The scent of fresh flowers—thousands of roses—wafting through the portal into Richard Quinn’s set was already a near sensory overload. That was before we’d even taken in the fact that the English Chamber Orchestra was before us, and that London’s Bach Choir, maybe a hundred strong, was massed along the balcony above. Then we watched the young British singer-songwriter, Gabrielle Aplin, in a jet-beaded dress, file in to a place at the head of the orchestra, followed by a few latex-clad ballet cats posing like Richard Quinn house mascots, and finally the music, and the show began.
What could have been a loud, possibly bombastically sensational occasion turned out to be as Quinn put it later, “something really ethereal. We’ve been looking at how we can elevate what we do. We’ve looked back at Chanel and Dior in the ’80s and ’90s—and they had that sense of poise and grace.” He paused, adding, “because especially now, I just wanted people to feel a sort of overwhelming love-reaction to the clothes.”
Even amongst the enormity of his spectacular setting, Quinn was clearly out to demonstrate that he won’t be pigeon-holed as a performative showman. It was a wise move. Instead of acres of stiff, printed volume, there was a new softness in his choices of dress fabrics, and a slimness in the sparkling silhouettes of his long coat dresses. Up close, every tiny twinkling sequin flower and pearl lattice work embroidery could be appreciated.
“We wanted to be quite serious about what we do, the artisanal craft of it, and the fact that we now have a house, here in London, where we welcome clients,” he said. “And I’d like them to feel some of the emotion of this show experience when they come.”
Quinn has been captivated by classic Parisian haute couture since he was a BA print student. He shot his first graduation collection of flower-painted 1950s crinolines on a set with a ladder, Irving Penn-style. All of his shows since have been an exaggeration of the silhouettes of that era, printed with a riot of eye-poppingly colorful flowers, frequently subverted with gimp-suits and masked faces. The BDSM had disappeared this season (apart from the cats). All Quinn wanted us to concentrate on was the content of the clothes.
By changing his course ever so slightly toward referencing Chanel, he’s of course nodding in the direction of the Karl Lagerfeld exhibition at the Met in May. There’s plenty of time for prospective attendees to pop into the House of Quinn to order a Karl coat tribute from him.
It is also summer wedding season. A procession of 16 bouquet-holding Richard Quinn brides was led out by a pair of bridesmaids in tiny matching lingerie dresses. The variety of options—corseted, draped, chiffon, or tailored, off the shoulder or funnel-necked, beaded or plain—offered something for nearly everyone. Quinn has built up a significant bridal business, especially for international clients, since he last showed a wedding tableau before the pandemic. It made a poignant contrast to the deep, veiled mourning of his last-season finale, before the funeral of Queen Elizabeth. The all-white “ethereal, angelic” vision of hope, amid the beauty of the flowers and the delicacy of the music left many in the audience dashing away tears.
This article was originally published on Vogue Runway.