London calling: The best autumn collections

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

The best autumn collections upheld a woman who is loud, proud and dangerous, says Susannah Frankel. She's a sight for sore eyes

Ugly. It's not the most obvious buzzword but London's finest collections upheld an unconventional – if not plain confrontational – take on female beauty across the board. Spring's sugary colours were replaced by dowdy hues.

Khaki, oxblood, grey and, of course, black were accented with flashes of virulent green, yellow, purple and tomato. And there were more off-shades too, most prominently mustard and poison green. Move over also the bourgeois silhouette that has dominated the catwalk for so long has gone in favour of severe, boxy lines that either stand away from the body with aggressively sharp edges, or drown it entirely.

Christopher Kane himself described the moiré featured in his show as "disgusting" and the overall look as "a bit sick". This smelt of Teen Spirit, from models' lanky, centre-parted hair to their pallid complexions and heavy black-leather ankle boots and Mary Jane shoes. Here ribbon trim was replaced by more black leather, padded and tied into stiff bows. The silhouette was narrow but never tight throughout – nasty more than nice. Kane said he was inspired by Joseph Szabo's portraits of the ambivalence of adolescence and young girls in clubs "hanging around smoking". The look was as tough as it was accomplished and challenging, too, which after the sweetness of the designer's summer collection, was good to see.

JW Anderson's woman was no shrinking violet either. At times the clothing she walked in was so stiff she appeared barely able to bend her knees – not that that stopped her. Vinyl trouser suits – part space age, part surgical greens – were juxtaposed with tufted tartans and quilted skirts and jackets that, rather cleverly, were styled with un-quilted copies underneath, just in case our heroine is self-conscious enough to worry about her girth although clearly the message is: why should she be? The influence of the early work of both Comme des Garçons and Yohji Yamamoto was at play here: Anderson's not the only fêted designer to look to that just now and it's a smart move.

Way back when, these designers questioned the need for flagrant status dressing and to do so once again seems more than justified. Who wants another little black, beaded cocktail dress or a logo-heavy handbag? Only emphasising the fact that this was a collection for women who dress for themselves as opposed to any would-be admirer, bodies were enveloped entirely: one could only guess at the form within.

If ever proof were needed that heavy, almost industrial fabrics, have ousted gentle chiffon and lace it came in the form of Acne's show. Oversized dungarees suspended from huge, elasticised straps and worn over Puffa jackets, quilted sweaters tucked into wide-legged, high-waisted trousers, a violent lime fleece worn over more inflexible vinyl, scratchy wool corsets fitted over bulky sweaters and jackets and quite the most ungainly footwear imaginable made for a collection that was as fashionable in its utilitarian viewpoint as it was witty.

Sarah Burton's catwalk debut for McQ was, similarly, crafted in humble fabrics and boasted a strong-shouldered, waisted silhouette – this time achieved with wide, leather chain-belts. There was nothing much delicate about any signature embroideries: they were quite as robust as the clothes. McQueen being McQueen the finale was a big one: "a never-ending forest" was home to a disco/absinthe shack presided over by the fiercest supermodel of them all, Kristen McMenamy, and conceived by theatre company Punchdrunk.

Given that poking fun at the fashion establishment appears to be the order of the day, it should come as no great surprise that punk was a prevalent reference for more than a few designers. Kinder Aggugini's show (Appropriation: "the action of taking something for one's own use, typically without its owner's permission" read the show notes) featured prints that morphed the work of the Chapman Brothers, pictures of cowboys on 18th-century wallpaper, children's TV icons and Delft porcelain and scattered them across kilts, boxy jackets, men's shirts and more. It looked like a messed up take on Hermès. "The work of celebrated artists and artisans, represented as my own," the designer stated further. "There is no collaboration, just pure theft."

A similarly anarchic vocabulary was central to Louise Gray's finest show to date, from the models' sky-high Mohicans and millinery courtesy of Nasir Mazhar to the fact that more than a few garments looked like vintage clothing torn apart at the seams and put back together again. Except, of course, that it was all made from scratch and few of us have such technical expertise. What looked like ribbon appliquéd on to clothes, for example, was in fact woven into jacquard.

Jonathan Saunders' collection was reminiscent of Prada at its most studiously dowdy somewhere between the mid- and late-1990s. The slightly wrong colours, the colliding geometric (Formica?) prints, the A-line silhouette and more all spoke of that moment that was as prim as it was marginally improper: imagine a librarian on the edge, perhaps, and you get the picture. Saunders' work is becoming increasingly polished and this was all put together to perfection. It will no doubt sell to women of style the world over but, make no mistake, just beneath the ultra-stiff, starch there lurks a woman possessed.

There's no mistaking Meadham Kirchhoff's woman who looks as mad and bad as a hatter and is in no way trying to hide it. The designers said that this show represented their take on glam rock and it was a riot from start to finish. Neon yellow and SOS orange wigs, sparkly pink and blue painted ears, tinsel chubbies, rainbow-coloured sequinned trouser suits, metallic leopard-print knickers and more came together to form a picture of a woman who shouts her individuality from the rooftops. A crazed total look belied the commercial value of signature, small but perfectly formed knits and equally accomplished, hand-finished tailoring that regularly cater to more restrained followers of this increasingly accomplished name.

Peter Jensen's idiosyncratic muse this season was Thelma Speirs, half of Eighties-born millinery label, Bernstock Speirs, and a DJ in her spare time. As an homage to the woman in question all models wore grey wigs, just like Thelma's own hair, and the silhouette was, for the most part distinctively tomboy-ish, something that Jensen is more than a little familiar with, not to mention adept at realising. Preppy plaids, crisp shirt collars, brightly coloured ankle socks and flat, pointed masculine shoes all came together in suitably eccentric style, only added to by the odd pair of rabbit ears balanced atop the aforementioned do (rabbits are Jensen's signature) and flocked red and black headphones.

Giles Deacon described his show as "the further adventures of the disco Jacobean fairy tale... If it was winter and your country house set on fire what would you rescue: things with sentimental value or some nice clothes?". The latter was saved of course and it was here that London Fashion Week's resident ugly duckling transformed into a swan. Scorch prints and embroideries embellished this princess's fire-ravaged clothes. Tailoring was strict to the point of ecclesiastic, jacquards were woven with heraldic and religious iconography, empire- line gowns spoke of innocence more than experience, starched, buttoned-up white collars of repressed sexuality and, yes, there was a whiff of the mad woman in the attic, too. This was a heartfelt collection of beautiful clothes, finished to couture standards and destined for big-entrance dressing over and above an everyday wardrobe. There was nothing red-carpet clichéd about it, however. Any Oscar hopeful wishing to stand out in a crowd would do well to look here.

Finally, to Sibling, and the loudest, proudest and most dangerous take on a jumper it is possible to imagine. Shapes were scaled up, colour was hard as nails. Oh, and models sported Mickey Mouse pom-pom ears and sparkling balaclavas with nothing as user-friendly as a space for eyes, nose and mouth to be seen. Leigh Bowery would have loved this look that was moody if not plain angry, and uproariously comedic too. So what if it might frighten the horses? In the immortal words of John Lydon: "We don't care."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>
filmRobert Downey Jr named Hollywood's highest paid actor for second year running
Life and Style
Dale Bolinger arranged to meet the girl via a fetish website
life
Property
Sign here, please: Magna Carta Island
propertyYours for a cool £4m
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

    Sustainability Manager

    Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

    Graduate Sustainability Professional

    Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

    Business Project Manager

    £350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Project Manager job vaca...

    Business Analyst (Agile, SDLC, software)

    £45000 - £50000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

    Day In a Page

    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
    Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

    Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

    Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
    Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

    Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

    They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
    The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

    20 best days out for the summer holidays

    From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
    Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

    All the wood’s a stage

    Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
    Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

    Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

    Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
    Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

    Self-preservation society

    Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
    Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

    Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

    We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor