LONDON — Although some of this city’s best-known names have dropped off the calendar, London’s other designers are moving right along, and the mood of fashion week, which began on Sunday, is decidedly upbeat. Houses including Paul Smith, Nicole Farhi, Frost French and Emma Cook showed collections blooming with color, a riot of flower prints and wild patterns.
Paul Smith: “I am trying to be positive,” said Paul Smith after his show. “There’s so much trauma at the moment, I wanted this collection to remind us of nature, of a normal world.” The presentation, in fact, featured a real grass catwalk and lots of flower prints, along with the designer’s signature stripes. The show began with Space-Age sparkle: lavender metallic cable knits and little fitted jackets and tweed skirts with jeweled trim. But then Smith landed back on earth in a fabulous English garden with a baker’s dozen of photographic, digital and screen prints, some Liberty-inspired, which turned up on such pieces as patchwork apron dresses, silk shirtdresses and shrunken cardigans. Even the obi belts featured flower patterns. Smith, who opened a 1,750-square-foot store in Shanghai in August and who will open a 1,775-square-foot unit in Hong Kong in a few weeks, also showed featherweight caftans in shades of mint and dusty rose, perfect for steamy summer nights.
Eley Kishimoto Ellesse: Move over, Venus and Serena. You’re not the only fashion plates in the wide world of sports. The latest competition is Eley Kishimoto Ellesse, which debuted this season with pleated, patchwork tennis skirts, satin turquoise baseball jackets and printed tennis dresses — the kind Marcia Brady might have slipped on for a hot date. Husband-and-wife team Mark Eley and Wakako Kishimoto, well known for their colorful, graphic prints with a retro feel, have teamed up with the sports firm Ellesse in a three-season deal to create a new young collection. “We were given free rein, and it felt like play,” said Eley after the show. “We were thinking about a lot of ‘teams’ — sassy American rich kids who do lunch at the club, the council-estate crew — and even poetry readers.” The collection has a strong retro feeling with colors like mustard, brown and aqua, and wholesales for slightly less than the regular Eley Kishimoto line. A printed cotton tennis dress will cost about $267, for example, and a satin baseball jacket $338.
Nicole Farhi: Flower power is the catchphrase chez Farhi. The designer filled her runway with one sweet and colorful look after another, and the floral prints were everywhere. Using ribbon trim, Farhi made geraniums three-dimensional on dresses, skirts and tops, and she also mixed buds and stripes to great effect on fluid wrap dresses. Jackets were assembled from cutout flowers. “I had so much fun layering and mixing prints,” said Farhi backstage after the show. And when her girl wasn’t skipping through the garden, she was wearing bleached denim jeans and a jacket with floral piping. At cocktail time, the designer delivered with silk dresses featuring pleated ruffles falling in tiers, but those other taffeta numbers seemed a little stiff.
Clements Ribeiro: For spring, design duo Suzanne Clements and Inacio Ribeiro were thinking about a botanist stuck in India. Strange inspiration, lovely results. Happily, the collection wasn’t bogged down by exotic trappings, but merely flavored with them. Chiffon in overscaled lotus prints, for example, made for some pretty tops and a great gown. Djellaba tops came with trompe l’oeil embroidery, and silk dresses were pieced together and asymmetrically draped to hint at India’s national uniform, the sari. There were the requisite cashmere knits, this time featuring pink-and-yellow zig-zags or clashing stripes. After years of collaborating with shoe designers, Clements Ribeiro are finally launching a footwear collection of their own this season, and their platform sandals are sure to be a hit with girls from Bombay to New York.
Temperley: Alice Temperley knows what her “It” girls want. Season after season, she serves up sequined cocktail dresses and color-blocked knits with an Art Deco vibe. For spring, Temperley softened and swapped the Deco for swirling Art Nouveau patterns. Chiffon cocktail and evening numbers came in sea-foam and coral shades and sported tons of silver sequins, while sweaters were bright with colorful intarsia reminiscent of a butterfly’s wings. A chiffon dress and skirt sported a cool sequined cobweb motif. Temperley also has a soft spot for crochet, although sometimes she ventures too far into granny territory. This season’s crocheted standout was a sexy black tea dress with lavender flowers.