Aaron Esh’s London: Indie, sleek and sullen

The NEWGEN newcomer makes his London Fashion Week debut…

It’s hot and stuffy up on the sixth floor of the Tate Modern’s Blavatnik Building, much like it is at the majority of other London Fashion Week venues. It’s mostly down to the sun beaming straight into your eyes through the encircling windows. Though, what’s different about this space compared to the NEWGEN runway at the Old Selfridges Hotel or various gyms and churches dotted around the city is the view of London’s skyline – a horizon sculpted by Southbank. And at the break of evening on the penultimate day of London Fashion Week, it sets the golden-hour-embalmed scene for one of the most anticipated shows of the season. 

Aaron Esh – Central Saint Martins alumnus, LVMH Prize finalist and NEWGEN participant – presented a debut show for LFW that felt calm, considered, modern and ‘London’. Against the city’s evening skyline, Esh’s first offering and first dive into womenswear saw a collection unbounded by gender, yet not entirely fluid, which took British characteristics and entwined them with sophisticated, refined silhouettes. 

“The early impulses of Aaron Esh remain steadfast,” the show’s press release stated. “Clothes that combine establishment rigour with the rebellious spirit of youth culture, devotedly crafted for a generation who feels somewhere in-between.”

The result was a delicate balance of intensity and polished assertiveness. Esh delivered fluid, draping dresses picked up at the hem for added speed, gleaming bomber jackets with V-neck cuts reminiscent of cultish bowling shirts, almost priest-like sleeveless coats with caché buttons in line with expectations around traditional couture. There were more sullen nods to iconic Crombie coats, originally for well-to-do football hooligans, now for endearingly cockish young Londoners with a penchant for Pete Doherty poetry, generous douses of aftershave and roll-up cigarettes. Elsewhere, other wondrously tailored jackets, built obviously with the lapels in mind, and double-breasted to keep the London rain off your delicate tunic-tied vest (also by Aaron Esh), conjured images of an AI rendering of the lovechild of 2006 Alex Turner and Slimane’s Saint Laurent. Bootleg jeans, designed to skim across the floor and frayed at both the hem and the knee, lean more towards ‘lived-in’ rather than distressed. 

The models, their hands stuffed into pockets, caps on heads and heads down, sunglasses (designed by Esh’s partner, no less) thrown on for added anonymity, bled the rush and isolation of frantic London, questionable British sensibility, and our renowned, charming stoicism. But it was matched by the confidence of Parisian chic and very British Indie sleaze (but easy on the sleaze), with a prominent surrounding aura of dressing like you’re somebody even if you’re not. And that, as we all know, is London. 

Even though the addition of womenswear may have taken some of the fluidity away from Esh’s overall collection, they are pieces created to be shared, to exist on the same rail, united by an attitude inherent in anyone who’s ever called smoggy London their home. It was balance that Esh wanted to create and it was balance that was delivered – the tender equilibrium of controlled living in a chaotic world, the stillness of an approaching storm as Autumn’s leaves tumble over the city’s streets. 

Until next season, Aaron!

WriterRy Gavin
ImageryCourtesy of Aaron Esh