The red plush curtain rises, and out steps Naomi Campbell - her first appearance at Fashion Week - in a sensational lacework dress edged in long, cream lacemaker's bobbins. It was fitted to within a fraction of Naomi's own skin; she was sewn into it and unpicked out of it again backstage. Then came Kate Moss in a lace print suit, a ruffled flamenco dress with intricate basket-weave shoulder strap, and Stella Tennant in a multicoloured, crystal-sequined Las Vegas trash black satin suit, by Swarovski.
In my dreams, I wanted to buy lots of it. In reality, I know I could never afford it. Clothes this beautifully wrought, with such fine attention to detail - specially woven fabrics, hand-embroidered jackets, hand-cut flower corsages blooming from shoulders, and fragile, glass-blown flowers and petals tinkling on wooden-soled shoes - disappear off the clothing budget scale. For Berardi, the 28-year-old star of London's fashion pack, designs clothes that gather together some of the most talented craftspeople he can find, from lacemakers in Sicily, to Mr Pearl the master corset- maker, Manolo Blahnik the shoe designer, and Stephen Jones the milliner.
While Berardi's was an exercise in fashion showmanship, craftsmanship, image-making and wishful day-dreaming, the modernist Hussein Chalayan's, shown on Saturday night at an art gallery in London's East End, was a lesson in pure design at its most esoteric. The collection, simply entitled "Between", continued in the same vein as his last, with futuristic cocoons of devore cotton jersey, graphic Spirograph prints, and a colour palette of white, black, navy and vivid red. Arms were trapped inside the cocoons for the show, but the dresses are designed so that you can slip them out through the armholes for complete freedom of movement.
Although Chalayan's collection touched on themes of the Orient, Islam, isolation, definitions of space and light, mummification and convent girls. He has his own unique way of looking at clothes, and his references become completely abstract and at times, surreal. But the wearer need not get bogged down with any of that, and can simply enjoy wearing Chalayan's Zen-like white cotton shirts, a plain, circular-cut linen jacket, a geometric devore dress, or a silk dress with a soft fin of fabric falling like water down the front and back, in red so bright that it vibrates. In a quieter and cooler way than Berardi, Chalayan's show was just as much a performance, complete with a live string quartet.
These two totally different collections were the highlights of London Fashion Week - along with Alexander McQueen's strong tailoring; Clements Ribeiro's sequined tulle and cashmere, lace embroideries, sexy backless dresses and functional khaki pants; Sonja Nuttall's slouchy suits and perfect dresses; and the debut show of Matthew Williamson, whose small but exquisite collection of delicate embroideries and divine beadwork in neon colours stand out. For the best of the rest, we'll let the pictures speak for themselves - and you can enjoy the hot spots or low points (depending on your viewpoint) of British Fashion Week from the comfort of your armchair.
Rude girls: Owen Gaster
Eighties trash: Red or Dead
The best of the rest: Clements Ribeiro
Antonio Berardi: delicacy in lace
Surface interest: Lainey Keogh
Modern classics: Ally Capellino
Richard TylerReuse content