designers go soul searching at lfw
On a soul defining Sunday of London Fashion Week, Paul Smith unveiled his new self while Mary Katrantzou took to the cosmos and Louis Vuitton opened a window to the mind of Nicolas Ghesquière.
Photography Jason Lloyd Evans
Doctors always complain they can't go to a wedding without the person sitting next to them asking them all sorts of personal medical questions. Well, what do you think it's like to tell people you work in fashion? "So what are the trends right now? What's in this summer?" You want to explain it's an increasingly impossible question to answer (but you give up and settle for "florals"), because fashion right now, more than ever before, is about the soul of the individual designer. On the Sunday of London Fashion Week, the city of extraordinary individuality reminded us of that, and it was -- funnily enough -- emphasized by the French. With its enormous Series 3 exhibition at 180 The Strand, which launched with a star-studded party attended casually by Catherine Deneuvre and Bianca Jagger, Louis Vuitton put a typically fabulous full stop to a day that saw designers doing some serious soul searching by way of art and culture, those eternal muses.
The exhibition takes you through a huge building where each room is dedicated to an aspect of the enigmatic mind of Nicolas Ghesquière, from light shows to show spaces and everything in between. And walking through those rooms, the idea of trends seemed kind of obsolete. This was all about defining the soul of a single house. In an interview in the last issue of i-D, Sir Paul Smith announced his intentions to increase the directional value of his womenswear for spring/summer 16, much like he has done with his menswear in recent seasons. With a new team in place, Sir Paul and his designers headed to the Holland Park house he shares with his wife Lady Pauline Denyer, and went through photo albums of their life together. They were pinning down the soul of Paul Smith and his private world, to define the roots that created his fashion empire. Backstage before the show, Sir Paul said his reinvention was ultimately based on haute couture salon shows he and Lady Pauline would visit in their twenties, when they were still just Paul and Pauline.
"Pauline had the famous Yves Saint Laurent red fox coat, which used to get us into Studio 54," he casually recounted. "The guy at the door would go like this," he said, pointing his finger, smiling. Soul, of course, cannot be reinvented, but it can be expanded and with his new womenswear that's exactly what he did, through heavy fabrics in both texture and weight, some covered in the silk-screen print that started out Sir Paul's business, others left minimal and clean. The dreamy tailoring was dreamier, more defined and with a ridiculously sense of luxe to it, which clearly took from couture. "The last few seasons I've worked hard on the men-for-women and women-for-men look, which this still has elements of, but what we've added to that are all these new shapes," he said, gesturing at a string of sculptural dresses. Bags that looked like accordions had instant covetability about them and there were those fashion-y platform sandals, but the shock of the new never seemed desperate. It was soulfully Paul Smith.
He referred to his colors as "Hockney-esque", and if there was a definite trend to Sunday's show parade, art was it. At Pringle of Scotland, Massimo Nicosia showed gigantic stitching inspired the blown-up crochet installations of Ernesto Neto, and shapes derived from the work of Louise Bourgeois. "I value the imperfection of stuff made by hand," he said backstage, a picture of Charlotte Rampling behind him, which is never a bad thing. Justin Thornton and Thea Bregazzi always have London's best venues, and their collection influenced by modern architecture and the work of Norman Foster could only have taken place in the auditorium of our epic City Hall, which made you wonder why more people haven't shown there. Maybe Boris Johnson just loves him some Preen. The geometric shapes of light and shadows fed into the prints, while shiny tight dresses that danced on the skin were likely what Thornton referred to backstage when he listed Michael Clark as a reference, and "how he incorporates clothing into the movement of the body."
If soul in fashion is about doing your own thing, you might call Mary Katrantzou a soul sister. Her show notes cited cosmos, which might be the ultimate reference in these fashion times of global influences. More down to Earth, it was folkloric motifs from the Balkan region and its surrounding countries, worked with certain sci-fi touch and shown with at Central Saint Martins with a huge mirror as backdrop, distorting the models bodies as they walked down the runway. You didn't have to search long to find the soul on Planet Mary.
Text Anders Christian Madsen
Photography Jason Lloyd Evans