The brights of spring

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Let's stop trying to pigeonhole London talent, says Alexander Fury, and simply celebrate it for what it is

Given London's reputation for cat-amongst-the-pigeons rebellion, it's unusual that we seem so intent on pigeon-holing our designers. Young upstarts, old establishment, tailors, printers, the conceptualists. We attach a lot of labels to our fashion – more so, even, than the 50-plus shows packed into five days.

Which is a pity, because the truly great thing about London fashion is how difficult it is to define. Whereas designers in other cities work collectively to define a trend – everyone seemed to get the memo about Nineties reductionism being back in New York, for instance, even if Marc Jacobs chose to ignore it – London is a veritable variety show.

So it would be nice if we could shrug off the urge to so readily compartmentalise our talents. Take Peter Pilotto and Mary Katrantzou. Both have been earmarked as print specialists, despite their collections containing much more than just print. Each of them pushed their looks on this season, while staying within their respective aesthetic oeuvre. Peter Pilotto and partner Christopher de Vos experimented with shape, flaring crinolines out dramatically or tugging skirts taut against the body, an hourglass shape delineated with ruffles. Print was there, but the visual impression as likely to be created by orchid lace or embroideries, giving the clothes a three-dimensional quality. Just like those crinolines.

Mary Katrantzou is another “printer” who shows you much more than mere print. Her kick is maximalism – it's impossible not to see the frilled and furbellowed Eighties extravagance of Christian Lacroix in her brief evening dresses, embroidered by French couture house Lesage. But unlike Lacroix, Katrantzou has built up a formidable business. Women want to wear these clothes. There's something fascinating about the objectification of women, by a woman. Katrantzou was inspired by shoes and turned her models into giant walking embodiments of the footwear, rife for fetishism. And women are buying into this, turning themselves into ostentatious objects of desire.

London loves print, but it can become an albatross. “Print designer” was an epithet that dogged Erdem and Jonathan Saunders, too, until recently. Saunders, incidentally, is celebrating his 10th year in business – he was on fine form, with a collection scrolled with spidery embroidered chrysanthemums, wrapped with pellucid satin and chiffons in shades of taupe, sky-blue and blush pink, ample display of Saunders' deft hand in mixing unexpected hues. Granted, there was a purposeful ugliness to many of the clothes but it somehow managed to work. Erdem, by contrast, never goes for ugly. His monochrome magpie-feathered skirt suits and fluttering Miss Havisham trains were girly-girly pretty, despite the idea of “flawed androgyny” inspiring the show. Maybe it should be skewed: you'd never mistake the Erdem woman for a bloke, no matter how dark the night.

Erdem's show was refreshing because it delivered precisely what we didn't expect. If there's one thing to anticipate in London, it's that. Burberry Prorsum was strong for exactly the same reason. Over the past few seasons, the slickness of Christopher Bailey's shows has negated any real emotion. The clothes have been overworked, the technology overpowering. They've seemed a bit sterile and soulless. This outing had heart, and was delicately played. The pastel colour-palette was ravishing: sugar-almond shades of mint, lavender and ivory whipped into slender columns of Nottingham lace, or double face knit trench-coats with floral-encrusted handbags. It was a saccharine blast of girliness, but after collections that have played to the back with loud fashions, accompanied by blaring music and loadsamoney spin-off accessories, it felt as though Bailey was finally re-engaging with fashion design, and with an informed fashion consumer.

The thinking fashion consumer has always come to Christopher Kane. Quite simply, he is the man in London who rings in the changes. This season he was on a florist kick. Florals, for spring? Groundbreaking? Yes, actually, they were. Kane dissected his foliate motif – in fact, dissection and perforation were key ideas, with biological diagrams embroidered onto evening dresses, laser-cut into pleated satin skirts, or lace used to spell out the words “FLOWER” and “PETAL” on pastel sweatshirts.

Those were gimmickry, honestly, and you didn't need them to help tell the story of this collection. The breadth of Kane's imagination was awe-inspiring: a theme has never been so thoroughly worked-over before. At the end, like jasmine after enfleurage, the concept was spent, exhausted. Kane had thoroughly captured its essence, fixed it and preserved for all time. With new backing from the Kering Group, the most satisfying element of this show was watching as Kane shrugged off his “Young Designer” mantle once and for all. It was the most mature of all the shows we saw.

For many, the next Kane, and equally able, is JW Anderson. He sometimes gets too caught up in eye-catching intellectual shenanigans – the bunches of fabric attached to latex sheaths that opened the show seemed like “conceptual clothing” in the true meaning of the word.

Namely, they couldn't be worn – were just an idea. But he has an astute eye, and a refined taste level.

The sliced and diced sweaters he offered, looping intriguingly round the body like a knitted möbius strip, managed to perfectly marry concept with commerce, as did a trio of jellybean-bright sequinned dirndls and long pleated dresses knotted at the hip. You know these will be the core of the commercial collection that bolsters his profits. Rumour has it LVMH is sniffing about his business. Anderson has raw talent and an ever rawer urge to succeed. He's a wise investment. And so, to Meadham Kirchhoff, buckers of all trends, breakers of all rules. This season, they did exactly as they pleased once again, repurposing the palette of Elizabeth I, adding a touch of The Shining, and sending out a wicked, witchy show of over-embroidered, hyper-embellished garments.

There were simpler pieces, granted – Chanel-esque bouclé suits, fragile lace dresses – but they sat alongside such delights as bugle-beaded slip dresses and a brief, pleated dress adorned with blackwork, a 16th- century embroidery technique that scrolled flowers across and inside the pleats with a complexity that boggled the mind (and almost detached the retinas). The work in the pieces was extraordinary, but they didn't look overwrought, nor over-worked.

Edward Meadham once commented to me: “It used to be that things were expensive because they were actually lovely, now half the time it doesn't seem to be lovely anymore.”

These clothes will, no doubt, be very, very expensive. But they're also so very, very lovely. And, as with the very best of London, and indeed of fashion generally, they defy any labelling.

News
The two faces revealed by the ultraviolet light
newsScholars left shaken after shining ultraviolet light on 500-year-old Welsh manuscript
News
Rosamund Pike played Bond girld Miranda Frost, who died in Die Another Day (PA)
news
Arts and Entertainment
books
News
newsHow do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? With people like this
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

    Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

    Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

    £24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

    Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

    £45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
    How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
    11 best bedside tables

    11 best bedside tables

    It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
    Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

    Italy vs England player ratings

    Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
    Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

    Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat