LONDON — So, did London dazzle or disappoint? American buyers shopping the spring collections, which ended here Monday, were divided about the season: Some said it was a major letdown, while others were excited about what they saw as the city’s new edge.
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“Overall, I don’t think it was a good season. It felt like London’s freshman year, meaning I don’t think the designers are quite ready yet to sell,” said Beth Buccini, the co-owner of Kirna Zabête. “They’re not there yet; they need more time. But we’re optimistic. We feel like there are so many designers to watch.” Buccini said she liked Tata-Naka’s and Eley Kishimoto’s prints, and Sophia Kokosalaki’s color palette.
Julie Gilhart, vice-president of fashion merchandising at Barneys, said her spring 2003 season would not have been complete without London. “It’s good to come because it’s a really inspirational city, and there are so many ideas,” she noted. “That said, I don’t think there was a central theme or a central energy to these shows. I think this city needs to be explored in a different way.” Gilhart said a wise strategy for London is to choose shows carefully, visit showrooms and meet as many designers as possible. “I don’ think you need to be obsessed with going to every show.”
Meanwhile, Anna Garner, fashion director at Henri Bendel, was excited about what she saw. “For me, I think there’s a new edge emerging here,” she said. “The collections are a bit more commercial, and I think it was a strong season — more approachable than it has been in the past.”
Garner called Gibò’s new collection by Julie Verhoeven the “highlight” of the week, and a good blend of the creative and commercial. She said Kokosalaki offered up her strongest collection yet. “This is the collection that’s going to launch her,” Garner stated. “She’s gone to another level, showing an extraordinary color palette and giving new aspects to leather.”
Garner also liked what she called London’s whimsy. “There’s a new wave coming through with Gharani Strok and Frost French.” She also called Shami Senthi’s prints phenomenal and said the store would carry its second season of Hamish Morrow and Tanya Ling. She did, however, concede that some of London’s younger designers have to mature and need to think of commerce — as well as creativity.
“The younger designers have a way to go before they’re able to offer their collections to an international market,” she explained. “You get the feeling that some of these collections you see here won’t even go into production. London lacks the marketing know-how of other cities, and these designers need to think more strategically and in terms of long-term goals.”
Buyers from Bloomingdale’s said the city had a good energy this season, and said Roland Mouret is ready to shoot forward as London’s next star. “People like him make it worth coming here,” said a Bloomingdale’s spokeswoman, who also liked Kokosalaki, Julien Macdonald and Jessica Ogden.
Colleen Sherin, market director of Saks Fifth Avenue, said she felt a lot of excitement and that fashion week met her expectations. “They’re good at showcasing young talent and street trends,” she said, citing Burberry, Pringle, Warren Noronha, Roland Mouret, Tata-Naka, Sophia Kokosalaki, Blaak and Gibò as favorites.
She said she also likes looking at street fashion. “You go out and see people already wearing things that we’ll be carrying for spring 2003,” she said. “They’re very tapped into what’s happening in the youth culture and the music industry. I also think the stylists based here are very inspirational for the designers. It’s a city where people are more willing to take risks and experiment.”