A roundup of our favorite collections from London Fashion Week. By Gabriel Bell
On the heels of a somewhat quiet New York Fashion Week, we can always count on London to turn up the volume…way up. Many of our favorite pioneers didn't disappoint, but we honed our list down to seven that we thought ruled the runway.
Though England's Nathan Jenden already had years of experience in the houses of Galliano and von Furstenburg, he only truly arrived as a star thanks to his fiery London collection last season. Not missing a beat, Jenden presented another eye-grabbing collection of cheeky, superb creations for spring/summer '08. Again, the skirts were as large and broad as the attitude and influences with traces of Restoration court dress, Carnaby Street, cupie dolls, and the Royal Ascot colliding in a parade of outsized bows, empress waists, and ballooning blouse sleeves that owed far more to Galliano's couture work than DvF's Studio 54 ease. While most of this ready-to-wear line was far more watchable than wearable (as any good London collection should be) the artistry of his simple, narrow black dress with oversized white cuffs and jets of crimson silk creeping out the sleeve and his black riding jacket with white bustle dress wrapped in a yellow bow with a baseball cap on top were undeniable.
The 24-year-old winner of this, that, and the other thing, Christopher Kane, continues his role as the local prodigy by adding this whimsical, very personal collection of ruffled chiffon to the praise he's already collected. We'd call the tiered ruffle dresses, relaxed sweatshirts, torn jeans, and leather boots that sprouted up early in the collection adorable, but that might suggest a lack of taste and balance. Kane displayed both. Indeed, there wasn't a lot to differentiate many of the daytime looks from restitched scraps from around the house or togs that would have been commonplace on early-'80s co-eds except Kane's ever-present, always welcome intelligence. It's marvelous how this young guy can spin so much out of what could be so little. The geometric, tribal block prints that have been cropping up here and there the past few seasons appeared on tank dresses and sweaters, and several of the ruffled compositions (yes, more ruffles) bordered on harlequin gear—but again, Kane changed what could have been trend or treacle into something lovely and alluring.
A man with momentum, Jonathan Saunders always does best when his body-hugging, no-nonsense designs stay that way—trim, taught, and without fanfare. Saunders, the rare Central St. Martin's graduate who leans more toward style than experimentation, displays an uncanny knack for mature, cosmopolitan chic and the best pieces in this taupe, black, and white collection stayed in that urbane minimalist framework. Thanks to a modicum of layering and silhouettes that generally hugged every curve, allusions to hip streetwear were outnumbered by those toward tennis dresses—though these are not pieces designed for doing anything other than looking your best. A loose black dress with an integrated, over-the-shoulder sash, a sweater in beige with contrast-banded black sleeves and an off-shoulder white number with gray edges were particularly spare and pleasing.
It's rare to see a runway show where one can watch true evolution, true transformation from piece to piece. Often, the art of the stylist is confounded by the varying interests of the designer and the show, no matter how good the clothes, is a well-presented bazaar rather than a clear demonstration of a single aesthetic. Not so with Richard Nicoll. From the see-through starched linen top and bottom of the first look to the tapered transparent dress at the end, one could see a true movement through the Aussie/Brit designer's range and back again. But enough of the stage theory—the clothes themselves included the aforementioned crisp, gauzy numbers along with straightforward women's power suits, stiff, coffee-toned organza evening gowns and metallic-sheen shirts and raincoats. The vibe was, outside of the delightful wicked witch hats, remarkably mature and, dare we say it of one of the Empire's own, quite New York in its own way.
Rising London Fashion Week star Erdem Moralioglu, himself a mix of Turkish, British, and Canadian persuasions, continued to blend high and low style and add to his already burgeoning reputation with his spring/summer '08 collection. Erdem's gloriously simple fluted dress became hypnotic and complex thanks to a mesmerizing black-and-white pattern. It was a device used throughout the line as elementary, wide-legged pants and flowing gowns became eye-grabbers with yellow, black, and gray motifs and near-structureless sundresses became riots of color. Still, the underlying garments were themselves just as versatile and relaxed as the early daytime pieces. Rolling into nightwear, Moralioglu kept up the play of contrasts by piling ruffles atop crisp jackets and blouses while laying translucent white skirts over stunning black gowns. Twice he paired cropped leather biker-style vests over volumes of flowing fabric, creating a wonderful tension between the tight, edgy tops and the loose, feminine garments below.
In keeping with their Central St. Martin's pedigree, Croat Aleksandar Stanic and Brit Fiona Sinha (aka Sinha-Stanic) have spent the last few years blending street influences with boundary-pushing silhouettes. While their spring/summer '08 line showed a new penchant for color and cheer, their desire to tweak body conventions while remaining fully marketable remains the same. This time around, the pair turned their sharp aesthetic away from previously sleek and brooding collections to a more playful approach. Pale blue dresses completely concealed the waist with folded, ballooning volumes while arching jackets in peach and hid away the shoulders beneath collars and rounded, structural sleeves. Leather lapped over itself and back again in a couple of interesting, challenging short pieces. Despite these descriptions, the collection was not all pomp and circumstance, but rather an approachable take on some very fashion-forward concepts.
Layered, luscious, and a little loopy, Louise Goldin's spring/summer '08 collection combined an oversaturated take on resortwear colors, Brazilian beachwear, hipster shamelessness, and a madwoman's loom. Here, speedy, sporty layered rompers, tanks, and short dresses that would be daring enough if produced by a Spandex machine were made even more impressive when knit by this challenging young talent. Kandinsky color swatches literally flew off the pieces as errant bands of cloth pushed the boundaries of the already inventive silhouettes, which arced, twisted, and gathered in unusual forms and places. Was this collection of multi-panel dresses wearable? We're not sure. Were the geometric forms, peek-a-boo shoulders and sexy, block-colored pieces infinitely watchable? No question.
Because we'd hate to miss a stitch or give a deserving designer short shrift, we must mention a solid presentation by twisted tailor Todd Lynn and mad professor Marios Schawb. Lynn excelled in rock showmanship, offering a parade of slick-haired androgynous men and women wearing collisions of formal wear and biker gear featuring demi-tails, missing sleeves, faux details and ringmaster collars. More impressively, Schawb crafted a colorful anatomy lesson, where every piece—from the subtle matte-black experiments in ruching and structure to the kaleidoscopic jersey dresses—both redefined the female silhouette and referred to the beautiful bones and blood underneath.
Images via style.com
A roundup of our favorite collections from London Fashion Week.