London Fashion Week: Sign of the times

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Designers looked back in anger with collections which captured the mood of the moment

'Creativity is Great', was the perfectly concise title to Vivienne Westwood's Red Label show (best read aloud with an Alan Bennett lilt) and if ever proof were needed that's the case, the London collections provided it.

If the past few seasons have been characterised by a polite conservatism – fashion is nothing if not a cultural barometer – then, for spring, the British capital's more anarchic and irreverent spirit comes to the fore. The woman in question here would not be at home at a Saturday afternoon barbecue in the Cotswolds, say – she'd still be in bed, thanks but no thanks – and the designers who dress her are of the understanding that audacity triumphs over play-safe tactics on the catwalk.

Louise Gray – a woman for whom Westwood and the movement she presided over has clearly always been an inspiration, She is interested in dressing a woman whose wardrobe is proudly distinctive and who is in no way partial to playing arm candy. Gray herself defined this season's mood as "art school" and, with newspaper headline prints and weaves colliding with zigzag stripes, triangles, circles and squares, either monochrome or in bright, unexpected colour and fabric combinations, there was certainly a sense both of experimentation and the sheer joy of making things on display. Add to the mix winklepickers in violent shades, Stephen Jones' hats and Tatty Devine's jewellery – mirrored rings the size of small saucers scrawled with words including "happy" and "good times" – and the result was joyful, witty and anything but submissive.

Gray is not the only designer looking back, if not quite in anger, then certainly with attitude just now. Maarten Van Der Horst's debut solo catwalk collection embraced the industrious spirit of punk, where bright young things transformed the everyday and banal into clothing. The designer cut shirts, shorts, dresses and trench coats out of carrier bags (Tesco, not Prada) and more in utilitarian cottons printed with sooty graffiti that nodded to Stephen Sprouse.

Sister by Sibling is not a label aimed at the shy. Here the traditionally French toile de jouy print was subverted, peopled as it was by rioters in hoodies as opposed to anything more pastoral. It looked good on pretty summer dresses and shirts that otherwise boasted a butter-wouldn't-melt modesty. Lacy knits came in neon colours, cardigans were covered in gleaming skulls and white raffia was woven into oversized puffballs. Warriors in Woolworths was the name of the collection and cobweb facemasks and pom-pom ears made for perhaps the most impressively clad young looters in fashion history.

Remember Sign of the Times, the early Nineties boutique stuffed with lurid and largely ironic trash as frequented by London clubbers and Courtney Love in equal measures? Henry Holland does. His collection represented a confident leap forward and referenced grunge, he said, and with loud checked tailoring, tie dye and acid floral separates, rave culture too.

"I'm sick of print," an editor who will remain nameless said this week. And she's not the only one. Jonathan Saunders, a fine designer known for that very discipline, chose this time to return to his more graphic roots for a collection shown underground at Tate Modern (a hell of a venue). Ihat featured sequined cardigans and skirts, chevron striped dresses, and bomber jackets in holographic leather and silk, all of which looked super-slick and glamorous but not in an even remotely well-mannered way. The backs of garments were black – shine from the front and enjoy the considerable benefits of a sartorially gifted disappearing act from behind.

A smashed-glass motif, intricately cut black leather and a looming Pegasus also lent an opposites attract loveliness to Giles Deacon's collection that demonstrated the fusion of romanticism and severity that is a signature for this designer by now. Deacon designs statement pieces for the thoroughly modern female but, for all their beauty, there is a rebellious undertow. "I like the idea of Pegasus firing lightening bolts down on to Bond Street," the designer said.

"How did it happen? It was a miracle," laughed Christopher Kane backstage at his show. And indeed it was. There was a saccharine sweetness that was, in the designer's own words, "a bit sick" to much of this collection and to narrow, fondant-coloured dresses and skirts in couture fabrics especially. These were finished with plastic bows, rubber lace and with jewels attached by black and white thermotape, however, which hardened the look up somewhat or indeed quite a lot. Perpsex nuts and bolts came in place of more traditional fastenings, merging an art-school sensibility (again) with a perfectionism that is second to none. As for full-on Frankenstein-print T-shirts – an afterthought, Kane said – don't be surprised when they sell out even before they make the stores.

With their blank gaze, pin-curled hair glittering with jewels and exquisite – truly exquisite – wardrobe, the women who walked Meadham Kirchhoff's hallucinogenic boudoir of a catwalk were miraculous too. This was the designers' most heavily referential collection. "Almost embarrasingly so," Meadham quipped. It was also their most lovely, however. The unashamedly decorative viewpoint of Christian Lacroix, the romance of Nineties John Galliano, the baroque splendour of Eighties Gianni Versace were all very much in evidence and so too was the handwriting of Vivienne Westwood, neatly enough. It almost goes without saying these are fashion heroes and heroines one and all. Given the budget that London's fledgling designers work with, the fact that tiny, elaborate Edwardian line jackets, equally diminutive full-pleated skirts and patchworked lace dresses were hand-finished to a standard that would wow the petites mains in the Paris ateliers, the end result was more impressive still.

The ghost of Isabella Blow, as played by Lady Gaga, presided over Philip Treacy's show, where Michael Jackson's wardrobe, due to be auctioned later this year, was teamed with bumsters and cropped Savile Row-inspired trousers, courtesy of Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen. That's a line-up to be reckoned with and one that brings to mind London circa Sensation when courage in one's convictions triumphed over commerciality every time. It says quite something of Treacy's ability as a creator that his gravity-defying sculptural headwear was not overshadowed by the theatrical shenanigans. A floral wreath – for Gaga too – burnished gold horns and a light-up spherical circus of a headpiece all held their own and reminded those in attendance that unbridled imagination coupled with brazen bravura is a potent mix.

Also in London, Marios Schwab demonstrated the enduring appeal of a little black dress. The classic nature of this wardrobe staple was cast aside, however, trimmed as it was with shiny, spiky black raffia and leather. JW Anderson, meanwhile, mixed menswear shapes and fabrics with oversized frills to starkly modern effect.

And what of Dame Westwood herself, the woman who arguably started it all and who continues to dominate the London fashion season like no one else before or since? Her show, she said, was inspired by the English garden – and the garden party in particular – but the prettiness of dainty floral prints, striped sundresses and more was undercut by the raw energy of a live soundtrack courtesy of one-time Westwood model and muse-turned-muso, Sara Stockbridge, not to mention models' faces painted hot pink, sky blue and chartreuse and, most of all, by the designer's own appearance. She was resplendent in cotton boxers, "Climate Revolution" T-shirt and oversized helmet shrouded with a veil of bronze sequins.

Transport kindly provided by Mercedes Benz

News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
  • 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

    Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

    £18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

    £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

    Day In a Page

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own