The London fashion scene has always prioritized rising talent over commercial appeal. Now, through a new generation of independent boutiques and the worldwide web, London’s offbeat innovators are going global.
Among these boutiques is Machine A in Soho, founded by stylist Anna Trevelyn—who works with Nicola Formichetti and her own clients including MAC, Topshop, and Rita Ora—and retail hotshot Stavros Karelis.
“It’s a really important time for young, emerging designers,” says Trevelyn, “so it felt like the right time to bring that all together but also to mix it with international brands to show that they can sit alongside each other.” At Machine A, fashionista favorites Raf Simons, Mugler, and Chalayan sit alongside Louise Gray, Sibling, Agi & Sam, Ashley Williams, and Nazir Mazhar, whose AW presentation featured a performance by rapper Shystie. Accessory designer Kyle Hopkins, crafts bespoke signet rings embossed with the purchaser’s fingerprint. New graduates Tigran Avetisyan and Peiran Gong are finding favor with their raw hand-dyed coats and futuristic neoprene trompe l’oeils.
While Machine A only launched in February, it’s already got The New York Times’ Cathy Horyn seal of approval. “She came in our second day open,” says Karelis, “and told me that something like this is really missing from New York.”
One forerunner of the independent trend is the appointment-only LN-CC. Established in a cavernous Shoreditch basement in 2010 under the creative direction of John Skelton, LN-CC has just launched an accessories zone constructed entirely from neoprene, the miniature club Chameleon Soundspace, and a mezcal bar for private events. The shop is accessed via an “enchanted forest” gateway leading into an octagonal tunnel, both created by set designer Gary Card, who also designed Sophia Webster’s AW13 presentation. It also includes an exhibition space featuring intricately beaded skulls from Our Exquisite Corpse and a library of rare books and music.
Collections are carefully curated every two weeks—with pieces from Lanvin, Haider Ackermann, and Givenchy, as well as from more niche designers such as Piece d’Anarchive and Martina Spetlova—and everything is available online.
Skelton was an original exponent of J.W. Anderson (in his former role at e-commerce site Oki-Ni). Skelton is reluctant he to take credit for the Anderson’s meteoric rise, but when he singles out young designers like Yang Li and Gosha who has had “an amazing first season with us,” it’s difficult not to pay attention.
What makes these independent shops special? “It’s not just about having the great brands; it’s about the store having a soul,” says Matthew Murphy of The Other Shop, which, alongside its own label, champions Christian Wijnants, the winner of the 2013 Woolmark prize.