10 Things We Learned at London Fashion Week
In recent years London Fashion Week has managed to shake off its image as the annoying younger brother of the "big four" fashion weeks and has developed into a sleek and sophisticated fashion capital in its own right. However, it has managed to retain certain quirks that differentiate it from the more commercial capitals of New York, Milan and Paris, idiosyncrasies which make it all the more beguiling. Here's a look at ten things I learned during the whirlwind that was London Fashion Week.
1. Fashion Loves a Portmanteau
Don’t get me wrong, I love a portmanteau as much as the next writer, and one of the highlights of each fashion week is seeing which garment/ensemble/word combo is going to hit the trend lists. Remember schboots? A.k.a ankle boots – part shoe, part boot? And that’s not to mention the more conceptual (yes, conceptual) smasual and smise (you do the math). Well, word play is alive and well in London, not only did heritage brand Daks admit to Vogue that their name comes from a cross between ‘dad’ and ‘slacks’ (unfortunately not the coolest mix to hit the fashion lexicon), but David Koma also brought a sporty touch to the proceedings with skorts featured on the catwalk. Splentastic.
2. It’s the Bees Knees
The bumble bee was cited as unlikely inspiration at both Fred Butler and Marios Schwab, resulting in a geometric celebration of hexagons across both collections. Butler, who you can always count on to inject a serious element of fun to the proceedings, even went so far as to feature bee-sting manicures on her gold-clad models. For Marios, one of the hottest names in London fashion, the bee was one of a multitude of references ranging from the Navajo nation to classical Greece and artist-cum-scientist Ernst Haeckel. In fact the references came so thick and fast that I overheard one flustered blogger ask another, “Ancient America would be, like, the natives of America, right?” Fashion-baffled. Or, as I like to say, faffled.
3. Witness the Fitness
It has been a summer of sport here in London, and unsurprisingly that filtered through to the collections. Sports luxe was the name of the game at Antonio Berardi, not really my thing but he gave good sparkle with his take on athletic cocktail dressing. More up my alley was the sporting prowess at David Koma, who took female tennis stars of the 1920s as a starting point, predominantly Suzanne Lenglen who was also a contemporary muse to Chanel and Jean Cocteau. Setting himself a mission to re-interpret the conventional tennis dress (see skorts, above), Koma’s use of patent leather appliqué also had the effect of creating a stylish take on go-faster stripes and high-visibility cycling wear. Sports chic indeed.
4. Let’s Get Digital
The only thing that got more attention than the F-ROW at the Topshop Unique show (which featured style luminaries such as Daisy Lowe and Olivia Palermo) was their ingenious use of technology. Not only did they stream the show live on their website (Burberry are field-leaders in this respect), but all items were available for pre-order, and they threw the fashion debate wide open by asking for immediate feedback on Twitter. As you can imagine, this sent the fashion media into a frenzy; does this make the catwalk critic obsolete? Is this the future of fashion presentations? And what DO we make of Pixie Geldof’s new brunette locks?
5. Street style is Still a Thing
Despite collective rants from the enraged fashion community that the attention should focus on the outfits on the catwalk, rather than the street, each season the throng of streetstyle photographers around Somerset House expands and ‘what I wore’ blogs take up more and more of the internet. London, historically famed for its subcultures and bottom-up approach to fashion could never seriously shake off the glare of the streetstyle photographer’s lense. After all, what would Anna Dello Russo do without them?
Because, you know, you all care, here’s what I wore on my days on the fashion beat (pictured right, image by Kristof General)
6. Here we go Round the Mulberry Bag
Although it makes me look like a fashion goon, I basically use my Mulberry tote bag (provided free at LFW) continuously for the following 6 months after the shows as its so damn handy. And I am obsessed with the fact that a luxury brand can have such fun with their image, often employing devices like trompe l’oeil and last season featuring a monster by illustrator Emma Houlston. For Spring/Summer 2013? Don’t even try to guess. I kid you not, A PAINT BY NUMBERS GARDEN GNOME.
7. Going Dotty over Spots
The Louis Vuitton and Yayoi Kusama collaboration has seen department store Selfridges over taken with polka dots. The other form of dottiness to hit LFW this season was the Minnie Mouse Must Haves: a collection of covetable designs from the likes of Richard Nicoll, Katie Hillier, Giles Deacon and Michael van der Ham that are to be auctioned on eBay for the Fashion Arts Foundation which aims to promote and encourage the relationship between the worlds of fashion, art, music and film. The glizty launch, hosted by larger-than-life Brix Smith-Start, saw polka dots out in force yet again.
8. It’s a Breeding Ground for New Talent of the Future...
Yes, Vivienne Westwood, yes Alexander McQueen, yes John Galliano and more recently yes Giles Deacon, Gareth Pugh and Mary Katrantzou. You all know that British art colleges produce designers of the very highest calibre that go on to make waves in the global fashion spectrum and add a creative sensibility to international design that makes it all the richer. New rising stars continue to emerge all the time. My top picks for this season were the updated Chinoiserie prints at Huishan Zhang and the eclectic mix of fabrics, finishes and pastels found at Raffaele Ascione.
9. …But History Always Lends a Helping Hand
This can be both in a literal and metaphorical sense. Literally, Christopher Raeburn’s knack of reappropriating military fabrics for high fashion puts history to good use: ethical, practical and stylish – it’s a winning combination. The highlight this season was his use of original 1950s flight escape maps; printed on silk rather than paper to avoid deterioration when wet they took aviation-chic to a new level as dresses and playsuits. In a more conceptual sense, history was brought to life by Dutch twins Spijkers en Spijkers who featured delicious androgynous looks reminiscent of Weimar Berlin alongside graphic Deco prints inspired by the godmother of the fashion/art collaboration, Sonia Delaunay.
10. Whatever you do, don’t miss Meadham Kirchhoff (pictured top)
Radio responsibilities meant I missed the final day of fashion week. Meadham Kirchhoff are currently flying the flag for British eccentricity and each show seems to be battling the last to be more outrageous in its presentation and eclectic in its influences. I won’t make the mistake of missing out again!
For more London Fashion coverage visit Theatre of Fashion.
Images by Amber Jane Butchart/Top image via Facebook