From Chaka Khan To The Joy of Sex: All The References Worth Knowing At London Fashion Week

Each season at fashion month, we're treated to a glimpse of the mind's eye of London's most brilliant designers. Whether they're refreshing established brands for a contemporary audience, at the helm of houses that preserve tradition and craftsmanship, or are an emerging voice helping to keep our city at the cutting edge of fashion, it's always fascinating to see just what makes a designer tick. Some draw on their personal experiences to inspire new collections, others look to the cultural climate, and there are those who become fixated on a moment in time and run with it.
This season, designers' muses included strong women from history, cult literary figures, and theatrical films, proving that inspiration really can come from anywhere. Click through to find the cultural references running throughout the shows at London Fashion Week, and how they impacted our favourite designers' collections.
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Photo: Sasha/Getty Images
Adele Astaire at Erdem

This season, charismatic beauty Adele Astaire influenced Erdem's offering. "It was widely believed that Adele Astaire was a more gifted, charismatic dancer than her brother Fred," a statement from the brand read, "and she was a breath of fresh air after years of post-war mourning." In 1932, the American dancer, stage actress and singer married the Duke of Devonshire's son, Lord Charles Cavendish, trading in a life of bright lights for country comforts in Ireland. This stark contrast, which played a vital role in Astaire's life, played out quite literally on Erdem's catwalk.
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Photo: Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images
Bringing together the sumptuous finishes and fabrics of a life spent dancing on the stage, 1920s drop-waist sheer dresses and sequinned pieces were paired with oversized tweed blazers and corduroy trousers. "Her clothes are a meeting of these two unlikely worlds: the glamorous, modern fashions of a stage celebrity combined with the heavy country styles of the noble aristocracy."
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An Indian clothes market at Ashish

Ashish returned to his signature cacophony of rainbow brights this season, following the dark and sombre palette of his last show, and cited a traditional Indian clothes market as his main source of inspiration.

"This was going back to my roots a little bit, celebrating immigrant culture. I wanted to create this magical, midnight market. It was about mixing high and low art, different elements together. Just celebrating the randomness of life," the designer explained to Refinery29 backstage.
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Photo: Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images
With sweatshirts and tees playfully reimagining ubiquitous logos from credit companies and banks – think 'Masturbate' over Mastercard's red and yellow symbol, and American Express being turned into 'American Excess' – models carried plastic shopping bags that offset their sequin-embellished floral pieces.
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Photo: Kobal/REX/Shutterstock
Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca at Mimi Wade

Mimi Wade's signature aesthetic – hyper feminine pieces plastered with twisted prints from Hollywood history – took a turn towards literature this season. Referencing one of the designer's favourite authors, Daphne du Maurier, Wade designed from her frustration at the author's work being categorised as gothic romance despite her 1938 book Rebecca being anything but. "A label thrust on her purely based on gender, not literary substance."
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Photo: Helle Moos
Other references included Dario Argento’s 1977 film Suspiria, a "candy-coloured trippy thriller" that inspired the designer. Using CMYK screen-printing, she pasted tongue-in-cheek sentiments like 'OPEN BOOK!' and 'EASY TO READ' onto puckered-sleeve and square-necked white dresses, which had torn hems and raw edges as a nod to Raquel Welch's costume in 1966 film One Million Years B.C.
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The Joy of Sex at Christopher Kane

Looking to The Joy of Sex – a sex manual from 1972 – Kane's collection explored various notions of sex and strength in women, rounding off the show with a dress that featured an explicit line drawing from the illustrated book. “I have never shied away from sex in the collections – and this one is no different,” Christopher Kane said of his AW18 show.
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Photo: Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images
All the trappings of sex were explored, with Mrs Robinson-esque marabou-edged shift dresses playing soft to a hard leather and lace or jewel-caged number. The designer explained that this season, he wanted to show a woman's strength of character through her strength of clothes. "It’s less cheeky and more subversive, less an interior world and more an exterior view this time."
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Photo: Eugene Adibari/REX/Shutterstock
Chaka Khan at Marta Jakubowski

"It’s all about my woman," Jakubowski said of her AW18 collection. "She exists somewhere in my head and is growing every season." With Chaka Khan blasting while models smiled, strutted and danced down the catwalk, Jakubowski urged us to recall the music video to Whitney Houston's cover of the '78 hit, all sass and smiles.
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Celebrating women more generally – "our versatility, complexity, ambition and physicality" – the designer evoked the early '90s of Christy Turlington and Cindy Crawford, of The Bodyguard and nipped-in waists contrasted with big shoulders. Eighties shades were seen across we-mean-business two-pieces and flirty frilled dresses, showing the breadth of Jakubowski's strong women.
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Photo: Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock
Baz Luhrmann's Strictly Ballroom at Sophia Webster

Accessories designer Sophia Webster looked to the favourite film of her youth, Baz Luhrmann's Strictly Ballroom, for her AW18 collection. The director's debut movie, and the first instalment of his theatre-inspired Red Curtain trilogy, follows Australian ballroom dancer Scott Hastings on his journey to the Pan-Pacific Grand Prix Dancing Championship. Webster was also inspired to look back to her own childhood, when she won hundreds of trophies for competitive dancing across the UK.
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Photo: Sophia Webster
The presentation recreated a glimmering dance hall, with dancers tangoing outside on the location's balcony, and models toe-tapping under the light of a disco ball. Shoes were embellished with fringing, sequins and feathers, emulating the show outfits Webster once wore to compete, while bags featured her signature tongue-in-cheek slogans, reading 'Groove is in the Heart'.
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Photo: Granger/REX/Shutterstock
Gertrude Stein at Shrimps

Gertrude Stein, writer, art collector, and a vital player on 20th century Paris' art scene, was the focus of Shrimps' collection this season. The American famously wrote in a 1913 poem, "Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose" meaning 'things are what they are'. This in turn inspired Hannah Weiland to present her AW18 collection as "A shrimp is a shrimp is a shrimp" and to trawl Stein's muses, art archives and language for the shades, textures, and cuts for the line.
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Photo: John Phillips/BFC/Getty Images
With artists Jean Cocteau and Otto Dix in mind, Weiland created her own artwork with printed and drawn abstract florals, which sat among her signature faux fur trims, fluffy coats and pearl handbags. Colours were romantic and vivid, from the poppy-red outerwear (which matched the roses strewn across the floor) to the jewel-esque turquoise shawls.

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