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'A city of innovators': Fashion exhibition showcases London's 'rebel' designers

REBEL: 30 Years of London Fashion' presents nearly 100 daring looks from alumni of the 'NEWGEN' initiative   -  
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Bjork's swan dress, Sam Smith's inflated latex number and Harry Styles' embroidered trousers go on display this week, at a new exhibition which celebrates young designers.

And the thing that links these very different looks is that they were created by fresh fashion talent who worked, studied or started in London.

"Rebel: 30 Years of London Fashion" is the title given to the show at the Design Museum, which displays nearly 100 fashionable looks.

It's an appropriate title says Caroline Rush, CEO of the British Fashion Council."I think definitely there's a narrative around the rebellious nature of design and the idea that you're pushing boundaries, you're breaking rules, you're changing business models, concepts, ideals of beauty."

For thirty years the British Fashion Council (BFC) has run a program called NEWGEN which supports upcoming designers to realise their dreams.

This exhibition celebrates the talent that has come through the scheme since it began and shows off their unique works. The inflated black latex outfit designed by London based Indian designer Harri, which was worn by Sam Smith to the 2023 Brits, is on loan from the singer.

Also on display is the infamous swan dress that Bjork wore to the Oscars in 2001, designed by Marjan Pejoski, a Macedonian designer who worked in London.

And the floral high-waisted trousers, created by Steven Stokey-Daley, seen on Harry Styles in his video for the song "Golden", are in the exhibition as well.

Stokey-Daley, who now runs his SS Daley brand, was just starting up after studying at the University of Westminster when his clothes were spotted, sold through Instagram and selected for Styles.

"It's not easy to be a fashion designer full stop when you're, starting up, it's practically quite difficult," says Sarah Mower - the BFC Ambassador for Emerging Talent who has guest curated the exhibition.

"But the NEWGEN scheme was started in 1993 to support young designers to be able to show in fashion Week. And it's created this culture whereby people want to start up, everybody has their own point of view and also they collaborate. They collaborate with their friends who they meet at art school, in clubs or in the neighborhoods. And after that, it's a question of real resourcefulness."

Sponsored by Alexander McQueen, there is a special section in the show which celebrates the brand's namesake and the collection McQueen made when he first started out.

There are also areas dedicated to the tradition of art schools in developing talent, the influence of the club scene and a catwalk area.

Designers featured in "Rebel: 30 Years of London Fashion" include Molly Goddard, Erdem Moralıoğlu, Richard Quinn, Gareth Pugh, J.W. Anderson, Roksana Ilinčić, Christopher Kane and Simone Roche.

Also upcoming designer Priya Ahluwalia, who has a sustainable outfit made out of vintage denim on display at the exhibit.

"London is such an inclusive and diverse city, there's people from all different walks of life wearing very different things," says Ahluwalia.

"You know, people's culture might inspire some parts, you know, which area of London that they're raised in. I mean I think I can tell the difference between a guy that's from West London and a guy from South London just from what they're wearing. So I think there's loads of parts to it, but everyone's dress senses are accepted, which is really nice."

The "Rebel" exhibition opens on Friday 15 September and is open until 11 February 2024.

London Fashion Week takes place from Friday 15 September to Tuesday 19 September.