THE RISING GENERATION
It’s like playing chicken. London’s young and reckless — the ones who would rather starve than send commercial clothes down the runway — are supposed to turn their backs on safety and drive themselves headlong toward something edgier, while the audience looks on with bloodthirsty anticipation. Or so the story goes. The city is renowned for designers full of derring-do, but it takes a wily one to win over retailers and still excite the peanut gallery.
Despite the pressure, a handful of these smart ones have managed to deliver clothes that live up to all the hype. Hazel Robinson and Pablo Flack of House of Jazz, for example — in their first season, had the blessing of London’s queen of cool, Luella Bartley. Bartley gave the pair her spot on the calendar when she decided to show her own collection in Milan, and Katie Grand, Bartley’s creative director, stepped in to style the show. The Jazz sent out simple, modish wool dresses and pants belted low, while Victorian touches tempered a blousy jacket’s tough attitude. It’s just the cleaned-up cleverness that Lizzie Disney does so well. This season, she passed on New York to show a sleek lineup in her hometown. A belted bell skirt and a black cashmere coat had an elegance that came straight out of the Fifties, but were done without a trace of camp and Disney’s signature tops, breezy and inset with leather, never looked better.
Another young designer with spunk is Adam Entwhistle. His baby blue polkadotted denim and black T-shirt dress with its three small red stars looked just right.
But don’t get the wrong idea. There was still a whole lot of hacking and twisting and distressing going on. As models on a stage strewn with clothes at Jessica Ogden pretended that they were in the process of waking up, they stumbled and stretched their way into such pieces as a silk-screened sweatshirt with its sleeves chopped off and a skirt made from a beautifully shredded and faded burgundy brocade. Camilla Staerk, in her second season, knitted leather cord to edge blousons and dresses alike, and pintucked a leather skirt by hand in the name of craftiness, although her fantastic collection took on a tone that was darker, more Goth and more barbaric. At I.E. Uniform, charming T-shirts in mauve and in kelly green were decorated with coiled frilly epaulettes.
It was Marjan Pejoski, however, who showed just the kind of wacky collection that keeps you coming back for more. He sent out a bizarre and brilliant array of sweaters incorporating images of swans, geese and peacocks, some sculpted in bas relief and set in tulle. Up the middle of a model’s chest, covered immodestly in the sheer stuff, rose the slender neck and head of one such fowl, while for Pejoski’s finale, a swan’s beak and long slender neck were strategically wound around Alek Wek’s torso, her hips awash in frothy, feathery layers of white. It was lovely. And, as Cindy Adams would say, only in London, kids, only in London.