label opened in the Bullring mall selling out and plenty of interest at the show, including buyers from Europe.
Also new at Pure was Ginissima. While on the surface, this was a typical bling footwear label focused on dressy occasion wear with plenty of Swarovski crystals, metallic leathers, studs, meshes and high heels, it also had an interesting story given its equal comfort focus.
Founder Gina Banyocu “wanted to make something that was both sexy, feminine and comfortable,” she told us.
She put a lot of work into researching the most supportive shoe structures with a focus on the heels and claims the shoes can be worn for hours in comfort. That’s a message that could resonate strongly with occasion-focused retailers and their customers, as could the fact that its designs can be adapted for lower heel heights. “We can only do that by the fact that we control production,” she said.
A mainly DTC brand, she’s seeking to boost wholesale and think the time is right. “People seem to like anything that’s shiny and blingy,” she said.
Finally, circling back to a UK brand, but another one still in its infancy, Manchester-based Fika, is “Covid-born” and created by Helen Barker. She’d spent 15 years in the fashion industry, but during Covid decided to "slow down and take a moment”. Out of that Fika was born.
And like many other labels to emerge from the pandemic period, she said “we’re really passionate about changing the fashion industry”. It’s all about slowing down the fashion cycle and getting away from restrictive sizes (and restrictive styles with part-elasticated waists a feature of both casual and formal pieces). The brand also has a positive impact promise, with plenty of climate-positive activities.
“We want to bridge the gap between seasons and we want people to wear things for longer,” Barker said of the line. “A lot of our pieces are made for layering, so you can style it throughout the year”.
With materials made from recycled bottles that are durable and hold colour well, bright tones are key. “We do a lot of research into colour, particularly what evokes happiness, as well as what's on trend,” she added.
It was its first time at Pure and Barker said “it’s been really, really good. We've done quite a few other shows, but this one is probably the best so far”.
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