Accomplished and luxurious: 16Arlington proves why it is one of London’s most beloved brands

Shortly before today’s 16Arlington show, designer Marco Capaldo confessed to feeling nervous. That makes sense, his collections are deeply personal endeavours. And yet, if he was to be feeling serene – cocky, even – you could easily forgive him: Capaldo has steadily built up one of London’s most impressive and beloved brands.

16Arlington AW23 (Maja Smiejkowska/ Chris Yates Media)
16Arlington AW23 (Maja Smiejkowska/ Chris Yates Media)

The AW23 collection was called Wake. ‘Obvious meanings,’ he said backstage after the show (Capaldo’s partner and 16Arlington co-founder, Kikka Cavenati, passed away in 2021; but her influence and voice can still be seen and felt in every stitch). ‘But also an awakening,’ he continued. ‘Waking up in a new world, facing the day. There are moments of darkness and light.’ The recycled coffee grounds that the models walked through signified rising, but also subltly nodded to Capaldo’s Italian roots – as did the flashes of lace and hints of Catholic schoolgirl uniforms.

16Arlington AW23 (Maja Smiejkowska/ Chris Yates Media)
16Arlington AW23 (Maja Smiejkowska/ Chris Yates Media)

The tension of light and dark, familiar not only to those of us who have experienced grief but the unremarkable ebb and flow of daily life, was a motif throughout. So whisker-fine knits, sheer dresses with the lightest dusting of shimmer and buoyant feather trims, gave way into darker, equally tactile pieces: low slung, pleated skirts, technical tailoring with gently curved shoulders, and black, more lavishly embellished pieces. Capaldo’s skill was to invest the collection’s duality with unity. ‘It goes around in circles,’ he said.

16Arlington AW23 (Maja Smiejkowska/ Chris Yates Media)
16Arlington AW23 (Maja Smiejkowska/ Chris Yates Media)

On the front row today, Simone Ashley – who wore a magnificent hooded 16Arlington gown to this year’s Fashion AwardsJourdan Dunn and Mia Regan. They know that Capaldo is a surefire hit when it comes to clothes that wow, as do the many, many girls (famous and not) who have worn the brand’s hit Solaria dress. But his repertoire has bigger depth than that; tailoring is meticulously executed, the signature Kikka bag – now expanded into weekender proportions – is a commercial hit, the debut of a menswear line as precisely executed as the womenswear.

Accomplished, luxurious and beautiful, it was a collection made with love – and it showed.