Following in the footsteps of the British heritage brands Burberry and Mulberry, Aquascutum have roped Michael Herz and Graham Fidler as designers in the hope of giving the label some upper-echelon cool. Part rock chic, part Audrey Hepburn, with a nod to the raincoat company that it began as, the collection consisted of black ’50s-inspired dresses, super-skinny pants (often accessorized with a smattering of tulle in the form of a bustle or petticoat skirt), relaxed military jackets, and of course a melange of full and cropped trenches. Although not groundbreaking in substance, it was a show that adequately depicted the tone for the week: polished and chock-full of wearable pieces.
Even designers revered for their avant-garde antics seem to have toned down and concentrated on the clothes. Take Preen. Trading in the jagged lines of old for a more streamlined version of their signature deconstructed style, this collection played on two of the big trends of the season — check and volume (also in evidence at Giles Deacon, Ashish and Gareth Pugh). In the most fantastic mustard, charcoal grey, black, and oversized tweed, dresses swooped and dipped, creating a soft, flouncing effect with enough off-kilter additions (plaited necklines, quirky pin-tucks and Edwardian button detailing) to maintain interest.
Another designer who went for substance over shenanigans (last season’s collection was shown on ice) was Peter Jensen. Taking cues from Ingmar Bergman’s Swedish film Fanny and Alexander, Jensen perfectly captured the current penchant for femininity and volume with his pine-forest printed A-line dresses, innocent smocked blouses, and bow-belted coats. Accessorized with head caps, woolen-wrapped suede boots, and snowflake or violin crafted wooden bags (courtesy of a collaboration with the Japanese illustrator Susumu Fujimoto), he almost had onlookers anticipating winter. Garen Demerdijian, the Paris-based designer behind Gardem embraced a deconstructed Edwardian mood. His dishevelled porcelain-doll models looked like they had been having a marvelous time romping around in Granny’s fabric box.
The week may have been more subdued, but it was not without its headline-making moments — the fur protestors outside Julien Mcdonald‘s show made sure of that. Whilst Tracey Emin did her best to show her disdain for "anything made of animal" (taking it upon herself to personally insult anyone adorned in it), Mcdonald is clearly not scared of a bit of controversy. Not only did he lay animal hide straight down the runway, he sent down this catwalk a bevy of scarves, capes, and coats — in chinchilla, fox, mink, and sable — encrusted with jewels. At Robert Cary-Williams, fur came in the form of Russian oligarch-type headdresses, whilst at Clements Ribeiro it was a simple smattering around the collars of clover-appliquéd and checked jackets.
As if to seal the mood of clean sophistication, the week ended with a surprisingly commercial show by the MA Central Saint Martins graduates. Although the winner of Harrods’ window display and £1000 was Sarah Ann Craven for her bodacious prints (a la Basso and Brooke) and cohesive chain theme, Louise Goldin’s spidery knitwear designs, and Sophia Amanzi George’s exaggerated folkloric dresses could easily go straight onto the floor at Browns Focus. In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised if they already are.
Photos: Aquascutum a/w ’05-’06
Preen a/w ’05-’06
Gardem a/w ’05-’06
Julien Mcdonald a/w ’05-’06