The main story of the first London Fashion Week of 2024 was that of a comeback. The return of Dunhill to the schedule, and to catwalk shows, was a standout as soon as the lineup was announced just a few weeks ago, and the spectacular event the brand produced did not disappoint.

The National Portrait Gallery – itself a London icon enjoying a new lease of life – was the venue chosen by new creative director Simon Holloway to display his first collection for the house, with an entire wing set up as a gentlemen’s salon around which models could parade while distinguished guests lounged and observed. All very elegant, and befitting Dunhill’s long history of English luxury.

Mr. Holloway himself arrived at Dunhill recently, having transferred after a brief stint at the helm of its Richemont stable-mate Purdey.

His first port of call to revive the brand was its extensive archive, seeking to return to the style and elegance which made Dunhill’s name in the first place.

The result is a collection which harks loudly back to the classic elegance of years gone by, but with a modernity to the cloth and shapes of the tailoring which make the whole collection beautifully contemporary.

Dunhill LFW AW24
Dunhill LFW AW24

Classic double-breasted three-piece suits in silver-grey sharkskin wool and traditional dark grey cashmere flannels opened proceedings, strongly signalling that this would be a collection of understated, considered and very English looks. Long, belted coats – many paired with hats – brought an updated sense of the rumpled cool of the 1950s movie star; rugby shirts worn with luxurious corduroy trousers offered something for the weekend.

The end of the show was, perhaps fittingly, a celebration of eveningwear, with traditional black-tie outfits given a more relaxed fit and presented in soft, sumptuous cashmere and velvet. Playful use of colour in the jackets and shirts, and one look in all ivory which really made a statement, ensured the portion of the show dedicated to arguably the most stringent of dress codes remained adventurous and relevant.

Holloway explained in his show notes that his aim was to re-capture the spirit of Dunhill as a brand for the man who enjoys the finer things in life. His first collection has done exactly that, and we should already look forward to what he has planned next.

After the week began with a reserved evening in a gallery, it finished with a gigantic party in a park.

For the third season in a row Daniel Lee opted to take over one of London’s outside spaces to display the latest stage of his own mission to return an English heritage brand to its roots as Burberry closed out the week with another extravagant display of ‘Britishness’.

Some of the tailoring on display was as big as the names in attendance – Joanna Lumley, Skepta, Bukayo Saka in the front row, and Naomi Campbell on the catwalk – but the real stars were the coats.

Burberry LFW AW24
Burberry LFW AW24

The soul of Burberry is that of an outdoors brand – hence the tents – so coats should be what it does best, and better than most of its competitors: AW24 does not fall short. The drama and flamboyance of the pieces displayed here are nothing short of magnificent, with epic collars and gargantuan embellishments all around.

The overarching impression of the entire collection was that these pieces will keep you extremely warm in some pretty harsh conditions – exactly what they should do, and adding excellent function to impressive aesthetic.

“The collection itself is inspired by British and Irish wool and fabric, centred around protection and warmth,” Lee explained. “Burberry trenches are designed with texture in mind. Coats are at the core, shoes and bags are functional. These pieces are made for the outdoors.”

The trademarks of the house, its famous Burberry Check and Equestrian Knight, were represented in jewellery, on the flags adoring no fewer than eight turrets to the tent, and in a particularly warming blend of reds, browns and golds on a car coat.

As the biggest name in British luxury, and therefore the biggest name on the LFW list each season, a responsibility falls to Burberry to deliver the most spectacular show each time round. As it has done each time since the arrival of Mr Lee, it delivered.

Elsewhere, womenswear brand Rue Agthonis continued its steady progress into the zeitgeist of women’s fashion with another collection of fun, expressive party outfits. For the past few seasons its collections have been the hidden gems of London Fashion Week; eminently wearable (contrasted against the avant garde offerings of many of its peers) and imbued with a sense of joy in dressing for an occasion.

Nick Hart model

There was also a sneak peek at Nick Hart, an eponymous line launched by the founder of rock-star tailoring brand Spencer Hart. A quiet little studio on Soho Square was home for the day to flowing, expansive garments with a distinct Mod feel to them. One to watch when the collection drops.