lfw flexes its dynamic muscle to give the kids what they want
On the third day of shows, London Fashion Week continues to explore the space between heritage and innovation, pushing things forward and keeping it simple.
mary katrantzou fall/winter 15
"What's so special about London Fashion Week?" a Korean TV reporter asked yours truly towards the end of the third day of shows. With Pringle of Scotland's 200th anniversary collection at the Serpentine Gallery as our backdrop, it was perhaps a leading question, but when it comes to this city's fashion the answer is hardly as easy as, "Heritage and innovation." If anything, it was illustrated by Sunday's mixed grill of designers and directions, from the deep-thinking decoration of Mary Katrantzou to the ooh-la-la sexiness of Jonathan Saunders, the slick realism of Paul Smith, or niche aesthetics such as Vivienne Westwood's Red Label. Go by Sunday's designers and you'd have a hard time defining the essence of London Fashion Week. Gosh, we're so dynamic.
Rather than looking to the runways, the answer to the question is - not surprisingly - to be found in what people are wearing around the showscape. For all the ornamentation that's been going on in fashion lately, shockingly little of it seems to have made it onto the backs of the women, who go to shows. Perhaps that's why Preen and Mary Katrantzou both balanced their otherwise very embellished collections with a certain amount of - let's say - extraordinary daywear. Katrantzou opened her show with three charcoal looks, sculpturally intense in shape but really rather wearable. The collection, presented beautifully on a foamy runway of pink spikes to themes from Halloween and Barry Lyndon, soon kicked off into the epic embellishment Katrantzou perfects, but the London day of all party dresses all the time seemed long gone.
At Preen, Thea Bregazzi and Justin Thornton took inspiration from the greatness and wrongness of Laura Ashley florals, Preen-ifying them in breathtaking, super intricate embellishment. But paradoxically, their antithesis looks stole the show: a black suit split open down each arm and leg with a thick ruffle poking out of the slit epitomized the perfect balance between decoration and wearability. (Sonic Youth's version of Superstar on the sound system was pretty epic, too.) London Fashion Week, you might say, is about experimentation, so why be thrilled about something as un-experimental as tailoring? Better than with words, it's a question answered by Paul Smith's show on Sunday afternoon, which continued the designer's ongoing very directional innovation of his own heritage.
"The main thing is that there isn't really a strong theme," Sir Paul said backstage, somewhat provocatively. "When you do themes, sometimes it really works and it's important, but sometimes it's just about making nice clothes. I just wanted to make very lovely quality clothes in fabulous fabrics that ran in parallel to my men's collection. Either that really skinny silhouette that fits through the rib cage, or a big square shape. And very wearable." Fashion should never be for the sake of clothes only, but that wasn't the case at Paul Smith. In his refusal to follow the theme machine, Sir Paul and his collection of heavenly coats actually went against the grain of what we expect from London, telling us instead to focus on what we want to wear rather than what we think we should be wearing. Clever man, Sir Paul.
Which brings us back to Pringle, the arch house of covetable, wearable garments, which is currently celebrating its 200th birthday with an exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery, curated by Alistair O'Neill. Massimo Nicosia celebrated the old Scottish powerhouse with an almost irreverent collection, at least as far as expectability went. If you thought this designer was going to go into argyle and jumper overload and rest on the laurels of Pringle's trademarks for the anniversary collection, you were underestimating his unpredictability. Instead, it was full steam ahead for Nicosia, who proposed a stripped down, lean silhouette for a new era of Pringle.
Text Anders Christian Madsen