Fresh energy from fusion of couture with punk

Appealing collections from Giles Deacon and Luella Bartley in London Fashion Week

Punk and couture are usually at opposite ends of the fashion spectrum, but British designer Giles Deacon showed a fresh fusion of the two looks at London Fashion Week yesterday. He took the grand shapes, fabrics and structures often associated with couture and added tough, punky details such as studs and safety pins.

In less accomplished hands the mix could have jarred, but Deacon, who described the show as “a translation of why I wanted to be in fashion in the first place”, has made such energetic juxtapositions his own throughout his career.

Deacon added safety pins to tailored wool jackets and teamed a grey wool pencil dress with shaggy arm warmers and handcuffs.

A black evening gown came with a corseted bodice, fitted knit skirt and shaggy wool fishtail, while a pearl grey ball dress combined a structured bodice with a skirt made from studded felt and net tiers.

Luella Bartley, who showed earlier in the day, is another British designer with a very recognisable style.

Everyone at London Fashion Week knows instantly what, “very Luella” means – sweet and often quintessentially British clothes with a pop twist. This season she described her collection as “cute utilitarianism” and the designs fused flirtatious prom dress shapes and shiny fabrics with sharper tailoring and military details. The Luella show began with a short pine-green dress with a full skirt covered with devore polka dots, and other cocktail frocks in black and gold silk, lamé and brocade reflected the 1980s influence that has informed many of the collections so far this week.

There were also nods to 1960s mod culture in the form of checked princess coats, a red patent belted trench, and grey salt-and-pepper tweed shift dresses. Coats and dresses came with details such as gold military buttons and bows. With navy pleated skirts, a navy blazer with a red trim and satchels embellished with strips of leather in different colours and textures, the overall feel was of a rebellious schoolgirl turned party girl – an impression only enhanced by the appearance of Pixie Geldof on the catwalk in a gold and black brocade dress. Last season, Bartley showed a quirky take on twin sets and pearls, and she said that for this collection she wanted to “keep some of those details, but this is for a darker character”. Her capacity for such appealing collections shows exactly why in 2008 her sales rose by 40 per cent and she was crowned British designer of the year.

Like Bartley and Deacon, Marios Schwab is a darling of the British fashion scene, albeit a newer one. Schwab’s vision is clean, futuristic and intriguing. As usual, he based his show on a body-conscious silhouette, which he constantly redefined with original cuts and details. A sculpted cream dress came encased in an outer layer of fabric, creating the impression of a cocoon, coats and dresses were moulded in sci-fi shapes, while unexpected strokes of volume came in the form of layered folds.