Pity poor London Fashion Week, the groovy orphan child of runway shows, sandwiched between far more glamorous New York and Milan/Paris, striving for recognition and respectability in the hard-knock world of catwalks. If only all the people who hail from here would show here imagine Stella, Phoebe, John Galliano, Roland Mouret, McQueen! But alas, even Vivienne Westwood elects to have her major show in France, though her Anglomania extravaganza more on this in a minute remains in her hometown.
So what did we learn in four thrill-packed days of London show-going? First off: Through that strange fashion osmosis that everyone acknowledges but no one really understands, polka dots have left the Marc Jacobs show at the Lexington Avenue Armory, drifted across the Atlantic, and landed a block from Covent Garden on the glorious, adorably wacky runway of Louise Gray, where they manifest painted on faces, enhancing metallic minis, and even decorating boots. (They also pop at Paul Smith, in a collection of menswear-influenced pieces that, though perfectly acceptable, did not exactly strain Sir Paul’s imagination.)
“She’s an owl,” whispers the publicist at the Mulberry show, which refers not to my physical appearance (at least she didn’t say hippo) but to some kind of animal coding for the seats. My avian status notwithstanding, I am too late to take a chair and therefore stuck in standing room, from which vantage point I can report that there are a lot of big bags no surprise, as these are the brand’s big draw.
A display of vintage sweaters greets us outside Pringle, part of an elaborate project the company has done with Central Saint Martins students which confirms my long-held opinion that the glory days of these resuscitated houses (Pringle got a "brand reinvention" a few years ago) usually far outshine their contemporary efforts. If only the runway offered witty interpretations of twinsets or argyle pastiches instead of the sad ponchos in evidence here. To be fair (though it’s so much more fun not to be) the leather jacket with a cape that opens the show seems like a clever alternative for someone longing to wear a biker jacket but without the physical attributes that garment demands.
The opening looks at Christopher Kane could have been a response to a particularly sadistic school competition who can make the crochet squares most often associated with granny afghans look cool? Kane does his damndest to win the contest, even printing the unlovely squares on tough-girl leather separates. Even so, far more appealing are the shimmering dresses for renegade mermaids, in aquatic colors and without the tiresome fishtail.
More than one editor admits to tearing up after the Burberry Prorsum show, but it’s not the orange melton coats and the white ski-bunny ensembles that turn on the waterworks it’s the riveting, heartbreaking Adele song, “Someone Like You,” on the loudspeakers. If the clothes can’t match the artistry of the music, they are still a vast improvement over last season, and you have only to glance at Kate Bosworth in the front row clad, unfortunately for her, in one of the metallic numbers from spring 2011 for proof.
“Is that literally Boy George?” a breathless voice asks at Vivienne Westwood, held in the Royal Court, where you have to put your purse through a scanner and enter under a metal detector though at least you’re allowed to keep your Louboutins on. Westwood is in her typical form, which means multifarious plaids, kilts attached to trousers, and other wonderful ideas that haven’t lost their glitter even after all these years. And, yes, it is George, in full makeup and sporting a hot pink Trilby hat embellished with studded skull and crossbones, keeping the spirit of louche London alive, as if Lee McQueen is lurking just behind the runway and George is off to a night of dirty glamour at Heaven and the Ministry of Sound.
See the Complete Louise Gray Fall 2011 Collection
See the Complete Paul Smith Fall 2011 Collection
See the Complete Mulberry Fall 2011 Collection
See the Complete Pringle of Scotland Fall 2011 Collection
See the Complete Christopher Kane Fall 2011 Collection
See the Complete Burberry Prorsum Fall 2011 Collection
See the Complete Vivienne Westwood Red Label Fall 2011 Collection