London Fashion Week review: Clothes - and shows - for the masses from Topshop Unique, Burberry and Christopher Kane

Sometimes you wonder what you’re applauding: designers’ innovation, or their ability to harness said innovation for commercial means?

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Fashion is a business. That’s even emphasised in London these days, where young designers rub shoulders with - and occasionally get squashed by - corporations pulling multi-billion pound punches. Fashion Inc. is all well and good. It pays the bills. But sometimes you wonder what you’re applauding: designers’ innovation, or their ability to harness said innovation for commercial means?

Look at Topshop Unique - the applause at their Sunday afternoon show dribbled to a stop, rather than climaxing with a designer bobbing a bow. Topshop’s design team is faceless; you applaud the brand, not the hand.

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Model Naomi Campbell arrives for the Burberry autumn/winter 2015 collection (Reuters)

Burberry have Christopher Bailey, but there’s still the sense of anonymous might to the company. A panicked rush across Central London characterises the Burberry show, where a prompt start - to ensure optimum live stream viewers - leaves many press and buyers standing outside. That’s because this show isn’t for them - it’s for the mass audience, logging on to see a show and maybe to buy a wallet or scarf. The clothes are almost incidental to the whole majesty of the staging, the monumental pull of the event. This time, they were fine - hippy, drippy, Bloomsbury, soupy shapes and soupy shades of Campbell’s tomato and pea-green.

“We’ve named the collection "Patchwork, Pattern & Prints”,” said Christopher Bailey pre-show - not in person, but via an automated email pinged out ten minutes before the curtain went up. And it was, rich and multi-layered, albeit layered on the body rather than through depth of message. It got the job done.

Christopher Kane is part of big fashion machine too - the conglomerate Kering - but, at his best, a sense of emotion vibrates through his clothes. This show wasn’t his best: there were too many ideas fighting for attention, but too many ideas is far better than too few, and the whole seemed heartfelt.

Seduction was Kane’s kick, most graphically expressed in an orgy of Swiss lace specially woven from to designs derived from life drawing classes. Graphic was the word: one model strode out with a penis outlined on her right hip, and your eyebrows involuntarily jerked upwards. Those, however, felt like an idea unresolved, the cut-out shapes of limbs flailing around the models’ bodies messily. 

 

There were, thankfully, subtler seduction tactics than those dirty doodles. As is so often the case with Kane, he delved into the naffer nadirs of taste. He goes deep. Lurex or slimily tactile two-tone velvet butted against lettuce-leaf frills of chiffon, recalling the naughty nighties usually limited to suburban wife-swapping parties, while disco-bright shades of bitchy scarlet and eyeshadow blue were reminiscent eighties disco dollies on the lash, looking for Mr Right. Exploring and exploding theses ideas, juxtaposing femme fatale with coy coquette, Kane was playing with stereotypes about love, and lust, and desire.

Imbuing the previously undesirable with a punch of longing is a strange skill of Kane's. That’s why he’s got a shop, filled with handbags (next seasons will be metallics in those eighties shades) and oddly attractive dresses. Nevertheless, we applaud not that, but his creativity, his push to challenge both himself and us.

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