The designer faced adversity in the form of the late Queen’s mourning period but debuted a triumphant SS23 offering at her first LFW show

Originally scheduled to take place on the same day as the Queen’s funeral, Sinéad O’Dwyer was dealt an unfortunate card this season, forced to reschedule and recast her debut runway at the last minute. At today’s show, entire rows of seats were left empty, with swathes of editors and buyers already on their way to the first day of Milan Fashion Week. But, in the hollow of the Old Selfridges Hotel, those difficulties quickly began to dissipate, as the designer blew open the borders of luxury fashion. 

Of course, this is nothing new. O’Dwyer has long-channelled her own experiences with body dysmorphia into brilliant, body-baring declarations of self-acceptance, but the arrival of two models using wheelchairs was a first for a major show at London Fashion Week – which is surprising, given the popularity of models like Aaron Philip over in New York. The collection itself was just as affirming. Interspersed with industrial clanging, the tormented sound of Elgar’s Cello Concerto set the mood for a slightly darker offering than we’ve come to expect from O’Dwyer – billed as “a moody study of the emotional turmoils and sacrifices that are an unavoidable part of any artist’s life.” 

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The designer’s shibari-inspired playsuits – all shirred satin bands that lattice the body in swooping cut-outs – were fashioned into stretchy, body-moulded dresses in trims of lilac and scarlet, turquoise and chocolate, red and black. The same technique was applied to panelled shorts, stirrupped leggings, and crop tops, while sheer slips and satin gowns poured over the body in molten sapphire. This season also saw the introduction of some tailored pieces, made up of wide-legged rave trousers and layered skirts, alongside tuxedos jackets and white poplin shirts that had been fitted with a darted bust – reminiscent of the designer’s silicone breastplates, which were also reimagined as metallic-pleated bibs.

What with all the chaos of state-enforced mourning, O’Dwyer’s melodramatic entrance into NEWGEN was a fitting one. While Harriet Ecclestone made her LFW debut with a line of adapative fashions last season, the appearance of disabled models at a show as buzzy as O’Dwyer’s is a moment worth remembering. That, and all the buttplugs and dildo charms that dangled from necklaces, earrings, and waist-pieces.