Two extraordinary things happened on Tuesday 20 February 2018. The first was that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II turned up to London Fashion Week and sat, upon a velvet cushion, next to Anna Wintour. The second was Richard Quinn’s collection for FW18 – an earth-shattering rave of acid florals, retina-searing prints and Daft Punk-esque motorcycle helmets, licked with the same high-voltage motifs that ran throughout. Those of us who were lucky enough to bear witness, knew instantly that this was a night to remember.

So, as the dust begins to settle, we speak to Richard himself – the man who knows how to put on a show…

You create a world around each of your collections that becomes incredibly immersive; there’s a theatre to them that is often lacking from contemporary fashion. Is this something that you’ve been trying to revive?
Definitely! It’s all about showing a world that the clothes can sit in – creating some sort of mood and atmosphere. Personally, I find it more exciting. I try to make things have impact and a statement, rather than just producing clothes for the sake of it or because you want to sell them. Sure, you can do all of that in your commercial range – and that’s fine – but I think it’s way more exciting to actually be anticipating a show, on the edge of your seat and waiting to see what’s going to come. 

It’s something you’ve championed right from the word "go". 
If you have a strong point of view, believe in it and just go with it! Rather than producing a random unidentifiable collection, I think you have to really hone in on what makes you different from everyone else and ramp it up.

Richard Quinn FW18, London Fashion Week; shot on Instax Wide 300.

On that subject of what makes you different, a lot of people have – rightly so – been pretty outraged by the Diet Prada insinuations. How does something like that affect you, if at all?
I really couldn’t care less to be honest. It must be easy to sit behind an Instagram account and troll people; I would rather make stuff and actually have things to show for it. It’s kind of telling that people in the fashion industry have rushed to defend it straight away – not that I’ve asked for that! It’s also really weird that I’m being compared to someone who openly copies Margiela. Everything comes from somewhere.

That’s definitely the right attitude to have. Plus, the whole ethos of helping people out rather than tearing them down is basically the mandate of your entire brand and studio.
Yeah, the whole point of setting up the studio was to help other people, especially young designers in London. I needed a space where I could create my own collections and not rely on anyone – but, within that is the opportunity to offer affordable access, affordable production and affordable samples to other designers. We are developing techniques as well as helping them. It’s a good business to help fund those in-between bits of collections as well.

You are from London originally aren’t you?
South East London – I was born in Lewisham, and grew up in Eltham.

So, bringing that production back to London, and the manufacture and creative process – was that important to you?
Definitely! When people get textiles made for production, I’ve heard horror stories from some who have spent so much time going to Italy and liaising with all of these companies, then when it turns up it’s wrong or late. Here, you can literally just come to us and say what you want, and we produce it within a few days – or even the same day! Charles Jeffrey for example does all of his production here rather than having to send it away. We do a mix of both screen print and digital… Pretty much everything, really. Any technique that you can think of textile-wise, I’m sure we can do it.

Richard Quinn FW18, London Fashion Week; shot on Instax Wide 300.

Do those techniques differ depending on the material you use? For example, your foil creations for FW18 – the pieces that actually made a noise as they moved – does the process change that much in terms of, say, printing on foil compared to printing on a Lycra or thereabouts?
It’s just trial and error. The foil process was something I learnt during my MA. We tested it out in different temperatures to get it as bright as possible. I think it’s just refining the technique and the equipment – it’s something that you couldn’t really do elsewhere without it being super expensive.

On the topic of pricing, you’ve collaborated with H&M before, and we know you’ve got something in the pipeline with Debenhams. How do you go about creating a collection that doesn’t compromise your aesthetic or construction’s integrity, but that has a more accessible cost? 
In order to be a worldwide brand, everyone has to know who you are! Debenhams has got such a far reach and audience; doing the H&M collection was really enjoyable, because I realised that so much is possible, and that there are so many techniques that can be done on mass production that you couldn’t do before. You just have to be smart about it… And why not? If the dresses that I make are on Matches for £3000, why not also go for a high-street option that someone could buy for £50? It’s a different audience!

Does that affect the aesthetic? Do you design with a specific woman in mind?
It's more about creating a world, and the clothes come from that. If people watch the show that was in Liberty, they perhaps might not want to buy it – but when you see it pared down for more commercial projects, people can then respond to it. It’s quite nice, because it allows you to create this atmosphere, as well as creating a product that people actually want to buy. If you told me a few years ago that I’d be doing it, I wouldn’t have believed you – but I enjoy working with other people in different teams and seeing how things are made, and I would just be silly not to do it really.  

Normally, before a runway, you’ll find a press release on all the seats – whereas, at your show, there was a Thank You letter from you.
I find it weird when you go to a show and are met with, "this is what I’m thinking; this is what you need to think". I haven’t done it all on my own. I’ve got an amazing team and I work with really great people. My parents have supported me for so long, including right through Central Saint Martins, so it felt appropriate at this point to do that. I do it every season!

We have to talk about what eventually happened… Obviously, it was a huge surprise to about 97% of the people in the audience. When did you learn about it?
Officially, I found out that something was going to happen around five weeks ago, but I only recently discovered who was going to be presenting it… It’s one of those things that seems so unreal when you’re told it! Until I actually saw her there, I didn’t actually believe it was happening.

The Queen Elizabeth II award stands for, not only being an amazing designer aesthetically, but also having this ethical drive to what you do and produce. Do you think that’s the responsibility of a designer nowadays? In this day and age, do you think brands can get away with not being ethical? 
I don’t think you can and I don’t think you should be able to get away with it. There should be more thinking about how to produce something in a smart way; brands, like Gucci, not using fur is a step in the right direction. 

Presumably it’s something that you’re going to keep pushing for?
I know I will. I was given the Stella McCartney Foundation scholarship for my MA, and I realised that, in making clothes, you can have a lot of waste. You need to be aware of that and do it in a really smart way.

Richard Quinn FW18, London Fashion Week; shot on Instax Wide 300.

That’s been a common thread through all of your collections – and there’s definitely this unmistakeable identity to a Richard Quinn show. Did your thinking differ in this one, compared to the last?
I’ve technically only done four collections including the one after graduation and this. This, to me, was more like a combination of all the things that I’ve done before – a kind of last hurrah before moving forwards! For example, I won’t be doing the covered faces anymore. It was a nice thing to celebrate the work up to here, and have elements of everything while still pushing it forwards, which is where the motorbike helmets came in. However, it’s also to show what we can actually do in our studio. We wrapped all of those ourselves! That’s the good thing about it – it’s like a double advertisement. You can do your womenswear, and an audience can see what we can do with print at the same time.

So, if this collection was like a swansong to an era, do you have any idea yet of what the next stage in your evolution will be?
No idea! But I think that’s kind of exciting. If I did, then it would be rather boring. I need to think about what is the best route from here. It will always be a real show; I will still be bold in my aesthetic, but we will move it forwards more I think…

After everything that’s happened, have you come back to earth yet?
I’m currently in my studio, and have the entire collection sprawled across the table… I’m definitely back to earth now!

Put on a show! Shop Richard Quinn here: