By  on February 13, 2008

This is no season for wallflowers. Designers are strutting their stuff with striking shapes and distinctive embellishments.

Aquascutum: Michael Herz and Graeme Fidler sent out a collection that focused on the coat in all of its peacock splendor. This isn't outerwear for the faint of heart, but for the drama queen brooding inside every woman. The big, bold collection included trenches with pouf sleeves, nipped waists and oversize collars; long, slim military-inspired numbers, and sexy black frock coats with oversize lapels. Herz and Fidler said that their aim was to capture the heart of the brand. May the beat go on.

Edward Sexton: Fed up with the ultraskinny, sprayed-on silhouettes on the runways, celebrated British tailor Edward Sexton, who made his reputation on Savile Row, decided to strut his own sartorial stuff during London Fashion Week. Sexton, whose clients have included Bianca Jagger, Nancy Reagan and Jackie Onassis, and who taught Stella McCartney her tailoring techniques, showed a sleek, stylish collection. It was filled with slim, double-breasted cashmere overcoats nipped at the waist, fluid belted dresses with cutout fronts and chili-pepper red velvet suits with a sultry appeal. His inspiration, he said, was timeless elegance, and this season he hit a bull's-eye.

Paul Smith: Paul Smith crisscrossed the Channel for fall to give his very English rose some Parisian spice. And while his take on French dressing didn't always hit the mark — see the skinny mustard dresses with peekaboo crinolines — there was more than enough to inspire his fan base. Smith sent out high-waisted dresses and neat frock coats in a mouthwatering shade of chocolate; boxy, waffle-knit gray sweaters and striped tops for those Saturday mornings spent with a few Gauloises, and fluid, wide-legged trousers worn with shrunken knits, fit for a rainy afternoon at the Musée d'Orsay.

Louise Goldin: Goldin gave her knits a clever technical spin for fall, with pixilated images and luxe details. Gray cashmere skater skirts were adorned with what appeared to be little intarsia arrows, but which instead were pixilated squares in peach, coral and mint. Blue Swarovski crystals were fashioned into a pattern resembling a circuit board for tight wool tops, while colored stripes — echoing computer bar codes — decorated navy wool leggings.Christopher Kane: Kane has swapped his rock-chick muse for a more whimsical gal who doesn't mind a few sparkles on her woolly sweaters. This polished collection was a study in contrasts: chunky sequins — the size of half dollars — winked from fluttery flapper dresses, while silver beads and chain embroidery snaked their way over Aran knits.

Marios Schwab: Schwab still hasn't lifted his gaze from the human body. His neck-to-ankle, form-fitting bodystocking dresses — so tight that models tiptoed across, rather than stalked, the runway — added an ultralean silhouette to the designer's body-conscious repertoire. But the best of Schwab's dresses were made from delicate jersey, laser-cut into the outlines of William Morris prints, and layered over barely discernable pornographic images.

Emma Cook: Emma Cook returned to the runway after a two-season break with a charming collection that combined folk, Gothic and military references. The designer experimented with fabrics, working tie-dyed rubber and heavily embellished tie-dyed jersey into dresses ideal for an edgy Tinkerbell. Crystal-encrusted lace patchwork and Lurex fringing created an overall shimmering effect, a fitting contrast to the collection's muted camouflage color palette.

Duro Olowu: Olowu's garden of color and print was in full bloom, although the collection was leaner and more polished than in past seasons. Chocolate-and-white ikat patterns spilled over sleek jersey tunic dresses, while giant pink-and-blue roses popped up on navy silk palazzo pants. Among his standout pieces was a cocoon-shaped opera coat covered in a clashing red-and-green leopard print made entirely from shimmering metal studs.


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