Lady Macbeth cuts a swathe across London fashion week

Formidable women influence proceedings at runway shows for Berardi, Erdem and Roksanda

The namedropping is pretty highbrow at London fashion week these days.

Lady Macbeth, Mark Rothko, John F Kennedy, Virginia Woolf and Eugene Delacroix were all referenced by designers before 11am on Monday morning, and Michael Nyman was there in person, playing the piano in a piece composed to accompany the Roksanda collection. Burberry are making Henry Moore the star attraction at their show later on in the day, with a catwalk that will double as the opening night of a sculpture exhibition.

This London fashion week is developing a distinctive look. It starts with a long, fluid skirt, a tight waist and a flourish at the cuff. The silhouette is elegant, but there is an element of grit in coarse, sensible tweeds, eiderdown quilting and thick velvet. A certain steely British femininity keeps coming up in backstage conversation, with the suffragettes, Tracey Emin and the Queen among the names being dropped.

And there is a common refrain among designers who speak of formidable women. For Antonio Berardi this was Lady Macbeth, the starting point for dramatic silhouettes in which dense fabrics were swathed about the shoulders and wrapped tight at the waist, with collars tipped high over the chin and skirts swirling at the knees, as if for an unimaginably glamorous walk in the Highlands.

Roksanda Ilinčić talked about how the influence of living in an extraordinary moment of history helped her crystallise her “warrior women” on the catwalk, whom she dressed in exquisite shades of carmine and rust she took from Rothko paintings she saw in the Royal Academy’s recent Abstract Expressionism exhibition.

Erdem imagined what the wardrobes of his great grandmothers – one from Turkey, near the Syrian border, the other of English and Scottish heritage – would have looked like together, merging Ottoman necklines with Victoriana bodices, and throwing in elements of Virginia Woolf for good measure, to dreamy effect.

“I like to imagine women’s stories,” he said backstage after the show. “I don’t have any photographs of my great grandmothers, so this is about their identities as I invent them, I suppose.”