Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, sat front row at Ashley William’s London Fashion Week show. Not Burberry. Not Roksanda. Not Christopher Kane. Ashley Williams, the 28-year-old Westminster graduate with a penchant for devilish, unapologetic femininity, isn’t the show you’d expect him to make an appearance at. It was a testament to the government’s support of the British fashion industry (after all, upwards of £100m in revenue is generated for the British economy annually), but also Mr. Khan’s personal inclination to support young people.
What does the youth of today look like? According to Williams, there are many things.
In the internet era when hyper-communication is more widely-welcomed than, say, anything else, Williams lobbied for a technological recess. The models navigated a Stonehenge-inspired slalom. Some of the looks corresponded to the Pagan, pre-technology world. There were fabulously frumpy dresses edging on bad taste—her best offerings. Other looks reflected the desire to disrupt, skin-tight sheer dresses emblazoned with the word ‘Sex.’
Perhaps the most potent statement was the faux-fur slides that read ‘Anxiety.' FOMO (fear of missing out) and Compare and Despair are common vexations plaguing young people. (1 in 10 people suffer from anxiety in the UK. 40 million experience variations of general anxiety disorder in America.) The constant need to surf, like, and share is a new phenomenon and the consequences of it are slowly but surely, and oftentimes harrowingly, unfurling across… our Instagram feeds. A website which provides information about anxiety declared social media as more addictive than cigarettes. But as the ‘Anxiety’ slippers reveal, we’re the ones facing the problem.
But the collection was replete with contradictions, ones you’d expect from a young designer establishing a footing in the overcrowded fashion landscape. Despite the call to jilt social media and connect with the natural world, it was ironic that the show was filled with faux-fur slippers reading ‘Anxiety’ or ‘Girls’, dresses that said ’Sex’, or declaratively disinterested ‘Don’t Know, Don’t Care’ hoodies—all designed with social media in mind. They were the looks that collected double-taps and shares.
It ended with Adwoa Aboah, the model of the moment, bedecked in a youthful hodgepodge that wouldn’t look out of place in an Instagram. Acid-wash denim and a matching bucket hat, red faux-fur sliders, and a tie-dyed hoodie reading ‘Don’t Know, Don’t Care’ with a Matrix-inspired sunglasses on a chain around her neck. It was a post-ironic aesthetic discord, at once humorous and devilishly rebellious. It encompassed what the Ashley Williams woman is about. It’s hallowed ground at this stage, a niche well-carved, but it would be interesting to see her embark on a deeper exploration of the millennial condition next season.