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London Fashion Week (LFW) opened on 15 September with a show by Paul Costelloe, whose work with production company Congo Blue and the team at The Royal Horticultural Halls’ Lindley Hall resulted in a stunning presentation of his Spring/Summer 2024 collection. Access went backstage to meet the team behind the show.

For Irish-American fashion designer Paul Costelloe, who was appointed as the personal designer to Diana the Princess of Wales in 1983, it was his 38th year of catwalk shows for LFW. With the seasoned and celebrated operator’s collection influenced by his childhood summers in Ireland and the romance of the film The Garden of the Finzi Continis – much of which is shot in and around a garden tennis court setting – Costelloe says he chose the Lindley Hall as it reflects the mood of the collection with its airy interior, natural daylight and large green space outside.

Since it was opened by King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, with Princess Victoria in attendance, back in 1904, the Lindley Hall has hosted a remarkable array of events and clients ranging from suffragette meetings to speeches by world leaders such as Barack Obama. Along the way it has also become a regular home to activities including TV show shoots, product launches, music video production work and concerts by the likes of the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

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Speaking backstage at the venue following his LFW show, Costelloe said, “With the garden next door to here in Vincent Square, and the glass roof enabling the room to be flooded with natural light, this venue is very appropriate; it’s an absolutely wonderful setting. I love the size, and sense of space and air – the environment is kind to the clothing, it helps the clothing to be seen in the right atmosphere.”

Among the key suppliers working to bring Costelloe’s ideas to life in the hall was D&B Solutions and its SFL and Congo Blue divisions. The company was responsible for providing the staging, lighting, carpet, PA system and the backdrop installation.

Congo Blue has been working with Paul Costelloe’s team for the past five years. Its account manager Matt Edwards says the challenge with this year’s LFW show was delivering a subtle, pared back presentation with lighting and set designed to enhance natural light from the venue’s glass arched roof.

“We have pre-production meetings with Paul and his team to discuss the feel of the shows and, having worked with them for several years now, we have a good understanding of how they like their shows to be,” says Edwards. “We almost have an instinctive feel for what they want. For this year’s show, subtlety was the watchword. We worked to accentuate the daylight and create a natural feel to the space. It worked very nicely with the playful garden theme.”

Among the key elements of the production was the use of LED panels to provide the desired balance of artificial and natural light, while the scenic backdrop support was constructed using the beMatrix aluminium framing system, which Edwards says his company uses very regularly for large format prints and backdrops: “It goes together really easily. We’ve developed a system that allows us to use it for wrap and staple graphics. It means we can get the graphic up, over and round the side of the panels so you don’t get any nasty edges, it adds that premium feel.”

The most striking feature of the 36m x 22m hall is its glass curved ceiling, which is 14.7m at the highest point, and is supported by metal beams that can each carry three tonnes of rigging.

As an example of the 700-capacity venue’s flexibility, RHS venues sales executive Diane Worcester says that textile designer Richard Quinn created a very different feel in the room for his 2023 Spring/Summer collection show that was recreated at the last minute to respect HM Queen Elizabeth II’s passing. As a result, the screening system was engaged to block out the natural light, and black drapes encased the boxed runway.

“If you look at photos from that show, there is no indication that it took pace in the same venue as Paul Costelloe’s,” says Worcester. “Paul’s was a beautiful traditional runway show but we’ve had so many fashion shows in the past where they’ve done a complete build and changed the entire layout. We have even had stages through which models come up from under where the audience is sitting. There is an enormous amount of flexibility in the venue.”

For Costelloe it was his first show at Lindley Hall but he said he is determined to return at the first opportunity: “The venue team have been lovely to work with, they have made it very easy, everything’s been wonderful. I am now looking forward to showing my Autumn collection here, which I think will be even more amazing.”

Suppliers

Staging, lighting, backdrop installation, carpet, PA system/sound – Congo Blue, a d&b solutions company

Crewing – Crewsaders

Benches – Show Bench

Backdrop design – In house by Costelloe team

Show design, layout and flow – Jordi Vall Saborit

Security – Pace Prestige Services