london: city of fashion pioneers
Migration made it to London Fashion Week on Monday as Erdem and his peers took us to the prairie.
photography jason lloyd evans
Tackling the pioneer look - those puritan prairie dresses with their puff sleeves - is so ridiculously appropriate for the designers of London that interpretation is obvious. After all, this is the city where rough designer diamonds are first cut, and their raw ideas nurtured. This is the city of fashion's pioneers, and the Monday of London Fashion Week presented them to us like pearls on a string. Erdem's influence on international fashion is becoming as colossal as his show productions. His eerily puritan aesthetic places itself somewhere between the mid-centuries of the last two-hundred years, and if anyone owns this God-fearing prairie parade that's travelling through the season, it's him.
And as if to claim that territory to the newcomers (gosh, pioneers are great for puns), Erdem went all out this time in an out-of-this-world collection of romantic Victorian country dresses, some for the wooden village church, others for sexy time in the hay barn. But it didn't stop there. Like any self-respecting pioneer, Erdem had built himself a new world: a show space split up by a railway track under a wooden bridge, which drove a kind of train of models down the runway like some 19th century tableau vivant, before they reached their destination and the show could begin. Erdem's promised land was breathtaking. Someone make him governor already—for God's sake.
Migration has been on everyone's minds this summer. All those grand ideas of globalism and globalisation that hit the men's shows in June now seem like a sort of premonition that materialised within weeks. Those same elements were in the Burberry Prorsum show, scored live by Alison Moyet, which went around the world and back with a naval theme appropriately tying things together. After that Erdem show and a romantic Roksanda Ilincic orchestration with an incredibly beautiful Max Richter soundtrack where even her trademark bell sleeve had a prairie chic vibe about them, the Burberry show served as a kind of transit to the pioneer dream.
It continued at Peter Pilotto where sexy ruffles conjured up the always sexier Hollywood image of the American pioneer age, more Doctor Quinn Medicine Woman than Little House on the Prairie. As Thomas Tait opened you could even be forgiven for thinking he was going to go down that same route of Puritan settlers: a little white dress was practically romantic, until, that is, the ringed hole theme took over and things got rather more fetishised. The 19th century American settlers would probably have outed Tait as the village witch, but those jangling keys attached to rings on the thighs of trousers would have been so worth it.
Speaking of witchy characters, Karen Elson in a medieval ball gown at Giles immediately made you think of a red-haired Sadie Frost as Lucy in Scorsese's Dracula. His show was ravishing in that trans-historicistic way Giles Deacon master better than anyone: whether it was gothic, Victorian or indeed a bit of a fancy prairie bash, the theatrical value of the show (Anna Cleveland strutting about with a little fairy wand) and the sheer intricate beauty of those delicate ivory dresses were completely mesmerising.
"It's all about crash and repair. Rebuilding something new," Christopher Kane said after his show, where psychedelic spray-painted dresses inspired by John Chamberlain sculptures couldn't be further from those great prairie plains of the Mid-West, but where his sentiments of "being an outsider" and "outsider art" could have been tag line to the migration waves of this Monday of London Fashion Week. (Also, one of those dresses wrapped in a sash almost looked like a very subversive take on a Southern Belle pageant queen, but that's probably a different story.) None of these collections had the slightest to do with the refugee situation currently making its way north through Europe, but in an industry arguably based on the superficial there's an eternal satisfaction in witnessing how fashion never fails to both predict and reflect the global events of its time, intentionally or not.
Text Anders Christian Madsen
Photography Jason Lloyd Evans