For three seasons now, Aquascutum have been churning out some of the most winning, wearable looks seen on a London catwalk, and — dare we say — have created a line that could encroach on Burberry’s stock. For a/w ’06-’07, designers Michael Herz and Graeme Fidler showed long- and short-belted jackets (some with floral embroidery creeping down the front of the jacket and even on the belting itself), loads of empire-waist dresses, ’50s-style short dresses worn over pencil pants, and barely seen A-line skirts, mostly in black and white, which had an effortless ease that was runway-to-street ready.
An exercise in cut and shape is the leitmotif for any Preen collection, and this season the shape of the body was emphasized even more with the manipulation of form creating new lines. This was evident in the asymmetric shapes and the continuous cuts along the torso that separated the chest from the bust and the waist from the hip. By doing this and exposing the legs and arms they created the illusion of a shorter, shapelier body and longer, leaner arms and legs. The subdued palette of block colors in silver, pewter, black, and red emphasized the collection’s minimalism. Overall, the line was a triumph and one of the most memorable shows.
In general, references shifted away from the ’80s to those of the early ’90s — the transition years between power suits and grunge. Designers such as Avshalom Gur, Richard Nicholl, and Roksanda Ilincic — a genius talent who does some of the best outsized proportions — created the 21st-century version of the strong shoulder, an update to the mega shoulder pads that defined the ’80s. This shoulder line was seen on coats, jackets, and accessories, with highly exaggerated padding and ruffles along the shoulders and arms that complemented the models’ swan-like necks. Along with Nicoll’s perfect use of padding was his manipulation of crushed velvet on dresses, cropped and tapered trousers, biker jackets, and ruffled collars. Velvet was also seen at Preen, Basso & Brooke, and Marios Schwab. Dresses were cut to shorten the torso and elongate the legs, resulting in the illusion of never-ending pins. Legs are to be exposed for next season with Preen and Sinha-Stanic‘s short coats and jackets, with even more skin being shown in strapless/sleeveless dresses at Giles and Jonathan Saunders. Accessories inspired by ’90s fashion included those seen at Marios Schwab, who pushed the Alaia dresses a step further by adding in the quintessential ’90s choker and at Richard Nicholl with his use of polka-dotted tights. Gareth Pugh showed, in a deliciously eccentric collection that included a diamond-patterned puffer jacket, souped-up headgear, and vinyl leggings, that Dr. Martens will be very much in demand this winter. Robert Cary-Williams masterfully executed a unique style of patchwork materials. Combining floral prints with tweed, or juxtaposing army prints with gold embroidery, it was a battle between ’80s glam and ’90s natural tones.
There was another fight between glitter, sequins, and gems seen on the catwalks of Ashish, Ann Sofie Back, and Sinha-Stanic. Blouses, jackets, and dresses shimmered and sparkled down the catwalk from multicolors to black and gold — inviting the little black dress to dazzle. Ann Sofie Back went a step further with her play on zippers. Shaped like an S, the zippers complemented the movement of the body, with some becoming purely decorative pieces of art as they spiraled out from the front of a dress like industrial flowers. The excessive use of zippers also made a statement that buttons — as cherished and necessary as they are — need to be succeeded. It’s clear that fashion rules over the smallest details.
The large, obvious zippering of the early ’90s was also seen on pieces by designers Marios Schwab and Richard Nicholl, while dresses by Jonathan Saunders and Giles Deacon looked more like art. Saunders’ collection — a series of monochromatic black-and-white dresses and separates — looked like avant-garde urban landscape drawings of the New York skyline. Giles, on the other hand, played with geometric shapes and squares in a move inspired by the work of the cubists and Piet Mondrian. The reference to artwork on clothing was a hallmark of ’90s T- shirts and blouses: the use of it here solidifies the transitional styles that these designers have picked up on so well.
Prints didn’t stop with these designers, but were also seen at Basso & Brooke. Their collection exemplified the duo’s ability to use several print designs in such a way as to be acceptable for sophisticated and mature audiences. They picked up on the techno era, with the use of mechanic greens and illustrations of electronics, shaped-to-fit suits, tight dresses, and ’80s-style shirts. This was another indication of what the new kids on the block can do, simply, and in a darker, moodier spirit than in their previous two collections. Lest we forget Issa, who took their collection to the runway this season, their yummy prints came in a variety of color bases. We particularly loved the mix of tan, purple, and red hues combined in a group of wrap dresses, some spruced up for night with specks of diamante. Daniella Helayel has really hit the jackpot as the Diane Von Furstenberg of the new century.
Fur was apparent at the shows — made infamous by the antics at Julien MacDonald‘s afterparty — but what stood out more was the excessive use of leopard print and leather. Leopard print was seen at both Michiko Koshino and Giles, but leather was clearly the material for next season. Many designers including Bora Aksu, Camilla Staerk, Basso & Brooke, Ann Sofie Back, and Tristan Webber used leather — both patent and raw — on coats, waistcoats, trousers, and dresses — we couldn’t help but think of rock stars like the late Michael Hutchence from INXS.
There’s a growing trend to look back at the playfulness, glamour, and experimentation of the late-’80s and early ’90s, and in London — where many trends happen first — a/w ’06-’07 brought out this energy across the runways. Watch this space to see how this trend unfolds.
-Njide Ugboma and Jason Campbell
Richard Nicoll a/w ’06-’07
Aquascutum a/w ’06-’07
Sinha Stanic a/w ’06-’07
Gareth Pugh a/w ’06-’07
Ann-Sofie Back a/w ’06-’07
Jonathan Saunders a/w ’06-’07
Basso Brooke a/w ’06-’07