THE LONDON LOOK
LONDON — London Fashion Week, which began here Sunday, is now in full swing. The standout collections of the first four days were Clements Ribeiro, for its mix of Britain and Brazil, and Antonio Berardi, which had a voodoo theme. But retailers and press were still waiting for the fashion spectacles expected from Philip Treacy late on Wednesday night and wunderkind Alexander McQueen, who will show late Thursday night under London Bridge.
CLEMENTS RIBEIRO: Clements Ribeiro mined their roots for fall — and struck gold this time. The husband-and-wife design duo of the British Suzanne Clements and the Brazilian Inacio Ribeiro produced a winning formula on Tuesday evening: a mix of British traditionalism-with-a-twist and Brazilian artistic madness. Ribeiro had dubbed the collection “Punk Trousseau,” explaining that the couple wanted it to look like “a Victorian bride pulling things out of an old trunk, but she lives today and is a London punk.
“We knew we needed to produce something special this season, because the hype has been so huge,” Ribeiro added before their show. “We needed to raise our game.” And they did.
Their Victorian bride will be wearing lots of tartan — from lace-embroidered dresses to mini-kilts with floral embroidery; pinstriped suits cut on the bias, and cotton petticoat dresses with white reembroidered lace. Mixed with these were the duo’s signature striped knits, with bias stripes and in monochrome colors this season.
The Brazilian influence came from the artist Arthur Bispo do Rosario, a former sailor who spent his life embroidering the world’s knowledge onto cloth. Clements Ribeiro adapted the work to cover denim jeans with his Scripture patterns and cotton pinafores with mad maps of Brazil or nautical themes. New for the designers this season was eveningwear — from sheer chiffon dresses to embroidered jersey — and real mink trim on coat collars and bodices.
ANTONIO BERARDI: Antonio Berardi turned the Roundhouse Theater in North London into a jungle late Tuesday night. A thick layer of clay-colored sand covered the concrete floor, while a stainless steel-clad, T-shaped runway covered with gray paving slabs stretched into the audience. Three huge flames flickered in the darkness, and Sixties TV-show music blared. Then the curtains opened to reveal a flame-red backdrop.
The show was one of the most eagerly awaited of the season, and expectations were further heightened when the artist formerly known as Prince slipped into one of the front-row bleacher seats. Minutes later, however, when a British journalist asked him a question, he left his seat and watched the rest of the show from behind a pillar.
Berardi’s collection was inspired by voodoo, from the Rio Carnivale to black magic. There were sheer chiffon dresses embroidered with flowers; samba-style dresses, and ringmaster jackets. But Berardi also focused on his signature sexy looks of sharply tailored suits, this time in luxurious leathers with lace piping; sheer lingerie-style dresses; biker-style leather dresses with chevrons, and gladiator skirts shown under twinsets. The show proved that Berardi is the latest talent-to-be-watched in London, as Louis Vuitton’s flirtation with him indicated last season. But while the collection was much larger and more commercial than ever — thanks to his new Italian backer Givuesse — its repetitiveness showed Berardi still needs to mature a bit more.
LAINEY KEOGH: Knitwear designer Lainey Keogh pulled in the support of all her Irish friends for her first-ever runway show at the hip Cobden Club in West London Monday afternoon and came up with the first fashion event of the season. Irish piper Ronan Brown played a solo, while actor John Hurt introduced the collection with a reading of the Seamus Heaney poem “Field Work.” U2’s yet-to-be-released new album, “Pop,” provided the soundtrack, and Naomi Campbell, Helena Christensen and Jodie Kidd made their first appearances of the season.
Keogh said that her aim was to marry the ancient craft of Irish knitting to late-Nineties aesthetics, and the result was one of the strongest knitwear collections in a London season dominated by knits. There were hand-knits in simple shapes and intricate textures from basket and diamond-patterned cashmere or mohair to lacy dresses of silk embroidery threads. Earthy shades of brown, green and rust were mixed with more brilliant tones. According to Keogh, who launched her business in 1991 and now sells to Barneys, Maxfield’s, Charivari and Ultimo, “The reaction has been fantastic, and we’ll go on from here.”
NICOLE FARHI: Farhi has a sure hand when it comes to contemporary sportswear, and she showed it in the form of flannel jackets trimmed with astrakhan; pinstriped suits worn with glitter tops, and big coats, many with fake-fur collars. But the collection went off the rails when she took a voyage to a certain shop in Fulham Road — and spent too much time there.
SERAPH: Ghost’s sister collection, which is in its second season, hit some of the season’s main trends — Victorian-style ruched tops with wide pants or slim skirts; punched leather flares; sari-style herringbone dresses, and side-slit jersey dresses.
COPPERWHEAT BLUNDELL: Lee Copperwheat and Pamela Blundell are favorite designers for clubgoers from London to Tokyo, but for fall they went back to their tailoring roots. The collection, one of their best in some time, included pinstriped or gray flannel suits with cropped jackets and tight pants; big navy wool coats, and pale gray wool pants worn with leopard-print tops.
OWEN GASTER: Gaster’s sharp looks have influenced designers everywhere, and for fall he stuck to what he does best: tight plastic dresses with zipped backs; slim gray coats worn over purple hipsters; tight slit skirts, and Empire dresses over skinny pants. WORKERS FOR FREEDOM: The team of Richard Nott and Graham Fraser has long been known for ethnic looks, and these styles are all over the runways for fall. The duo were at their best with coats, jackets, long skirts and full-sleeved blouses embroidered with tone-on-tone flowers. But they got lost in the bedroom with their powder pink, lingerie-style evening looks.