Girls gone bad: How feisty females are inspiring designers
London Fashion Week hasn't lost its rebel spirit – Pixie Geldof, Pamela Anderson and Linda Blair were the feisty females inspiring designers, writes Susannah Frankel
Monday 02 March 2009
Bad girls. Pixie Geldof is on the cover of the March issue of Italian Vogue. "So young, so cool," gushes the heavyweight glossy, to a suitably moody portrait by the photographer Steven Meisel.
At last week's London collections, Ms Geldof made an appearance on Luella Bartley's runway. Her friend, Daisy Lowe, who also features in the aforementioned magazine, modelled in Vivienne Westwood's Red Label show. So too did Jo Wood, striding down the catwalk in corseted power-tailoring, playing the not-to-be-messed-with headmistress to a gaggle of what looked like precocious schoolgirls, albeit exceptionally tall and thin. Looking on, front row, was Siouxsie Sioux, a formidable fashion icon if ever there was one. She showed up again at her friend Pam Hogg's comeback show – yes, Pam Hogg, the patron saint of the skin-tight Lycra catsuit, another phenomenally feisty female. It appears that a new, rather more confrontational fashion heroine is the order of the day.
Westwood's Red Label is the more accessibly priced alternative to the main Gold Label that will be shown in Paris the week after next. This was always going to be a saucy affair – Pamela Anderson is the new face of the line and she's no shrinking violet. Curvy tartans and tweeds, skinny minis and nipped-waist jackets, and draped jersey dresses – nobody in the industry does them finer – were all present and correct, this time complemented by striped blazers and skirts, St Trinian's-style. The flame-haired queen of punk looked as extraordinary as ever when she took her bows. Still bad after all these years? But of course.
Luella Bartley's brand of girlish cheek is indebted to Westwood both in its fascination for all things traditionally British and its thoroughly mischievous charm. An aggressive, utilitarian, punk-influenced aesthetic fused soldier boys with prom princesses and the type of look that might encourage a well-heeled young miss to steal her father's hacking jacket and turn it into a pencil skirt with gleaming zips running down the front. How could she!
The Exorcist's devil child Linda Blair is arguably the queen of all bad girls; to a soundtrack spliced with music from that film and other horror classics such as Psycho, Ann-Sofie Back's models came out with their faces painted zombie-pale, their lips lined with black and wearing quite the most eerie contact lenses: ice blue, with pupils dilated to the point of no return. Clothes were spliced, slashed, stitched Frankenstein-monster-style, and adorned with voodoo feathers that dangled menacingly from hemlines and Freddy Krueger hats. It all looked brilliantly bolshy, from oversized jackets that appeared to have chunks ripped out of them by a satanic hound's jaws, to layered jersey dresses covered in cobwebs and tiered fallen-angel skirts in dodgy white lace. There was even a jumper that read BOO!
From the profane to the sacred: Todd Lynn's show featured the razor-sharp tailoring for which he is known, this time all in black or white. Neat, high-shouldered jackets and narrow trousers nodded discreetly to an Edwardian line. The look was covered to the point of austere and embellished with only jet rosary beads.
If Todd Lynn is the place where any woman worth her bad-girl credentials will shop for tailoring next season, she would do well to buy her cocktail dresses from Marios Schwab. This designer returned to the form-fitting silhouette with which he made his name, producing ultra-chic cocktail wear that either explored the structure of the body (a larger dress that stood away from the body was layered over one that fitted like a second skin) or the minerals of the earth (dresses split open to reveal glittering jewels or printed with cracked crystal in the colours of refracted light).
Louise Goldin's collection also demonstrated more than a passing interest in anatomy. Micro-mini panelled dresses overlaid with black leather harnessing, capelets and arm and knee pads, as well as equally unforgiving catsuits, were resolutely tough and executed to a high standard that is rare.
Who knows how many hours Christopher Kane toiled to ensure his collection was quite so perfectly formed. The designer said that he had been inspired by drawing on paper; it was small wonder, therefore, that the serenely beautiful models in his delicate dresses looked as though they'd scribbled all over their own clothes. They'd done so beautifully. Layers of white organza were appliquéd with black ribbon that appeared to trace the outline of the body – it was as if any boning was on the surface, as opposed to the underside, of a garment – and finish in a squiggle at a bouncing hem. Others were covered in stripes of gorgeously coloured velvet: bronze, lavender, emerald, ruby. If the idea was simple, its realisation became increasingly complex. Each piece was a development of the one before, and the whole was delivered with a rigour and sophistication that belies the fact that this designer is still only 26.
It is lucky for London that Giles Deacon continues to show here. His was the largest and most ambitious collection of the week. Anyone who knows the designer's work would have been quick to identify this as a look at past glories – everything from giant knits to the studded leather circle skirts that appeared in his 1992 Central Saint Martins degree collection. Deacon said backstage that he wanted to recapture "the spirit of why I started out in fashion in the first place – to go back to having fun in the studio, but hopefully, with experience, to do things better". The workmanship that went into each piece – rows of gleaming safety pins lined up by hand at a waistline, fly-fish pinned to a fly-fish print dress, clusters of crystal on a felted wool skirt – was unprecedented. True to the mood of the season, detail only served to emphasise the toughness of the end result. Even the final ballgown came in no more girlish a colour than grey, and was studded with sharp metal spikes.
Elsewhere in London, Mark Fast's hand-crafted, barely-there pieces established his as a name to watch, and the aforementioned Ms Hogg gave the world more shimmering, skin-tight Spandex than has been seen since the glory days of Hyper Hyper. Fierce.
Front-row notebook: Back to the Eighties
The Eighties are back – specifically, the late Eighties and early Nineties. Cyberpunks and ravers ruled the runways, from Topshop Unique to Pam Hogg.
Shoulder-pads. Given the aforementioned revival, these appeared at House of Holland, Richard Nicoll, Betty Jackson... the list goes on.
Velvet. At Christopher Kane, velvet ribbon came in rich colours reminiscent of Romeo Gigli's palette in his heyday. At Betty Jackson, it looked good in gold. Marios Schwab crafted signature form-fitting dresses in velvet. Even the students at Central Saint Martins appear to believe that this is the fabric de jour.
Sparkle. Lurex, Spandex, crystal and jet. Everything twinkled on the catwalks, from thick, ribbed socks and leggings to jewelled cocktail dresses and épaulettes.
Black. Ladies, it's not going away. Head to toe at Louise Goldin, Todd Lynn, Marios Schwab...
Extreme silhouettes. Clothes were either oversized or so tightly fitted that they'd induce considerable anxiety in all but the most supremely confident. There's no middle road right now. Chubbies and/or catsuits. Mohair dirndls or latex leggings. There's nothing in between.
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