Fifties nostalgia, skirted ska-punk and the latest club-kid designer looks were on show at an exuberant London Fashion Week yesterday, with fresh faces and household names exhibiting their spring/summer 2012 collections.
In the morning, Daks, better known for its waterproofs and knitwear, showed a collection inspired by traditional British seaside holidays and vintage calisthenics. The look was Betty Draper at Butlin's, with shirtwaisters, A-line skirts and innovative tailored gypsy blouses evoking a nostalgic Fifties feel and a simple colour palette of clean white and navy modern lines. For her first season at the label, designer Sheila McKain-Waid provided a perfect range of separates for the label's current customers, but added a trend-led sensibility for the younger crowd.
Other established labels on the roster included husband and wife team Clements Ribeiro, known for elegant prints, and Julien Macdonald, a judge on Britain's Next Top Model.
At Clements Ribeiro, paisley and chintz prints came on silk lounge pants reworked with elasticated waists, while panelled and patchwork print dresses had a Forties aspect, a trend from the previous autumn shows, with which many designers are still experimenting.
Macdonald, meanwhile, undercut his normally high-octane glitz with deconstructed tailoring by way of sleeveless shirts, halter-neck waistcoats, tuxedo-style harnesses and sheer shorts. Reference points for the collection were eclectic, incorporating everything from Futurism and Eighties power dressing to Chinoiserie and early Noughties maharishi trousers. There were flashes of couture-esque craftsmanship, as well some Strictly Come Dancing glamour – particularly apt, as Alesha Dixon was on the front row.
Macdonald is one of several British designers who collaborate on ranges for Debenhams – his stablemates Jasper Conran, whose range there was one of the very first high-street collaborations, also showed yesterday, as did John Rocha and the chain's latest young signings, Jonathan Saunders and Henry Holland.
Without the financial backing of a big business, many of these fashion shows would not take place. The House of Holland show was characteristically exuberant, thanks to his coterie of front-row fans: singer Nicola Roberts, Pixie Geldof and DJ Nick Grimshaw were all there.
The clothes were streetwear-inspired, redolent of the ska-punk era and rendered in a pastel "Miami Beach" palette, with lashings of mock croc, rubber mesh and bras teamed with big knickers – perfect for his teeny-bopper, popstrel cohort and certain to bolster Holland's reputation as London's designer du jour.
And after a busy week of promoting the Prince of Wales's pro-wool campaign, Vivienne Westwood presented her Red Label collection. Pin-tucking and drapery, with boned bodices and drop-crotch trousers, are all signatures for this designer but the pièce de resistance was a showcase of a red-carpet capsule in the final phase of the show: a floor-length scarlet gown, and jacquard and holographic silver cocktail dresses, perfect for next spring's awards season.