LONDON — Neither rain, nor sleet, nor dark, chilly nights (and days) seemed to dampen buyers’ enthusiasm for the London spring collections, which closed here Tuesday.
This story first appeared in the September 24, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Many of the city’s designers took a step up this season, said retailers, who predicted that the trends — Victoriana, handcrafting and embellishment, the color yellow, ruffles, frills, bare shoulders and midriffs — will shine on the shop floor come next year.
Collections by Christopher Kane, Erdem, Mary Katrantzou, Thomas Tait, J.W. Anderson, Burberry and Simone Rocha were the most popular, while buyer complaints about the week included problems with traffic (as always) and show venue proximity. Despite London Fashion Week’s move to a new venue in the center of town in Soho — a five-minute walk from Piccadilly Circus — some designers insisted on staging their shows in far-flung locations, forcing guests to sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic and causing delays with subsequent shows.
Stephen Ayres, fashion director at online retailer Avenue 32, noted that “the shows were more scattered across town this season, which made getting between them difficult, and the great British weather didn’t help,” he said.
The rain and the traffic appeared to be the only downsides to the five days of shows. Some 78 designers showed on the official schedule, with 52 runway shows and 26 presentations, with 100 million pounds, or $155 million at current exchange, in orders placed during London Fashion Week each season (not counting orders taken in Paris).
“As a whole, the London designers are thrilling,” said Linda Fargo, senior vice president of fashion office and store presentation at Bergdorf Goodman. “The fusion of artistry, craftsmanship and overarching concept is impressive, and still makes for desirable and ultimately wearable clothing.”
She said dresses and other visions of femininity prevailed, and that her team liked the Victoriana influences. “Erdem’s collection stood out as perhaps a best-of-show in this vein, and his new store in Mayfair is a must-stop — or just move-in,” she said.
Ayres at Avenue 32 called Erdem’s show “a real ‘wow’ moment,” adding that, “His updated silhouettes were on point while still remaining true to the brand DNA and in the most stunning, intricate fabrications.”
Ken Downing, senior vice president and fashion director of Neiman Marcus, said the Victoriana theme — with all of the lace, crochet and embellishment — speaks directly to his customers. “This is the season of ‘grandmotherly’ meets midcentury,” he said. “You see the human hand in so many of these clothes, and that’s what customers are looking for. They want adornment — it makes clothes look more special.”
He also pointed to Erdem’s “lavish and re-embroidered laces,” as well as Kane’s neon ones, and to the balance Simone Rocha struck between “femininity and edge.” Her collection featured handwoven, bondage-like made with macramé techniques on materials such as silicon and rope.
Another vote for Rocha’s collection came from Selfridges’ director of women’s wear and accessories, Judd Crane. He said that the designer “elevated her aesthetic and really came into her own.” Crane also pointed to Gareth Pugh’s Soho-inspired collection, filled with latex, fringing and fur, which he called “celebratory, confident [and] ebullient,” while he praised Marques’ Almeida for “[pushing] forward their signature shredded denim this season, continuing to make extreme ideas accessible.”
Ayres called LVMH Prize winners Marques’ Almeida’s collection “simply stunning,” pointing to their more “feminine and poetic” direction.
Liberty pointed to ultrafeminine embellishment as a major trend, and said its budget for London is up, “based on strong showings from our established brands and several new additions,” according to Scott Tepper, fashion buying and merchandising director.
He said Katrantzou soared to a new level “with her deliciously modern micro-sequins that sparkled like a rainbow, and her ingenious new hair ribbons were just icing on the cake.” Tepper praised Kane as well, “especially for evening, where multicolored fringe looked as hip and cool as it’s ever going to — you have to love London for that.”
Katrantzou’s collection also drew praise from Leila Yavari, Stylebop.com’s fashion director. “Her designs seem to have a newfound sense of softness and ease while still retaining that powerful ethos,” said Yavari, adding that she found the designer’s show “particularly breathtaking.” Yavari also called Rocha’s collection “particularly memorable…because of the confidence she exuded.”
In terms of trends, Yavari saw lace as the “big news for London.” She said the material was “[infused] with edge, with innovative treatments, directional cuts and novel color ways,” pointing to the “unexpected acid hues,” in Kane’s collection. Ayres also pointed out “the intricacy of lace work, embroidery and embellishment,” that came through from the London shows. “[The detail] is not easy for the high street to reproduce, giving us real lust-after pieces for the spring 2016 season.”
In addition, Ayres singled out Jonathan Saunders’ collection for praise. “This season [Saunders] took it up a notch and delivered such a beautiful feminine collection which will be a huge commercial success,” he said.
Another designer who garnered kudos from multiple retailers was Thomas Tait, who steered clear of frills and lace in favor of clean lines and geometric shapes in a collection that drew on midcentury collage, tribal artistry and industrial design. “It was a real step up with so many new and modern ideas. I watched it very intently in order to take it all in,” said Natalie Kingham, buying director at Matchesfashion.com.
Downing called Tait’s jeans with the peekaboo knees “cool-girl clothes that will work in places like Miami and L.A. Thomas has in the past been somewhat cerebral, but these clothes were so wearable — you can wear them off the catwalk and walk right out the door.”
Suzanne Timmins, senior vice president and fashion director of Hudson’s Bay Co. and Lord & Taylor, said of Tait: “He continues to evolve as a designer. His collections are at once modern and luxurious, always with Thomas’s signature edge.”
Buyers also pointed to J.W. Anderson, who sent his models on a metaphorical trip to the moon and back, and dressed them in leg-of-mutton sleeves, narrow trousers that tied with a ribbon at the ankle, and little black bras and slipdresses in crinkly and wet-look fabrics.
“He continues to give us what we didn’t know we wanted, this time exaggerating the feminine details so prevalent on the runways this season in myriad ways that would have gone so wrong in less capable hands, but looked just terrific in his,” said Tepper. Crane at Selfridges praised the “confidence” of Anderson’s woman.
As to London Fashion Week’s new Brewer Street venue, Yavari at Stylebop.com said it proved “a smart choice,” despite initial “mixed feelings” about the location. “[It] really did make sense as an epicenter for a citywide celebration of style,” she said. Crane said that the venue was “slickly operated,” and added that “despite the traffic, shifting [London Fashion Week] to Soho — the city’s hedonist heart — is an interesting move.”