London Fashion Week offered up an interesting melange of old and new, but, says Liam O’Brien, some trends need to go
London Fashion Week is always more about promise than polish. The clothes aren’t expected to be beautifully tailored or consistent in concept like those shown in New York, Paris and Milan. And unlike other fashion weeks the University of Central St. Martins MA students were expected to dish up the most interesting fare.
Of course, what dominates the coverage of London Fashion Week is never the clothes or commentary on the growing confidence in London-based design, but the size zero debate, reinvigorated for what feels like the tenth year running. Of course, such criticism was run alongside eulogies to the ‘intelligent’ Lily Cole, and spiritual leader of the Brit model pack, Erin O’Connor, both of whom have been severely criticised in the past.
But onto the clothes. The two most hyped young British designers were Gareth Pugh and Henry Holland. Both showed collections at Fashion Week. It was Holland’s first full collection following a series of neon t-shirts with fashion in-jokes printed on them (“Get UR Freak on for Giles Deacon”, etc.), and it really wasn’t great. Continuing along the much overworked nu-rave/punk lines, Holland even reduced best friend Agyness Deyn to looking like a plaid pirate. Pugh’s show was better, but similarly depressing. Apparently still addicted to the applause and adoration of fashion students everywhere, Pugh’s collection was more of the same prisms and geometry that he showed the last two seasons. I worry for these two designers: House of Holland needs to branch out from such a niche trend, and realise that gimmicks won’t keep a fashion business running for much longer, whilst Pugh has clear potential, but needs to develop.
Commercial appeal was a clear influence on the minds of many of the designers this year, most notably Christopher Kane, who wowed the fashion press three seasons ago with fluorescent summer dresses but took a far more muted approach for his autumn/winter 2008 collection. Naturalistic dresses with panels of enlarged sequins and light, flowing fabric dominated a rather old fashioned collection. Collections by Luella and Jens Laugesen, which adopted gothic and androgynous themes respectively, were also solid, if a little unspectacular. Vivienne Westwood, who showed her Red Label collection in London for the first time, brought an element of professionalism, but retained her idiosyncratic approach to catwalk shows.
Much of London Fashion Week is about spotting new talent, and Jean-Pierre Braganza debuted an exciting collection heavily indebted to modern Italian design. Central St. Martins was a dull affair for the most part, but Mary Katrantzou’s dresses were a highlight, looking like a mature combination of Christopher Kane and Maison Martin Margiela. However none of these were as inexcusably awful as Julien MacDonald’s closing show. Macdonald has been peddling bafflingly popular evening dresses to C-listers for years now, and London Fashion Week showed that he has learnt no new tricks. He must understand that if he is to use fur, he should use it properly like John Galliano at Dior, and not like a backstreet taxidermist.
A few fantastic collections did crop up. Former winners of the week’s Fashion Fringe competition, Basso and Brooke, continued their rise with sculptured clothing popular with their new niche of rich Russian women. Fashion East, which takes up and coming designers and gives them a fashion showcase, was consistently interesting, and far better than the St. Martins graduates. Giles by Giles Deacon also delivered exactly what London fashion week needs – shows that used the makeup, clothing, accessories, lighting and atmosphere in such a way that they even measured up to those in Paris and Milan.