FASHION PHOTOS BY GIOVANNI GIANNONI
The city served up a tutti-frutti treat this season, with houses from Julien Macdonald to Eley Kishimoto crazy for color. But there were other stories, too — girl power ruled the runways everywhere in the form of fluttery, flirty tops and dresses at shows including Katharine Hamnett and Pringle, and sweet prints, like the shamrocks at Clements Ribeiro and Nicole Farhi. Overall the mood was joyous, and there was no doubt that London’s designers are growing up. “The newer generation – Eley Kishimoto, Hamish Morrow, and Alice Temperley — are all maturing,” said Anna Garner, fashion director at Henri Bendel. “And London is still the edgiest city — look at the stiff and structured shapes at Boudicca.”
Sophia Kokosalaki: She may have only played one note this season, but the sound was sexy and sublime. Sophia Kokosalaki returned to her roots for spring with dresses and slinky tank tops that were draped, ruched and tucked, perfect for any modern-day Greek goddess. “I wanted to revisit my signature designs, but make things a little more stretchy and twisty,” she said. Her dresses were stunners, delicately gathered and sculpted to the body or gently draped with sash-like waists. One slinky number in blue cotton jersey was tucked and draped with a pleated border, while another, in brown, was draped around the neck with a multitude of horizontal pleats. Even a leather bomber was given the goddess treatment, beautifully draped in front. Just ask Alexander McQueen, who was sitting — discreetly — in the second row at the show. “It was a lovely collection, very graceful,” he said. Kokosalaki is very busy these days. In addition to designing her collection, she’s also been jetting to Athens on weekends to design the ceremonial costumes for the upcoming Summer Olympics. But she insists she’s not overwhelmed. “It’s no problem,” she said. “I have a lot of time on my hands.”
Pringle: Stuart Stockdale has cast off the pearls, “Laverne & Shirley” skirts and clingy twinsets of seasons past and replaced them with clean and streamlined — but still sexy — clothes. To say that he turned a corner this season would be putting it mildly. The spring collection was grown-up and anything but dowdy, opening with shrunken navy schoolgirl blazers, swingy jersey tennis dresses, low-cut, slouchy tennis sweaters and liquid jersey twinsets with a barely there argyle design woven right into the fabric. Chiffon flapper dresses were printed with zigzag patterns and abstracted argyle prints.
“I could have done this the first season, but it’s important to take things in stages,” said Stockdale after the show. “I needed to develop a signature, and people needed to tune into what Pringle is about before taking it forward.” Though the designer’s riffs on the classic argyle were fresh, things got a little sloppy with that argyle patterned ruching on tops and skirts. Meanwhile, Pringle’s retail rollout is steaming ahead. While the company is still waiting for the right location in Manhattan, it’s cutting ribbons in Asia. Over the next few weeks, the firm will open its first Taipei store, followed by an in-store shop in the new Shingkong Mitsukoshi triple store complex in Tokyo.
Clements Ribeiro: Inspired by “The Stepford Wives” and “To Catch a Thief,” Suzanne Clements and Inacio Ribeiro turned out ultra-feminine dresses and coats covered in prints, stripes and solid colors right out of the Crayola box. There were lots of dresses: a cute shamrock print adorned a sweet shirtdress, for example, while a racier version featured a cutout bodice. More fluttery numbers came in colorful scribble or rose prints. The knits, on which this duo built their reputation, featured either nautical-inspired stripes in red and white or blue and white or rainbow hued with contrasting polkadots. Clements Ribeiro also wandered into Chanel country, however, deconstructing the iconic suit and sticking in chiffon panels and pleats. And if you prefer dainty to dowdy, then stay away from those bias-cut plaid frocks that suggest a Fifties diner waitress.
Julien Macdonald: The runways this season may be overflowing with all things girlish and sweet, but not at the house of Macdonald, where the sign on the door always reads: “Wallflowers need not apply.” “She’s an exotic, psychedelic, nouveau hippy; she’s just arrived for holiday in Ibiza or St. Tropez,” said Macdonald of his muse this season. But this girl isn’t one to do laps in the sea — her hair is wet only because she’s been dancing all night. Macdonald opened the show with barely there, white and silver, tailored HotPants-and-bomber combos that were sexed up with crystallized spiderweb tops. There were neon swimsuits under perforated asymmetric minidresses, circus-print bodysuits and water-printed georgette dresses and caftans in bright pink or blue. As Beyoncé boomed on the soundtrack, the models vamped and danced down the runway in gold-beaded fringe and rainbow-hued Swarovski minidresses, so short you would swear they were tops. Though the show proved to be a fun romp, the question still remains: Who could wear these clothes other than video vixens, like the aforementioned Miss Knowles?
Nicole Farhi: For spring, everything seems to be coming up roses — literally — and Nicole Farhi’s collection is no exception. Farhi is no stranger to the land of romantic sportswear, and she usually pairs floaty chiffons with cozy knits. This season, her flirtatious coquette has gone tomboy, mixing sportier elements with the more typical feminine fare. Ruffled chiffon tops, skirts and dresses became sportif with their exaggerated zipper closures, while black or white jeans were butched up by adding motocross-type lacing down the side. And those chiffons? They never looked better, all done up in candy-colored florals and layered under tanks and biker jackets to cool effect. The only missteps were a few fringed leather pieces, which should have been left at home on the range.
Eley Kishimoto: Mark Eley and Wakako Kishimoto, partners in work and in life, just keep going from strength to strength. Their show featured whimsical designs — Rorschach-like blots, butterflies and swirls — printed on luxurious silk kimono dresses, sexy halter and strapless tops, and pleated chiffon skirts. The pair also showed their signature graphic patterns — lightning-flash patterns and stripes, inspired by sun rays — on stiff and structured skirts and tops. The colors were particularly appealing, including raspberry, chocolate and robin’s egg blue. Coats were neat and structured, with three-quarter-length sleeves and splashes and swirls of primary colors. “We think we’re working toward a maturity — I think people think of us as young but our customers are all ages, and we played with sex this season, which is new,” said Eley. “We’re usually covered up.”
Frost French: Sometimes a fashion show is, well, just a fashion show. In the past, Sadie Frost and Jemima French have shown their collection in film format, against the backdrop of a tea party, and onstage with strippers Kate Moss and Leah Wood. This time, it was a collection on a runway — and what a show it was. There were pretty, tea-stained dresses with plunging necklines or ruffled sleeves, chiffon smock shirts and lace-trimmed camisoles in vintage-inspired prints. The panties came in rust, olive and navy paisley-inspired prints with shredded fabric dangling at the sides. “We’ve both grown up a lot this year and feel more confident,” said French after the show. “We wanted to show the clothes on a runway this time instead of having gimmicks.”
Katharine Hamnett: Hamnett may not have reinvented the fashion wheel this season, with her sailor tops, tea dresses and Empire lines, but she sure knows what a girl likes to wear. She showed high-waisted, cinnamon-colored washed silk dresses with little ruffles down the front, silky corset tops and loose, Thirties-inspired dresses in patterns of tiny polkadots. “People are sick of seeing bums hanging out of jeans, which is why I wanted to show something graceful, feminine and modern,” the designer said. “If you’ve got it, flaunt it — but if you don’t, try to hide it as best you can.”
Gibo: There is no doubt that Julie Verhoeven, a major force behind London’s Eighties revival, loves her bright colors and sharp edges. But this season, she turned down the color volume and softened her style, showing liquid jersey monochrome tops and skirts in quiet taupe, and sleeveless silk shifts layered with raw-edged fabrics in subdued green and pink. Indeed, for spring, almost all was quiet on the Verhoeven front. But that’s not to say there weren’t some fumbles. The skirts with extra fabric flaring out from the sides were tricky, as were all of those oversized pockets, and there have already been too many pairs of genie pants.
Boyd: Pink-and-red mushroom prints dominated Tracey Boyd’s runway this season — but the show was far from a long, strange trip. The prints were cute and cartoony and popped up on cotton miniskirts and cropped quilted jackets. The little smock dresses were cinched with plastic charm belts and worn with bikini bottoms. Boyd also sent out black-and-white polkadot puff-sleeved blouses and sexy, tailored, black linen overalls. For evening, Boyd showed silver-and-white polkadot pleated minis, swingy red chiffon skirts, and spaghetti-strap dresses with appliquéd felt flowers on the shoulders.
Emma Cook: Draped in chiffon, satin and silk jersey, the Cook look was tree-fairy-meets-Twenties-lady, toughened up with wide leather belts. Cook’s theme of cogs and wheels, inspired by Fritz Lang’s film “Metropolis,” wove through the collection in the form of straps and collars in a stenciled leather motif. Capes, jodhpurs, shorts and tunics were trimmed with flat leather cutouts in a butterfly and flower print, accessorized with delicate necklaces made from vintage mechanical pieces and leather bags with bows. On a softer note, Cook’s tea dresses were Sunday best, in shades of yellow, burgundy and gray or deer-printed chiffon in faded pink and green.