Fashion Week: London leads the way

What exactly makes the design talent of the capital so appealing? Perhaps it is the diversity of this city that ensures there is something for everyone and everything for someone, suggests Alexander Fury, as he rounds up the best in show from London fashion week

What does London Fashion really mean? If you sum up New York as glossy and blown-out, Milan as sexy and full-bodied and Paris as chic, sleek and high maintenance… well, you could be describing hairdos.

But London doesn’t fit one of those easy descriptions. Neither do those cities, in all honesty. However, our capital’s clobber is the hardest of all to nail down into a pithy sound bite, because its designers defy definition. It’s rare that London speaks with a single voice: and the sheer variety of London fashion is it’s greatest strength.

Take this autumn/winter season. In fact, take the 24 hours from Sunday through to Monday last week, when we saw three of the strongest collections of the week, from Mary Katrantzou, Christopher Kane and Tom Ford. Their aesthetics oscillated from Katrantzou’s lacy, embellished-to-the-hilt gowns and intricate intarsia knits, through Kane’s meshing of mohair, fur and slippery nylon, to Ford’s big, brazen Texan couture numbers, all quarterback shoulders and needle-heeled cowboy boots with his initials picked out in diamante on the ankle.

All of those collections could, in truth, be shown anywhere in the world. Kane’s new commercial gloss could have pepped up a staid New York Fashion Week, Katrantzou’s work would have shone even on the crowded Paris schedule, and Ford’s frocks would have gone down a treat in Milan. But that mix? That mix is only found here, among the fashion we classify as British. That’s an odd turn of phrase, but London fashion is a global enterprise. That globalism is not only reflected in the exporting of designers’ clothing. The British Fashion Council is the opposite of Ukip: half the talent shoring up the London schedule didn’t grow up here. Ford is American, Katrantzou Greek, you also have Canadians (Erdem Moralioglu, Thomas Tait, Mark Fast), Italian (Antonio Berardi, one half of the Peter Pilotto duo), Portuguese (Marques’Almeida) and, of course, a batch of home-grown English, Irish and Scottish names. And Welsh, courtesy of ex-Strictly Come Dancing hoofer Julien MacDonald.

 

It’s satisfyingly tricksy to talk about emerging trends or feelings or focus when you’re looking at London fashion. This time around, there was lots of black – Kane, Ford and Erdem all focused their collections around it. There was plenty at Peter Pilotto, too, hitherto designers known for using any colour bar the inky stuff. It gave their mother-of-pearl embroideries a striking luminosity, as did its juxtaposition against multi-hued, multi-patterned, multi-textured knitwear, a riotous interlude based around surfing and snowboarding that stole all the attention. It felt new and fresh and exciting for this print duo, fresh recipients of the BFC/Vogue Fashion Fund.

There was also, apparently, an urge to dress up again. Simone Rocha paraded gold embroidered laces and prom dresses  cross-hatched with cages of mohair in cardinal red, even banding her playful ruffled day-coats with Elizabethan-style embroidery. There was a new sumptuosity to her offering, which seems to get stronger and more mature every time you look at it. Marques’Almeida referenced the late-Nineties shows of John Galliano and Dolce & Gabbana, bias-cut satins, panné velvet and swathes of multicoloured sheepskin combined with their already-signature frayed denim. It had a strange-but-compelling beauty. Beauty in strangeness has sort of become J W Anderson’s hallmark, and he too gussied up his signature conceptualism for winter, allowing bias-cut trains to sweep grandly across the floor, slicing jackets wide at the neck and slipping them off the shoulder to expose a hint of clavicle. There was a sense of ceremony – but it was more 18th-century lever or coucher than Bafta or Oscar. There was also a sense of JW Anderson expanding his remit, and pushing himself into uncharted territory.

Models present creations from designer Mary Katrantzou Models present creations from designer Mary Katrantzou (AFP/Getty Images)
Maybe that’s the overall trend of London Fashion Week, and indeed the overarching characteristic of London fashion as a whole. Uncharted territory, bravely going where few designers have gone before. Case in point: Meadham Kirchhoff. Would you ever think the agitated, agitating agit-prop princes of London fashion could produce a perfume? Especially one titled Tralala that smells like a Thirties boudoir staple? There was something of the old-school loveliness about their show also, all driving lace-edged georgettes and chiffons and soft tweed suits knotted up with bows. Gentle is the word, especially when contrasted with the violence and darkness that sometimes infuses their visions with a frisson of menace. There seemed a calmness to this offering, a willingness to simply indulge in the decadence of beauty for beauty’s sake.

Models present creations from designer Simone Rocha Models present creations from designer Simone Rocha (AFP/Getty Images)
That is something London isn’t so good at – the kind of sheer aesthetic indulgence other capitals seem so willing to wallow in. British designers seem bent on stitching something more into their clothes than interlining and sequins. Even the perfect polish of Tom Ford had something more interesting behind it this time, a heartfelt homage to the US from an enamoured expat. American football jerseys as sequinned evening dresses referenced back to a famous Geoffrey Beene Sixties number, an icon of mid-century American fashion. At least, for the fashion literate it did. For everyone else, it was a hearty slice of Americana, like those semi-Santa Fe ponchos, the stiletto rodeo boots in pale-blue crocodile, and the riff-referencing on Ford’s own greatest Gucci hits of the late Nineties, new classics of American fashion design.

The most important thing at Ford wasn’t the clothes themselves, but what was inside them. I’m not talking Stella Tennant, Karen Elson nor Liberty Ross – although all made  welcome reappearances. This Tom Ford show, like the rest of London’s best, resounded with soul. And, if you think about it, that is ultimately the real trademark of London: fashion with meaning.

Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

    £26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

    Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

    £24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

    Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

    £22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence