Given New York Fashion Week’s emphasis on functionally commercial clothes, it can be easy to forget that fashion is a fanciful endeavor. Thankfully, London’s famously brave sartorial choices were a reminder that, with the proper dose of stylistic and ornamental edge, fashion can also be fun, colorful and, above all, bold.
Christopher Kane used brazen colors in a Princess Margaret-inspired collection which showcased intricately perforated leather that resembled lace. The designs were chromatically reminiscent of his debut outing with body-con dresses, but Kane’s evolved technique has moved into a more sophisticated realm. There were fluorescent combination of green on highlighter-bright yellows, hot pink on orange in a suit, an argyle sweater set paired with yellow skirts as well as pink and yellow lace dresses that fell below the knees. Erdem, by contrast, used lace to ethereal ends in all-white dresses with flirty A-line skirts, while red-inflected numbers were as swoon-worthy as ever.
Mary Katrantzou’s success at using prints to shock and flatter a woman’s body was in full abundance during her s/s ’11 collection. She absorbed eye-catching, grand interiors that made women’s dresses and skirts sometimes look like chic window treatments, but which strategically framed and complement each contour to appealing effect. Jonathan Saunders’ graphic tendency also lent itself to a lovely collection. The material used in halter tops with orange, map-like impressions also appeared in pale blue in skirts and among light yellow and orange dresses that seemed glide through the air.
Giles Deacon paraded the 71-year-old Verushka in a ’90′s referenced collection filled with delightfully clashing layers—polka dot dress paired with an argyle vest, eyeballs and hibiscus prints in silk trousers and oversized dresses with faint prints of bows. Meadham Kirchhoff also opted to revel in ’90s aesthetics, emphasizing the vestiges of grunge with baby doll dress, disheveled layers and oversized shirts in audacious colors. And although Marios Schwab’s collection touched on the occult, its air of toughness and appealing slip dresses seemed perfect for the decade’s most notorious bad girls like Courtney Love.
Acne, meanwhile, stuck to a minimal, reference-free outing, but managed to eek out some punchy colors as seen in a long tank and skirt combination as well as slouchy sweaters in bright red. Hannah Marshall, too, showed a tightly edited, mostly black and beige collection, which was progressive but less aggressive than last season’s outing, David Koma‘s black and white color combination came through in sexy and angular dresses, and Burberry Prorsum‘s heritage trench coats which were turned into motorcycle jackets were nipped at the waist by neon double buckle belts.
Louise Gray’s cacophony of prints and textures was delightfully madcap, and with hats made by Lady Gaga milliner, Nasir Mazhar, it also showed the power of embellishment. Mark Fast similarly added ornamentation to his signature body-con knits with a deft use of fringe that created an appealing luster when in motion. Roksanda Ilincic, meanwhile, worked pinked gauze into lusciously ruched and voluminous pencil skirts and tops, and Felicity Brown’s mille-feuille ruffled dresses shown at Fashion East were so impressive that Barneys immediately picked them up.
Holly Fulton’s winning Art Deco prints and plastic layers created a sensation last season, but she seems to have struggled to keep up the momentum. There were flashes of that brilliance this go-round, but her obvious expansion into other categories didn’t carry the same zing. That said, she’s a promising designer who has the skills to even out her collection going forward. Michael Van der Ham, on the other hand, worked the collage aesthetic he is known for. Although his process is difficult to execute with contrasting vintage fabrics, prints and textures reconfigured into modern outfits, he did it with aplomb this season. And Van der Ham’s brave new looks is what London fashion is all about.