Out of the crypt and on to the catwalk

London Fashion Week brought us gothic grandeur in a ghostly church and modernism as pointed as Mr Spock's ears, says Tamsin Blanchard. Photographs: Peter Macdiarmid

If you like to spend money on clothes and you want to support British designers, next winter will be worth saving up for. The London shows which ran across three and a half days last week turned out collections that were consistently better than last season and a few moments that were downright brilliant.

Full marks to Philip Treacy for his remarkable hats and a show that lifted London Fashion Week into an unmissable event. Full marks, too, to Alexander McQueen for whipping up a frenzied hype before his show, worthy of the hottest ticket in Paris. He showed his collection in Hawksmoor's shadowy Christchurch in Spitalfields, staying close to his East End of London roots. McQueen's ancestors are reputedly buried in the ghostly church - indeed one, in the form of a skeleton, was wheeled out to sit in the front row, alongside Bryan Ferry, Anthony Price, Philip Treacy (who provided the antlers and other headwear) and Isabella Blow.

Ms Blow is herself a great eccentric dresser and a Vogue fashion editor, but Alexander McQueen owes much of his success to her enthusiastic support and encouragement. He dedicated the collection to her and she whooped, clapped and cried in her Treacy showgirl black feather hat.

We were expecting sacrilege, and miniature crucifixes sewn on to eye masks, a thorn of crowns and nails apparently skewered through the hands of a model may be shocking to some. A pamphleteer stood outside the church after the show handing out photocopies of a "Homily Against excesse of Apparell". The homily might well have been the source of McQueen's inspiration, and the pamphleteer could just as easily have been on his payroll. It read, "Let not the outward apparel of women, said St Peter, be decked with the braiding of hair, with wrapping on of gold, or goodly clothing." And what did McQueen give us? Long manes of medieval braided hair; wide trousers made of distressed velvet in gold; builder's bottom bumster pants in couture brocade and the kinkiest lilac satin and black lace corset that has ever been laced up in the crypt of a church.

Alexander McQueen's clothes are not high on most women's shopping lists. But there was plenty on offer from both new and established designers for women who do not choose to live their lives in dramatic costume. Pearce Fionda, the four-season-old partnership of Andrew Fionda and Ren Pearce, presented their cleanest, most focused collection to date. Simple tunic dresses came in chocolate silk jersey. There were pea-green cotton shirts and masculine-tailored, wide pant trouser suits. And the spare Sixties feel gave the collection a modern edge that it might previously have lacked.

The other clothing highlight of the week came at Clements Ribeiro's show. After the first few hessian print suits that came dangerously near to the Prada print of this season, the personalities of the designers, Suzanne Clements and Inacio Ribeiro, both graduates of Central St Martin's, kicked in. Chocolate jersey cowl neck dresses with Moroccan silver belts slung low around their hips, a long grey suiting djellabah dress and a gloriously garish paisley print hinted at the Moroccan influences of the early Seventies. A double-breasted trouser suit was refreshing to see in bright coral pink. And delicate dresses and blouses came in flesh pink and faded green chiffon, embroidered with tiny sprigs of flowers and a sprinkle of glitter. But best of all was the knitwear - finely tuned stripes of blue, yellow and orange and a rich repeat pattern knitted into a fine gauge top.

The day after his show, Hussein Chalayan's collection was selling well. He used quiet tweed for his futuristic tailoring and latex to make skin- tight tops and figure-hugging dresses. For evening, Chalayan made simply draped shoestring strap dresses printed with a Flash Gordon art deco sunray motif.

There are two very different strands running through British womenswear at the moment. One is purely British, the Chalayan/McQueen avant-garde school, where jacket lapels are as pointed as Mr Spock's ears. Antonio Berardi, who showed his second collection last week, is an accomplished technician and promises great things. But he needs to develop a voice of his own that will stand up against the John Gallianos and Alexander McQueens of this world.

The other strand runs at a tangent between London and New York, where simple cutting and modern sportswear are key. Copperwheat Blundell designed by Lee Copperwheat and Pamela Blundell is a collection that caters to both men and women. The clothes are functional; for women they are also sleek. Techno fabrics and simple no-fuss shapes make them clothes that will stand the test of time. And that is something London needs, just as much as the hype and wonder of Treacy and McQueen.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
News
news
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Sport
SPORT
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
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

    Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY - An outstanding high level opportunity...

    Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

    Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

    Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

    Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

    Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

    £65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

    Day In a Page

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick