LONDON — Growing up isn’t hard to do — just ask London’s designers, who traded their Eighties shapes, in-your-face colors, and over-the-top styling for quieter, more sophisticated looks with a Twenties vibe this season. The spring shows were more polished, too: shorter and better organized. “Everyone has to grow up sometime. It’s just a question of trying to get better and develop,” said Pablo Flack, who, with Hazel Robinson, designs House of Jazz.

Boudicca: It’s been the best of times and the worst of times for Zowie Broach and Brian Kirkby, the designers behind the Boudicca label. In June, the duo won a coveted, seven-year sponsorship from American Express, but later in the summer, a fire broke out in their East London studio. They also lost their much-loved Algerian tailor, who decided to move back to North Africa. But at least it all ended well: The all black-and-white spring collection they showed was pure magic, with shapely, curve-hugging skirts, sharply tailored jackets and sensuous, high-waisted black dresses with fluted sleeves. “We were just happy to be able to stage the show,” said Broach. “Working with American Express is like having a big brother hold us up. We’re still such a fragile business.”

Paul Smith: Paul Smith spun a rainbow of bright color this season, turning out dizzying stripes, bold flower prints and ever-so-delicate butterfly designs for this very wearable, something-for-everyone collection. And why not give the customers just what they want? Smith, whose business is humming, said after the presentation that preshow sales this season were up 12 percent over last year. True to form, he mixed soft and tailored elements. There were sexy, striped silk slipdresses; fluttery butterfly-print silk tops paired with swingy skirts, and curve-hugging silk skirts with ruching around the derriere. He also sent out stylish trenchcoats, fitted safari jackets and good-looking man-tailored shirts. The designer himself described the collection as “vintage Smith” — i.e., women’s versions of men’s clothing, with lots of pattern and print.

House of Jazz: This edgy label is about as East London as it gets. Its designers were a major force behind the Eighties revival that started a few seasons ago, then started doing sweats. Last season, however, they began to move into more feminine territory, which they continued to mine for spring. There were floaty, cinnamon-colored silk blouses and palazzo jumpsuits covered with a pink, yellow and blue bubble print. The dresses were dazzlers — powder blue, flapper-inspired slip numbers and tuxedo-inspired ones with pleated hems. There was also a nod to Flack and Robinson’s past with skinny, scoopnecked black dresses that resembled oversized tank tops. “What you’ve been seeing for the past few seasons has been experimental,” Flack said. “This is a natural result of that.”

Elspeth Gibson: Gibson started with her signature pretty tulle dresses scattered with sequins and feathers. She then moved onto high-waisted tweed trousers, belted jackets in faded rose prints and pinstriped cotton shirtdresses. Among the collection’s standouts were her beige silk jersey tops with delicate rope-like straps or shiny bunches of shells at the neck. Lingerie-inspired looks, including tight, nude girdle skirts and tailored corset-like tops made from peach silk with biscuit suede insets, were Gibson’s sexiest ever.

Tata Naka: Georgian twins Tamara and Natasha Surguladze swapped their whimsical sketch prints on chiffon for bold, bright childlike patterns on lightweight silks. The colorful prints — of cups and saucers, cakes on cake stands, pears on plates and bunches of grapes — were either embellished with sequins or knife-pleated into camisole tops, genie pants and smock dresses. Grown-up glamour came in the form of a Seventies purple silk jumpsuit with baggy trousers that gathered at the ankles and a plunging halter neck. It was all held together with a gold bunch-of-grapes buckle.

To access this article, click here to subscribe or to log in.

load comments
blog comments powered by Disqus