Am I dreaming? Is it the jet lag? It’s my first day at London Fashion Week and what I think I am seeing is curvy, bodacious — okay, downright plump — models, mixed in with the usual roster of Dickensian starving children, sashaying down the runway at the Mark Fast show. Fast specializes in knitwear, and though he offers some caftan-y numbers, he makes the revolutionary decision not to hide the larger models in them. Instead, he pours these voluptuaries into the smallest, tightest ensembles he has, and they look tremendously chic. (Could there be some truth to the preposterous theory, promulgated by one of my best friends, that the smallest bikini makes you look better, no matter how big you are?)
The Fast show is held in a basement space near Covent Garden, which you enter, along with thousands of your fellow show attendees, by descending a series of ramps, like one of those cows Temple Grandin understands so well. But no matter! I’m especially excited by the confections at Meadham Kirchhoff, which begins with the disembodied voice of Laura Wingfield discussing pleuroses and blue roses, then goes on to present a gaggle of lovelies in paper crowns and ankle-length veils over long, funny, sequined dresses, like little girls pretending to be Indian brides, along with one spectacular leather jacket actually painted with azure blossoms. This is just the sort of thing I myself like to wear to run to Gristedes, but unfortunately earlier in the afternoon I found myself at Liberty of London (I took a break! Sue me!) and saw a lovely polka-dot Meadham Kirchhoff with a tag that read 1,465 (and that’s pounds).
Though Vivienne Westwood wears a do-rag on her head that says “Chaos” when she takes her bow at the end of her show, the setting is hardly anarchic. The designer, who was once married to Malcolm McLaren and is largely credited, with him, with inventing the punk sartorial aesthetic — plaid kilts, graffiti-smeared shirts, etc. — holds her Red Label show at the Royal Courts of Justice, which has a gorgeous mosaic floor, stone arches, and portraits of old guys in crimson robes and curly white wigs lining the walls. (Talk about extreme British fashion.) In this storied edifice, Westwood trots out many looks, the best of which are the plaid skirts and graffiti-printed tees.
Blue Man Group meets Michelin woman! Frocks with armholes but not for your arms! Motorcycle jackets missing their backs! Minnie Mouse–ear bodices outlined with gigantic ruffles! Shower-curtain-covered sweatshirt gowns! Frostina the Snowman swathed in feathers! Star-shaped metal harnesses! The Central St Martins show features all of the above, and much, much more, and is by far the longest fashion show I have been to: Twenty-two students showing what, by this point in the evening, feels like 100 looks each. The event begins with a recording of Alexander McQueen, an alumni, describing what the school meant to him, and about the freedom he felt being around like-minded people in that design community. The goofy exuberance on the runway is a wonderful tribute to his spirit.
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