"There's nothing quite like a Macdonald," it said on the ushers' T-shirts at Julien Macdonald's London Fashion Week show at the Science Museum in South Kensington yesterday. It was a witty enough quip but one that begged the question: just who exactly is Julien Macdonald these days?
Over at haute couture Givenchy in July, he was the height of bourgeois French fashion – all middle-aged tailoring, feathered ballgowns and ladylike court shoes. Last night he was Tom Ford – a procession of skintight, shiny, black disco trousers laced tightly at the ankles more than paid tribute to the American designer. He was also Helmut Newton – the uber-photographer would have been proud of bared expanses of shiny skin, sky-high strappy shoes and legs so long and lean they looked like fashion illustrations.
Then there was Yves Saint Laurent – huge blousy tops with, admittedly very funny, loud, wallpaper prints, bouncing perkily when models moved. And, of course, Macdonald was Donatella Versace – a final sequence of flesh-revealing sparkly dresses that will no doubt set the flashbulbs popping should anyone be brave enough a starlet to wear one.
This was an eighties revival moment too. Models in lacy black tights, full black skirts and skinny black bodies stalked down the midnight-blue, high-shine runway showered with pretty reflections from the mirror-balled ceiling to the strains of Madonna's "Holiday".
They looked like they'd walked straight out of Desperately Seeking Susan. Desperately seeking an identity was a bit more like it.
There were flashes when the Macdonald this particular reviewer used to know and love came to the fore – fragile, black knitted dresses were, as always, very lovely to behold. Macdonald started life as a knitwear designer – he learnt to knit on his grandmother's machine in Wales. Karl Lagerfeld liked his cobweb-knit dresses so much that he employed him for both his own label and for Chanel haute couture while Macdonald was still at the Royal College Of Art.
That was more than five years ago now and, sadly, these days there is very little of this – the real Julien Macdonald, perhaps – to be seen.
It is a great shame. With Alexander McQueen and Hussein Chalayan showing in Paris this season, the designer should have been London's brightest star. Instead, any hype surrounding the show – and there has been an awful lot of hype – fell flat.
All in all, it's a case of get out those knitting needles again Mr Macdonald, you're great at it. And please do it soon.Reuse content