LONDON — The fall collections at London Fashion Week put a spring in the step of retailers, who said they came away energized, and eager for their buying teams to start writing orders.
Sarah Rutson, vice president of global buying at Net-a-porter.com, went as far as saying she’d like to see the London schedule stretched to six days to see more designers’ work. “London needs more time — there is so much to be found. The schedule is so packed and I’d love an extra day to scout around before going to Milan. The U.K. fashion business deserves it,” she said.
Suzanne Timmins, senior vice president, fashion director at Hudson’s Bay and Lord and Taylor, felt the same way.
“London was inspiring. The season upheld the history of supercreative design talent that courses through the city’s veins,” she said, pointing to Erdem, Burberry Prorsum, Giles, Thomas Tait and Marques’ Almeida as some of the highlights of the week.
Rutson, Timmins and others said while the bohemian, Victoriana and darkly romantic trends were a continuation of what had already emerged for spring, they remain powerful and bankable propositions, with strong customer appeal. Buyers praised designers’ tactile, embellished, graphic and colorful collections.
“The bohemian, rich hippie, peasant mood — a nod to Mr. Saint Laurent — is already in the customer’s psyche. She’s enjoying the peasant blouses, and wanting to wear flared-leg jeans again. It’s nice to see that fall is a continuation of that,” said Ken Downing, senior vice president and creative director of Neiman Marcus.
Downing said he loved London’s “folkloric frolic,” and pointed in particular to Burberry Prorsum’s take on the trend, with fringes, mirror details and patchwork suede boots galore. “Those boots were fantastic.”
Victoriana, he added, came through powerfully in the Erdem and Simone Rocha collections. “Erdem is reinventing the idea of lace. I also loved the opulent, unfinished brocades and the riding boots with a hint of the granny boot to them,” Downing said.
Leila Yavari, fashion director of Stylebop.com, said the biggest news from London was a renewed interest in period dressing, “an impulse to rethink historical dress and embellishment from an innovative, 21st-century perspective.”
She said she was surprised by Jonathan Anderson’s take on Eighties glitz that “threw a curve ball into the dominant Seventies revival. Yet to me, it spoke to a renewed interest in period dress — after all, for some, the Eighties might as well be the 1880s.”
Yavari added Stylebop.com’s budget is based on the previous year’s sales, which saw British designers “perform very strongly, surpassing initial projections.”
While London’s designers may have been looking back at past centuries for inspiration, their take on fabrics was cutting-edge. Downing pointed to the fabric technology at Erdem, with “mohair melting into brocades and laces. It’s the romanticized feminine woman that the customer knows and loves him for,” he said.
Colleen Sherin, vice president and fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue, said textile development is a passion of many London-based designers, and pointed to the “decorative and embellished” statement outerwear pieces. “The vibrant color seen on the London runways was a welcome sight and will complement the black and more neutral collections seen in New York,” she said.
Tapestry, jacquard, quilting and ornate, textured fabrics wove their way through most collections, including those of Roksanda, Markus Lupfer, Marques’ Almeida, Burberry Prorsum, Jonathan Saunders and Amanda Wakeley.
Simone Rocha based her collection partly on the tapestries of Louise Bourgeois, and on the act of mending and unraveling fabric. That collection was a standout for buyers.
“We loved the velvets, the flower petals as a design element, the lace with such a modern spirit and the high necklines. There is a fragility and an eager edge to her work that keeps me so charmed,” Downing said.
Rutson said Rocha “is always moving the brand forward. There is a consistency to her work and she’s never switching or changing.” Her top picks also included Christopher Kane, Jonathan Saunders and Peter Pilotto for their “bold and eclectic prints and graphics” and Burberry, which she said was an “exceptionally strong” collection.
Sandy Trébuil, luxury and designer buyer at Galeries Lafayette, also noted all the rich fabrics and embellishments on the London runways.
Trébuil said Kane, Roksanda and Mary Katrantzou were the shows her team loved the most, with highlights including Kane’s velvet dresses and “beautiful tailoring”; the turtlenecks, shearlings and minks, the pinks and purples at Roksanda, and Katrantzou’s chunky jewels and ornate duffle coats in shimmering brocade.
“We are investing significantly more in U.K. designers, like Roksanda, who have reached a new level of maturity this season, and Mary Katrantzou, who has moved her collection on so intelligently,” she said, adding that “most importantly, we are opening a boutique for Christopher Kane and Victoria Beckham, which will increase the British designer budgets significantly.”
Natalie Kingham, buying director at Matchesfashion.com, said brands such as Jonathan Saunders, Preen, Marques’ Almeida and Roksanda were “all so good at working with color and print, clashing unexpected colors together in just the right way.”
She also pointed to the modern take on embellishment at shows such as Erdem, Mary Katrantzou and Peter Pilotto. “Thomas Tait was brilliant, another move on for the brand. I particularly liked his coats and leather pieces,” she said.
For Anita Barr, group fashion buying director at Harvey Nichols, the season was about creativity before commerce.
“London has always been a creative hub, and this is reflected in the shows. This season did not disappoint,” she said, pointing to Peter Pilotto and Christopher Kane as stars of the week. “We’ve seen some amazing standout collections, but perhaps not the most commercial, so we’re looking forward to doing the showroom appointments to see the full collections so we get the right looks for our customers.”