Amid banks of fresh flowers and live music from a men’s choir, Richard Quinn sent out an exquisitely made collection that was a soaring tribute to his late father, Patrick, who passed away in June. “I wanted it to be angelic and ethereal. Something where everyone could feel and know who my father was. His work was next door to mine, and my team knew him really, really well because he was always in, always involved with building the sets for the shows.”

It began with a poignant balletic performance—girls twirling in flower-strewn black tutus—whose choreography unmistakably referenced Irish dancing. “Because my parents are Irish,” the designer said, choking back tears after the show. “And my dad would always take my sisters Irish dancing when we were growing up.”

Such is the grandeur and scale of Richard Quinn’s work that it’s hard to recall that he’s still only 33. It was six years ago, just out of Central Saint Martins MA, that he set up a printworks and his design studio under a railway arch in Peckham, South London, next door to his dad’s scaffolding business. “My parents came here to work from Ireland. They believed in education and encouraging us to be what we want to be, and for me that was pursuing arts. My dad never questioned that for one minute.”

It gave Quinn the confidence, and the practical, entrepreneurial drive, to talk about wanting to found a London fashion house of Richard Quinn rather than a brand. It’s an ambition that has grown into an astonishing reality in the space of five years, gathering couture clients from the Middle East and all over the world. Within the intimacy of the white-carpeted room, the accomplishment and what he’s been working on visibly reached a new level of refinement.

Sometimes in the ebullient drama of Quinn’s shows—his penchant for theatrical silhouettes and gimp masks amid his insanely maximalist English flower-printed scenarios—his growing ability to concentrate on detail and fit didn’t register. This time, with the latex and masks replaced with soigné hair by Sam McKnight and the models walking deliberately close to the audience, the beauty and lightness of his dresses were palpable.

It was the closest thing to haute couture that London has seen for decades. Indeed, Quinn uses the same Indian embroidery houses as all the top luxury brands in Europe. His sparkling embroidery, made from fields of microscopic flowers or delicate embellishments on lace, is testament to the quality that has brought him a thriving business in bridal and custom eveningwear.

At one time, it might have been said that a designer like Quinn “ought to go to Paris” to show. But even if it’s true that his work could stand up in an haute couture season, it will never happen. Anyone who knows him knows that Richard Quinn has always set his sights on being a London house, determined to bring credit to the city he was born and raised in. With this collection, he did exactly that, sublimating grief and loss into beauty in a way that brought both tears and pride to his family and to everyone in the room.

This article was originally published on Vogue Runway.

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