London Fashion Week Fashion Review: A Fine Intermission

September 22, 2011 § 1 Comment

In my years following fashion, London Fashion Week has always come across as an intermission between Milan and New York. Sure, there are a few designers anchoring the week’s shows, forcing editors to pay it some attention, but overall the fashion world seems to gloss over it, resting their eyes and keyboards until they see something spicier elsewhere.

The latest London shows, at least the ones that released images to the public (Tom Ford did not), did nothing to change this scenario. There were a lot of pleasant collections with nice clothes, but nothing really stood out as revolutionary or even particularly trend-setting. We saw a wash of ethereal pastels at Jonathan Saunders, Meadham Kirchhoff, and House of Holland, and some wicked 60s-inspired hair at Mulberry that transformed the models into Femme Bots. But for me, there were a few other collections that I think deserve more attention.

Looks from Matthew Williamson

I was expecting to see a parade of short, tight party dresses on Matthew Williamson’s runway. (To be honest, he had only existed in my mind as Lindsay Lohan’s pal from an episode of “The Rachel Zoe Project.”) I was pleasantly surprised, then, to see that Williamson had a lot more to offer than high-end club wear. He didn’t reinvent the wheel with his latest collection – it was a pretty standard offering – but he nonetheless produced a lot of pretty looks that would look great on a lot of women. His floral dresses were nice, particularly the opening number in fiery orange that had a slit sliced right up the front. Some delicate cherry blossom prints came later, most notably on a charming shirt-shorts combo.

Despite the hits, there were a number of misses, including just about everything decorated with thick, shaggy fringe. On one gown, the fringe was placed at the hips to reference the now-ubiquitous peplum, but somehow it managed to transform the model into some sort of deep sea creature, calling to mind dead coral or achromatic seaweed swaying in the water. It didn’t help that the dress was completely shapeless. I mean, I know models are supposed to be skinny, but Zac Posen showed us last week that the right construction can give curves to even the most angular body.

Pringle of Scotland

Ex-Balenciaga designer Alistair Carr put out an impressive debut collection for Pringle of Scotland, showing us a controlled, understated show that played with geometric print and draping. The first few looks featured multicolored layers of thick, interlocking lines that brought to mind enlarged threads of a shirt or the covers of 80s math textbooks. It had a retro air to it, but the way the shirt was sewn together as a series of carefully placed panels brought it an undoubtedly contemporary feel. The cable knit prints also stood out, especially a black and white ombre version on a 3/4 length cardigan. It was tongue-in-cheek, referencing the brand’s sometimes stale, conservative reputation but turning it on its head by introducing a digital flair.

My favorite piece from the show was Carr’s take on the little black dress. From the front it looked like three trapezoidal panels floating in space, the edges delineated by thick white lines. The dress sung in its minimalism, and it somehow managed to layer fabric while maintaining a distinct lightness.

Looks from Burberry

For the latest Burberry show, designer Christopher Bailey continued his African artisan theme from the menswear shows last June, decking out his girls in raffia golf hats, anoraks with crocheted collars, and below-the-knee skirts in vivid prints reminiscent of cartoon candy. The prolongation of the same theme from months ago seemed a bit lackluster in our hyper-speed fashion world. There was no suspense once the show started; the anticipation of discovering Bailey’s vision quickly deflating after the first couple of looks.

That said, there were a number of interesting, hip items in this show that I’m sure will strike editorial and commercial gold as spring rolls around next year. We saw more skirts with gathered fabric at the front that I first raved about from Marc Jacobs last weekend. While the skirts recalled crumpled paper bags at Jacobs, here they brought to mind the animated paintings of Roy Lichenstein or artistic renderings of rope. I also loved all of the tight, high-waisted skirts done in various iterations of stripes: two-toned, textured, earthy. They gave the models a nice, sexy shape, but their sober prints maintained an artisanal personality.

London Fashion Week is in dire need of a kick. Perhaps Alexander McQueen should show it some love too; designer Sarah Burton’s vision would be an undoubted boon to the Fashion Week scene and offer it some much needed-buzz. Kudos to Burberry and Tom Ford for holding down the fort and at least forcing editors to stop by and say “hello.”

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