It takes a few days to get a real feel for the mood of London Fashion Week but with shows by some of London’s new establishments – Antonio Berardi, Roksanda, Christopher Kane and Erdem as well as Burberry – there’s a feeling of consolidation and confidence. The creative edge was boosted by welcome newcomers to the London schedule, A.F. Vandevorst and Toogood.
Both Berardi and Roksanda looked back through their now considerable archives to rework some of their strongest signatures. For Berardi that was a biker jacket, an old design he felt has relevance again now. He made it in luxurious grey cashmere and the biker theme continued throughout his collection, mixed with a harder, slightly bondage look. And for Roksanda, there was the colour blocking she does so brilliantly, along with her favourite Pierrot silhouette – smocked and ruffled. Her capes and exquisite evening dresses made appearances in a rich palette of burnt orange, navy, burgundy and chocolate. Her brand is maturing nicely and the direct connection she now has with her customer at her Mount Street store shows. This season she launches a full-fledged range of bags too.
Erdem too played with collaged panels of decadent fabrics – lace, satin, embroidered wool, frayed dogtooth check, and devoré. He has a consistency that his customer in search of some grandeur in her wardrobe can rely on. Burberry meanwhile offers something more for day – some great check mohair coats, no-brainer parkas that could walk off the catwalk this week and be worn now, a shimmer of stardust and some great folky dresses with studded boots and very lust-worthy bags with belts as straps. The sporty menswear helped make the collection feel timely and grounded.
Covet-ability is what it’s all about. In this crowded market place where consumers will flit from one designer to the next with a flick of a finger on her Instagram feed, clothes really need to stand out and seduce. They have to make you fall in love with them. Christopher Kane has that knack – to make a grey marly chunky cardigan a must-have. How does he do that? He adds a shaggy cuff that will set you apart. He pins tiny swingy brooches to a red coat, and replaces this season’s fringing with the froth of feathers. He makes a string shopper a thing of fabulousness with the addition of a few bright crochet flowers.
What’s interesting this season in London is the polarity of the clothes for the woman who wants to look like a woman – sequins, tulle, lace, feathers – and the clothes for a more conceptual set. Joseph’s collection by Louise Trotter was for a woman who feels confident about wearing a jacket done up slightly wrong, a surrealist jumper with an abstract motif of a fork, a mustard jumper over a pair of baggy tartan trousers. The hand-knits were the stand out – for a woman who like her luxury on the quirky side.
A.F. Vandevorst are also conceptualists - they are from the Antwerp school after all. It seemed timely to show their collection in London. "We wanted to get out of our comfort zone," said Filip Arickx backstage after the show. "We started to think what is in a woman's closet? What are the basic items every woman should have? She is a bit schizophrenic because she wants to do so many things and she doesn’t know how she will manage all of this and so her clothes follow the same pattern and there are also things from her husband that come into her closet. So that’s why there is a mix of mens and womenswear, and her husband’s belts are wrapped around her head and she is wearing his jogging bottoms under her trousers."
London has our own home-grown conceptualists too. Toogood, the design studio run by sisters Faye and Erica, showed their collection of unisex outerwear on a mix of models and dancers who performed repetitive movements that mimicked the sisters’ movements on a trip mudlarking by the River Thames. There, they picked up bits of clay pipe and other detritus washed ashore by the river, which formed the basis of a collection of coats. A bit of stainless steel became a coat made from spun steel. Each of their finds was slip cast and made into an ornament to be hung from the coat it inspired. It was a brilliant presentation and – something increasingly hard to find – truly original.