Merchant Archive FW18 at London Fashion Week

After the bore-fest of New York Fashion Week (and I’m going to go on record and say that it seems to get more boring with each season), London Fashion Week brings a cooler, more youthful vibe to Fashion Month.  I’m not slating the NYFW collections, although some of them are, well, a bit samey, but the production can feel very repetitive.

Then, when you least expect it, the show of your dreams comes along and it’s just perfection.  The location, the staging, lighting and the collection itself is all just so well planned and packaged that it sets your world on fire.  It doesn’t happen often that a show stands out and you’re thinking about it long after Fashion Month has passed, but when it does, man it’s awesome and it gets you psyched for the next season when you can spot high street pieces clearly inspired by that one awesome moment that you got to be a part of.  Prepare yourselves for a barrage of beautiful imagery…

Pixie Tenenbaum wearing a floral dress & baker boy style hat at the Merchant Archive FW18 presentation at Lancaster Gare during London Fashion Week

Front of pack for the FW18 season was the largely underrated Merchant Archive.  On the final day of London Fashion Week I schlepped through the rain in a floral SS18 Topshop dress and pleather tifler, to a disused hotel in Lancaster Gate immediately after the Minki presentation, to attend A Common Thread – the label’s presentation for the coming season.  On approach, the building is tired and lacklustre, but hidden inside is a breathtaking space that’s been frozen in time.  Somewhere between rack and ruin, perfectly poised to provide the most beautiful backdrop that never overshadows the collection we’re gathered here to view.

Dressed with wild flowers, heather and fern leaves in perfect disarray it’s the first time I’ve ever looked at a venue and been able to see the synergy between the surroundings and the collection.  If you’re not impressed by my description of it then just check out my pictures, all taken on my iPhone X, no filters applied, it really is that beautiful, and yeah, my outfit matched the surroundings perfectly.

The presentation itself spanned three main rooms of the old mansion house hotel.  One strewn with quirky chairs, another dressed with balls of wool suspended from the ceiling in a grid, and the last displayed the garments on thick, cubed metal rails.  We were also treated to a breakfast of champions with freshly backed pastries, shortbread and some of super posh and instagrammable biscuits which I’ll admit, kept me there longer than planned.

One of the really great things about this non-static presentation was the steady flow of models through the bottom floor of the hotel, allowing you to capture the garments from every angle.  The collection itself centred around a patchwork blanket found on the last page of children’s book The Paper Dolls by Julia Donaldson.  A book which designer Sophie Merchant reads to her young daughter every night.

“Colours imagined in hues with the help of the passage of time.  The loving hands of a kindly grandmother.  These muted tones are interspersed with inspired punches interjected from a 1930’s crochet cushion found in a market in Somerset.”  Sophie Merchant

The Merchant Archive FW18 season collection sees the reintroduction of knitwear in cashmere blends, using four feature knit stitches to create a patchwork with arun references.  When you see it in front of you, the simplicity is what makes it so bold – ironically that’s exactly why it stands out from the crowd.  The prints in this collection speak of the journey taken by the Paper Dolls in the story book and that childlike reference is present in the form of a dab dot paint spot which resembles that made on a page by a young child.  The collection is one that explores both the start of life and the wisdom of later years, both of which are visible in the key pieces, the shapes are simple and fluid and the venue complements this perfectly allowing the colours to lift from the backdrop.

Basically, it’s just beautiful.  All of it.  There aren’t many great Fashion Moments any more outside of The Grand Palais, but the Merchant Archive FW18 presentation, this was one of them.


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